Virtually all breeds of dogs have been used at one time or another in military roles. Lt. Colonel Richardson of the British War Dog School started training Airdales as sentry and patrol dogs at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, finding them well adapted to the work.
"Julius Caesar," St. Bernard mascot of the Military Police at Kelly Field, TX in 1942.
Early in World War II, as the Quartermaster Corps began training dogs for the Army's K-9 Corps, more than thirty breeds were accepted. But later, with more experience, the list was narrowed to five: German Shepherds, Belgian Sheep Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Farm Collies (short coat) and Giant Schnauzers. Rejected breeds included Great Danes, difficult to train because of their size, and hunting dogs because animal scents occupied their attention. Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies were still trained for Arctic duty as sled dogs.
Standard Breeds of U.S. MWDs Today
The vast majority of U.S. military working dogs in recent times are German and Dutch shepherds and Belgian Malinois, breeds chosen because they are very aggressive, smart, loyal and athletic. The photo above, left is a German Shepherd MWD at Edwards AFB, CA, 23 January 2004. To the right is a photo of Oscar, a Belgian Malinios MWD, at Camp Al Asad, Iraq, 23 April 2004.
German Shepherd dogs are preferred as the standard breed because of their unique combination of traits. Shepherds are intelligent, dependable, predictable, easily trained, usually moderately aggressive, and can adapt readily to almost any climatic conditions. While many dog breeds exhibit some or most of these traits, the Shepherd more than any other breed, most consistently exhibits all of these traits.
For specialized roles, detector dogs in particular, other breeds are used. Retrievers (Labrador, Golden or Chesapeake Bay) are the preferred breeds for One Odor Detector dogs.
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