Military Life

Everything you need to know about National K9 Veterans Day

Jessica Evans Avatar
national k9 veterans day main
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong.

March 13th is National (Canine) K9 Veterans Day – a day to honor the heroic work of our four-legged veterans. These dogs have served our country in many ways, including search and rescue, drug detection, and explosive detection. They provide an invaluable service and often form deep bonds with their handlers.

History of National K9 Veterans Day

Back in 2009, retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant Bill Campbell had an idea. He wanted to find a way to honor the canines who serve in our military. He came up with the idea after reading about how military working dogs contributed during OEF and OIF. Campbell knew these dogs deserved to be recognized for their heroism. So he set out to have a holiday created in their honor.

How Is National Canine Veterans Day Celebrated?

There are several ways to celebrate National K9 Veterans Day. Many dog lovers volunteer with or donate to organizations supporting retired military working dogs. Others may choose to adopt a retired military working dog. And still, others may take the time to learn more about the fantastic work these dogs do daily.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, remember to take a moment to thank a four-legged veteran for their service!

The History of Military Dogs

Dogs have been by our side for millennia, and their loyal companionship has been invaluable in various contexts—including, believe it or not, the military. That’s right—dogs have served in the Armed Forces since World War I and continue to play an essential role in militaries worldwide today. But what exactly do military dogs do? How do you become a military dog handler? And who’s the most famous military dog in history? Let’s find out.

The Origins of Military Dogs

The use of dogs in warfare is nothing new. In fact, there are depictions of dogs in battle dating back to Ancient Egypt. World War I ushered in plenty of changes in warfare. One of the most notable changes was the use of canines in combat. The most common type of war canine at that time was the messenger dog. These canines were trained to deliver messages between military units in the field. These dogs were invaluable in providing critical information quickly and safely, often in situations where human messengers could not travel.

national k9 veterans day
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Catherine Dennis, a Military Working Dog (MWD) handler, guides Liko, MWD, both assigned to the 354th Security Forces Squadron, in a car inspection on Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, March 7, 2022. National K9 Veterans Day is celebrated annually on March 13. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

Military Canines Today

In the century since World War I, military dogs have taken on various roles. Modern-day war dogs can be trained as attack dogs, detection dogs (for explosives or drugs), or search-and-rescue dogs, among other things. Whatever their specialty may be, all military dogs undergo rigorous training before being deployed. Here’s how handlers and canines train for dangerous missions.

Becoming a Military Dog Handler

Many people are drawn to the idea of working with military dogs, but few realize just how challenging the job can be. In addition to completing basic training like all other Armed Forces members, military dog handlers must also complete a specialized course on canine care and training. This course typically lasts around 26 weeks and covers everything from obedience training to veterinary care.

Famous Military Canines

Throughout history, there have been many courageous canines who have served alongside their human counterparts in battle. But which one is the most famous? Sgt. Stubby, a Boston Terrier, is probably the most famous canine to ever serve! He completed 17 missions. Unfortunately, front-line combat resulted in extensive shrapnel wounds. After the war, Stubby returned home to the United States, where he became a celebrity. He even met three presidents! Read more about Sgt. Stubby’s wildlife here.

Looking for more famous military canines? Check out this list!

Dogs have played an important role in militaries worldwide for over 100 years. These courageous canines serve in a variety of roles, from messenger dogs to attack dogs to search-and-rescue dogs. Becoming a dog handler in the military means completing basic training first. Then, you’ll need advanced training on canine care and training. And be sure to remember Sgt. Stubby next time you’re looking for a famous example of a patriotic pooch!

On March 13th, we honor our brave four-legged veterans with National K9 Veterans Day. These dogs have served our country in many capacities and have formed deep bonds with their handlers. There are several ways you can celebrate this day, from volunteering with organizations that support retired military working dogs to simply taking the time to learn more about the amazing work they do every day. Thank you, canine veterans, for your courageous service!