Doggie Blog — Military Working Dogs

National K9 Veterans Day: 3 Heroic Retired Military Working Dogs

National K9 Veterans Day: 3 Heroic Retired Military Working Dogs 0

Did you know that the U.S. Military has working service dogs who serve alongside our military heroes? March 13 is National K9 Veterans Day, a day to honor the service and sacrifice of American military and working dogs throughout history. For any dog lover, it is no surprise that there are countless stories of the bravery and heroism displayed by K9 veterans.

While dogs have served bravely alongside the men and women of our military since the Revolutionary War, the US Army officially established the War Dog Program, known as the K9 Corps, on March 13th, 1942. Many patriotic Americans volunteered their pet dogs for service. Initially, 32 different breeds were accepted for training, but the list was soon narrowed to just seven: German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Belgian Sheepdogs, Siberian Huskies, farm collies, Eskimo dogs, and Malamutes

Over 8 to 12 weeks, the dogs underwent “basic training” to help them become accustomed to life in the military and received training under one of four specialized assignments: sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs, and mine dogs.

By March 1944, fifteen war dog platoons were established and deployed to assist American military forces conducting offensive operations in Europe and the Pacific. Seven platoons served in Europe, with the other eight served in the Pacific. 

Since then, dogs have served countless missions across numerous wars. Let’s take a moment to reflect on and remember three brave military working dogs:

1) Chips

Chips, the war dog

Source: US Army

Chips, a German Shepherd/Collie/Husky mix, was an American K9 that served in World War II and was deployed with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division to North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. Trained as a sentry dog, or guard dog, Chips proved that his bravery exceeded his training on numerous occasions. 

One of Chips most courageous actions took place during the invasion of Sicily in 1943. Chips and his handler Pvt. John R Rowell landed on the shore of southern Sicily. As they made their way inland, a hidden machine gun began to open fire. Chips broke free from Rowell and raced into the hut. He attacked the gunners and forced the surrender of four enemy soldiers all by himself. 

Later that night, after being treated for wounds, Chips alerted his handler to an infiltration attempt by ten Italian soldiers and helped to capture all ten men. 

Chip’s heroism was memorialized in a 1990 Disney movie entitled Chips, the War Dog.

2) Cairo

Cairo the SEAL dog

Source: 3 Million Dogs

Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was an American K9 Veteran that served in the War on Terrorism as a Navy SEAL dog alongside his handler Will Chesney. 

Cairo began serving in the military in 2008. By 2011, Cairo had served in many missions and sustained life threatening injuries in the course of his service. Even after making a full recovery, Cairo’s future as a military working dog was uncertain and he wasn’t expected to redeploy. 

In March 2011, Chesney received a call that they would be deployed on a top secret mission to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound. Cairo and Chesney were the only canine team to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound. Like his handler, Cairo was equipped with specialized equipment, including body armor and heat vision goggles. They searched the perimeter for bombs and escape tunnels before entering and clearing the main house. After the successful mission, only one hero’s name was released, Cairo.

Chesney wrote a book entitled No Ordinary Dog: My Partner from the SEAL Teams to the Bin Laden Raid to tell the story of Cairo and their incredible bond. 

3) Lucca

Lucca the three legged dog

Source: PSDA

Lucca, a German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix, served in the United States Marine Corps for 6 years as a tactical explosive detection dog. 

Over her 6 years of service, Lucca was deployed to Iraq twice and to Afghanistan once. She was adept at She led over 400 missions, protected the lives of thousands of troops, and is credited with at least 40 confirmed finds of insurgents, explosives and ammunition. Most notably, no human casualties were ever sustained during her patrols.

On her final mission in Afghanistan in 2012, an improvised explosive device detonated near Lucca. While she survived the blast, the massive explosion severely injured Lucca and led to the amputation of her front left leg. 

Following her recovery, Lucca retired from service and lived happily in California with Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham. In 2016, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals unanimously voted to award Lucca the Dickin Medal, Britain’s highest award for valor by a military animal, making her the first U.S. military dog to receive the medal.

Maria Goodavage told the story of Lucca’s life in the book titled Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca.

