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Watch: How US Military Dogs Are Trained

Belgian Malinois
Malinois catching a toy in mid-air at a dock diving event. Image by feeferlump via

Have you ever wondered what training police and military dogs go through to well, do what they do? In this article, we look at the training these heroes receive at the Lackland Airforce Base in San Antonio, Texas. Prepare to be impressed! 

Where Do These Dogs Come From? 

American soldier coming back home to his family. Image by sinenkiy via

If you think about the expertise these dogs learn, you would agree that only suitable breeds can do this job. In other words, strong confident dogs willing to defend their handlers at all costs. The breeds trained at Lackland are Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, and German Shepherds all aged between 1 and 3 years. 

Around 400 dogs are bought and brought to the base from Europe. The rest are bred at the base, in the breeding program established in 1998. Community members foster these puppies from 6 weeks to 7 months old.

The Tests

War dog
Image by oov via

At 7 months the puppies undergo tests to determine if they would be suitable for training as military working dogs. The idea behind these first tests is that their behavior at this age will indicate their behavior as adults and thus, their ability to be trained. Dogs that meet the requirements set by this test are brought back to Lackland where they start the beginning phases of their training. At 1 year old they are tested again, and between 30 and 50 dogs are entered into the official training program each year. 

Training Starts

german shepherd
Trained german shepherd dog jumps up by the trainer command. Full shot. Image by barselona_dreams via

Before their patrol and detection training can begin, the dogs must first complete basic obedience training. This makes sense, as they have to be able to adhere to basic orders before they can be expected to go through the higher training levels. These future military dogs are also trained to overcome the obstacle course, which trains the dogs to face similar obstacles in the field. The obstacle course simulates things like windows, narrow crawl spaces, and stairs – making them comfortable with these before they encounter them in the field. 

Patrol Training

military dog
Guard dog training. Step 3. Figurant and German shepherd dog. Pet attacks person in special protective clothing. Service dog training. Side View. Series Part. Motion Blur. Image by Gastello via

Once obedience training is complete, the dogs move on to the patrol training. Here they learn how to control their aggression and react to commands. In this phase, the dogs are taught how to chase after suspects, bring them down, stand down while their handler searches suspects, and even act on sudden movements by the suspects. During this phase, they are also trained to track, both indoors and outdoors. 

Detection Training

police dog
Image by ChiccoDodiFC via

Military working dogs are trained to detect a wide range of smells, from explosives to narcotics. Their training starts in a room of boxes containing different smells and then moves on to parking lots and warehouses. Although these dogs are trained to sit where they find something, handlers learn the behavior of the dogs and how they react when they pick something up. 

What Happens After Training

Army Soldier with dog, Training dogs of war. Image by stoonn via

After training, the dogs are evaluated on their detection and patrolling abilities. Around 90% of the dogs that enter the program will graduate and be deployed to one of the many US Military Bases globally. At the time of the video, around 1,600 US Military dogs were in service and all of them started at Lackland Airforce Base. Their trainers take huge pride in graduating these dogs, understandable as they know these dogs are off to be part of a bigger mission. 

In The End, They Are Still Just Dogs

Military dogs
Portrait of smiling soldier and military dog looking straight to the camera. Image by alex.wolf via

A common misconception is that these military working dogs are permanently aggressive, but that’s not the case! Their bouts of aggression are just their training kicking in. The reality is that many of these dogs are incredibly friendly and love playing with their handlers. Just like any other pup!

Watch The Video To Learn More

YouTube video
How Military Dogs Are Trained. Source: Youtube, Uploaded: Business Insider

Final Say On US Military Dogs

military dog
Image by PEPPERSMINT via

Although many of these dogs have strong enough bites to break flesh or even bones, it is argued that using dogs in suspect pursuit is better than alternative, more lethal methods. These dogs complete their training to become vital parts of everything the military does – we salute them for their bravery!

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