Military Working Dog Training 101 – How To Train Them?

Last Updated on July, 2024

Military Working Dogs are the best friends a soldier can have. These dogs are one of the top trained dogs in the world and have been in existence for centuries.

They provide so much more than just protection and support for our troops. They offer love and comfort to those that need it the most. 

Trained military working dogs are used to sniff out bombs, detect mines, and patrol for intruders on bases. 

They also search out enemy weapons caches and perform sacrificial duties such as guarding convoys, running messages across fire-swept zones, and locating people buried under rubble after natural disasters.

We owe these incredible creatures a lot of gratitude for their dedication to their own lives and ours; they deserve our respect at all times.

Quick Summary

Military working dogs are highly trained canines that are used for various purposes including explosive and drug detection, sentry duty, search and rescue, and patrol.

German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are among the most commonly selected breeds for military working dogs due to their loyalty, intelligence, and physical abilities.

Training a military working dog is an intensive process that can last from six months to three years, and involves techniques such as positive reinforcement, obedience training, and building a positive relationship with the dog.

What Are Military Working Dogs(MWD)?

K9 in a Military base

A military working dog (MWD) is a canine that is utilized for explosive and drug detection, sentry duty, search and rescue, and patrol. MWDs are also used to detect mines.(1)

Military Working Dog teams are trained with positive reinforcement techniques such as operant conditioning and clicker training. MWDs may be either pure-breed or mixed breeds, provided they display the desired traits. 

In addition to obedience training, German shepherds are often used because of their higher tolerance for wearing heavy protective gear over long periods of time than some other breeds. 

After selecting a handler/owner team, the handler trains the dog in protection work for seven months to a year before deployment.

Facts About the Military Canines.

  • Most of the military canines are from overseas. About 85% of them are from Eastern European Countries like Germany and Netherlands. Only 15% of these military dogs are born and raised in the U.S. by the 341st training squadron’s training program. 
  • 341st Training Squadron located at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. This is where the training for all military canines and their handlers takes place.
  • The 341st Training Squadron provides highly trained MWDs, handlers, kennel masters, and trainers to the department of defense and other government agencies.
  • Most of the military working dogs are not trained to do both drugs and explosive detection at once. And what’s more interesting is that the breeds that are mainly used for this purpose are Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Jack Russell, and Poodles.
  • The cost of a completely trained explosive detection dog can cost up to a whopping $150000. 
  • Not every dog is able to make it through the training phase of the MWD program; this is because every dog that takes part should be extremely obedient, loyal, and disciplined, plus they should be free from health problems like hip dysplasia. Because of this, only 50% of them make it through. 
  • There are ongoing research and development plans for improved gas masks and body armors for the MWDs in San Antonio, Lackland Air Force Base.
  • K-9 Injuries in the past were only treated after the battle, but Field Medics nowadays are being fully trained to handle injured MWDs right on the battlefield just like an injured soldier. 
  • War dogs have been around for centuries worldwide, but in the U.S. it was officially recognized on March 13, 1942.

Dog Breeds Used for Military Working


There are lots of dog breeds that have been used for military working over the years but one of the most famous and perfect breeds is the German Shepherd.

There are a few reasons why these dogs are perfect for this type of work, such as their loyalty, intelligence, and their willingness to work with humans as partners.

Belgian Malinois is also a regular. This breed has become one of the favorites among the Elites all over the world.

But other breeds like:

  • Dutch Shepherds
  • Labradors 
  • Rottweiler
  • Doberman Pinscher

Are also used. 

All these breeds served various important roles during both world war i and world war ii and are now one of the major parts of the armed forces.

How Are Military Working Dogs Trained

Military dog handlers train exactly the same way as a professional civilian dog trainer does. However, these are some of the highly trained canine forces on the planet.

While there are multiple breeds, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are among the favorites. Both of these breeds are known for their ability and skills.

There are various factors that come into play while training an MWD, so these are some of the essential pieces of those training techniques you can try out if you’re in an idea to become MWDH yourself or even just to train your dog. 


Being patient while training your dog is extremely important. This applies when not only training a military dog. Every dog is different from one another, so understand your dog well before getting into the process. Never lose your cool while training your dog, as this can lead to anxiety or stress and lead to more problems.

Build a Positive Relationship With Your Dog

Training or working with a dog can be a lot of work and can take some time. However, this is rewarding once the training is complete and the dog has learned what you were trying to teach them.

A positive relationship between pets and their owners can be established by following these three items in order: affection, playtime, and exercise. 

Groom your dog every day. MWD handlers groom their dogs every day, feed them on time and take them to medical checkups. All this will create a positive bond between you and your dog.


Train your dog where there is less distraction and not too many things going on, plus train them at the exact same time each day, make sure to be consistent with it.

A low distractive place like a fenced area or even an isolated area in the park would work great for training a dog. Training at the same time every day will help your dog slip into training mode easily.(2)

Teach The Obedience Commands

Teach your dog basic commands such as “sit,” “down,” “heel,” or “stay” with both verbal and visual cues (like a hand motion). 

Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement is the best way to train a dog; Positive Reinforcement Training is a teaching and training technique that follows the principle of positive reinforcement. 

In this, you should reward your dog for their good behaviors and avoid punishing them for bad behaviors. 

After completing the desired task, the dog is rewarded with a treat which increases its likelihood of repeating it. The reward can be anything such as food, toys, and games. 

Reward and Praise Instantly

Right after your dog responds properly, you should reward or even praise them instantly without delays. Any delays will get your dog confused about what they did correctly. 

But remember, the reward does not always mean treats, so make sure you use those at the very beginning, and down the line, verbal praise is just fine.

Up the Difficulty

If your dog has now mastered every single command, you can now up the difficulty by adding some distraction to the training. You take your dog to places like parks where there are other dogs and lots of people. 

Practice Everyday

You should train your dog every day. According to the U.S. Army handlers should train their dog at least 30 minutes a day which is 4 hours per week. 

Reinforce Prior Training

Whenever your dog masters a command and progresses to a new command, it’s important to refresh the previously learned commands.

For context, if your dog has now mastered the “sit” command, you should not leave it there. Before starting to teach new commands, come back each time and reinforce the “sit” command. 

How Long Will it Take to Train a Military Working Dog

Training military working dogs is an intensive process that lasts anywhere from six months to three years.

There are a lot of factors that go into this process, but the duration depends largely on the dog’s age and breed. 

Typically, training is done in a class setting with one or more trainers for at least two weeks or so before progressing to live work with their handler.

At this point, handlers can begin teaching basic obedience commands such as sit and heel, which will help build a foundation for future training later on. 

After up to four weeks of live work, handlers are ready to test out the prospect’s obedience to see what commands he knows and which ones he can do. This takes place in a controlled environment called an evaluation center.

Check out this k9ti review (A K9 online training program), if you want to train your dog easily.

Military Working Dogs And K-9 Police Dogs

officer and a puppy

In the last few decades, a new trend has been developing concerning military and police work. Police forces and militaries across the world are adopting a new form of policing that relies on dogs to do some of the work. 

These dogs, which are known as military working dogs or K-9 officers, have proven to be incredibly useful for both military and law enforcement purposes. 

The most common breeds of dog selected for this kind of work are German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois because they are loyal, intelligent, strong, and hardy animals, as well as having a high tolerance for physical stress. 

You can read more about K-9 Police Dogs here


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