Life After Service

When their service is done, military working dogs retire and officially become K9 veterans. More than 90% of these K9 veterans get adopted by their handler. What happens to the remaining 10% of retired military working dogs? 

While many are adopted by police forces, many are not due to age or injury. This is where civilians come in. Military dog adoption is a great way to give a hero a loving home for their senior years. 

If you are interested in adopting a retired military dog, be patient. The adoption process is not quick. Applicants are carefully screened to ensure it is the right fit. There are some great organizations, like Save-A-Vet and Mission K9 Rescue, that can help you through the process. 

Breed of the Month: German Shepherd

Breed of the Month: German Shepherd 2

German Shepherds are one of the most recognizable breeds. Whether you've seen them in movies, on television, or at your local police station, you won't have trouble recognizing these beautiful dogs. The German Shepherd, or GSD, is a companion, a friend, and a protector. They're a unique breed, known for their intelligence, strength, and loyalty. Read on to learn more about this incredible breed and see if a GSD is the dog for you.

A General Overview of the GSD

The German Shepherd is a large breed of dog in the herding dog category. Once used as herders, the GSD now has a role as a working dog and as a companion. We know these dogs for their loyalty, intelligence, obedience, and tenaciousness.

Owning a GSD as a pet is quite an experience. They're very vocal so don't be surprised if your dog is constantly trying to tell you something. Whether it's groans after an ear rub or whining at the television (and they find TV interesting) they're usually speaking to you.

They can be rough but gentle at the same time. Playtime is a fun bonding experience where you might get some fake nips, a lot of noise making, and plenty of laughs.

History and Background

The German Shepherd was originally a type of dog used to protect cattle and herd sheep. Their origins are fairly new—the mid to late 1800s. Look at any history book on World War I and World War II, and you'll read about how the GSD was integral to the German Army.

Physical Characteristics and Breed Standard

German Shepherds range in size from medium to large. The American Kennel Club (AKC) standard is a height of 24-26 inches in males and 22-24 inches in females. The standard weight is 65-90 pounds in males and 50-70 pounds in females. Of course, you'll see dogs that far exceed those ranges, with some German Shepherds weighing a healthy 100 pounds or more.

The life expectancy is 12-14 years. Interestingly, the oldest known German Shepherds lived to 18 years and older! With the right diet and care, they can exceed the life expectancy as long as they don't have underlying illnesses.

Personality and Temperament

German Shepherd dogs have a wide range of talents. That's why you often see them in helpful roles. Here are just some examples of the work these dogs do:

  • Police dogs
  • Military dogs
  • Guide dogs
  • Support dogs
  • Bomb-sniffing dogs
  • Drug dogs
  • Guard dogs

They're excellent as working dogs because of their high intelligence and desire to please their owners. Yet, these traits also make them fit companions. The GSD learns what makes their family happy and will do whatever it takes to protect them. They can be friendly and calm once they get to know strangers, unless they detect a threat to their family members. As noted by the AKC:

There are many reasons German Shepherds stand in the front rank of canine royalty, but experts say their defining attribute is character: loyalty, courage, confidence, the ability to learn commands for many tasks, and the willingness to put their life on the line in defense of loved ones.

Care and Needs

Like any dog, a German Shepherd has specific care needs you must know when taking on the responsibility.


A healthy diet is important to your dog's health. Make sure you have food that has vitamins and minerals. As far as people food goes, items like eggs, yogurt, and cooked veggies are fine. Be careful of other human foods - a regulated diet with dog food or safe foods is best.


German Shepherds shed excessively. You will find dust bunnies the size of Texas if you're not constantly cleaning the floors. This is because these dogs have a double coat. What this means is that they have a soft undercoat with a close-lying outer coat. Brush your German Shepherd every few days to reduce the shedding, but remember that this shedding is much more prevalent at certain times of year. Give your dog a bath every so often and trim the toenails every month.


German Shepherds are active dogs, and they need exercise and playtime to flourish. Daily walks or open play in fenced areas is ideal. You may even enjoy engaging your dog in activities like tracking, herding, dock diving, or agility.

Here are some exercises good for your German Shepherd.

  • Walking. If your dog is healthy and full of energy, walk them up to three times a day.
  • Running or Jogging. These are perfect to increase your dog's endurance. This works after the dog is at least 18 months old. Be wary of the surface you use. Dogs don't wear running shoes so stay away from rocky surfaces, uneven areas, and hot asphalt. Go running or jogging twice a week.
  • Spring Pole Training. The spring pole increases your dog's power and muscle mass. Not to mention that it's a fun exercise he will enjoy. This is ideal twice each week.
  • Weave Poles. These are another tool that maximizes endurance and agility. Start with a treat to show them how to maneuver through the poles. Practice until your dog can do it with no treat.
  • Doggy Squats. Just like in humans, squats increase mobility. They're fairly easy too!

How to do doggy squats:

Have your dog follow your sit command.

Then, have them stand.

Use treats to entice them to keep repeating the action.

After two weeks, increase the reps in healthy dogs (not puppies or seniors).

Have your dog start with 2 sets of 5 squats and add on from there.

Without exercise, your dog may face a variety of health issues like obesity, muscle atrophy, and joint issues.


As mentioned, German Shepherds are extremely intelligent. By using reward-based training, the results should be more than satisfactory. Start out as early as possible. Even if you rescue an adult German Shepherd, know that they're smart enough to ignore the old "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" saying. It's simply not true with this breed.

The AKC recommends socialization from 8 to 16 weeks.

Also included in integral training:

  • Crate training
  • House training

From 3 to 9 months

  • Obedience training
  • Recall (teaching him to come when called)
  • Impulse control

From 9 to 24 months

Continuing to work on impulse control, improve obedience skills, and advance to training in more focused activities like tracking, scent work, protection work, agility, and herding—all of which (and more) are capabilities of this breed—must continue throughout this period and then be reinforced as your GSD reaches adulthood.

Health Problems

German Shepherds are fairly healthy dogs. There are two areas to keep in consideration. They can be prone to hip dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy. Sometimes, they may experience bloat, which is a swelling of the stomach and can be life-threatening.

Hip dysplasia is one of the more common issues in this breed and others. It occurs during growth where there is a deformity of the hip. According to VCA Hospitals:

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease factored by diet, environment, exercise, growth rate, muscle mass, and hormones. As this disease is most commonly seen in large breed dogs, these puppies should be at a normal, lean weight during growth, rather than overfed and encouraged to grow "big."

The first signs are pain and/or weakness in the hind legs. It may occur in puppies but many dogs don't show signs until they're older. There are supplements that help with joint mobility and health. And the vet may prescribe certain medications to help if it is more serious.

Fun Facts

German Shepherds are the third most intelligent dog, and their IQ is around 60.

A German Shepherd was the first dog used to help a blind person.

Schutzhund is a dog sport first created for German Shepherds. Schutzhund tests the natural abilities of the GSD, although other dogs can take part as well.

They're the second most popular dog in the United States.

Famous German Shepherds

No list is complete without some famous German Shepherds!

Rin-Tin-Tin was a box office star.

Chips was a military hero, and the most decorated war dog during World War II.

Apollo worked with the NYPD K-9 Urban Search and Rescue Team. Along with his handler, he was the first search-and-rescue dog team on site at the World Trade Center after the attack on 9/11.

Remember the first seeing-eye dog? That was Buddy, a pioneer in seeing-eye dogs.

German Shepherds to Follow

It's fun to watch German Shepherds in action. One of our favorites to follow on Instagram is Jade the Sable. Jade and Jasper are two Canadian internet stars where the antics are hilarious, sweet, and totally watchable.

Another fun pair is Dakota and Rocky. These two love to go to the beach and people watch.

And for the cutest police officer ever, check out K9 Caz.

What to Expect Owning a German Shepherd

While every experience is different, what we can tell you is you'll have years of a loyal companion, an intelligent adversary, and a best friend. They're unique dogs and will love you forever. And whether it's solely a pet or you have a working dog, they're loyal till the end. By knowing more about this wonderful breed, you ensure your furry friend gets the best care and the most love. Let's face it, German Shepherds are special dogs and deserve a special owner too.