What You Need To Know About Giving A Retired Military Hero A Home

Military working dogs (MWD) are a special breed of heroes, having served alongside U.S. soldiers since World War II. These four-legged soldiers are trained to sniff out explosives and drugs, conduct search and rescue missions, and provide security for military bases.

But what happens when these brave dogs retire? Many of them face the possibility of being euthanized due to a lack of resources or suitable adopters. This is where you come in – by giving a retired MWD a loving home.

Find out everything you need to know about giving a retired military working dog a home in this guide.

Military working dog adoption

Life After Service

K9 dogs usually retire at 8 to 10, depending on their physical health. Some dogs are discharged from service due to injuries sustained while on duty. Regardless, these dogs deserve a peaceful retirement where they can relax and enjoy their lives as beloved pets.

But the transition can be challenging. Contract working dogs and veteran dogs were trained for a purpose and followed specific routines throughout their entire career. Adjusting to a new home and family can be overwhelming for them.

Therefore, it’s essential to understand that retired MWDs may initially have behavioral issues, such as separation anxiety or aggression towards other animals. It will require patience, understanding, and proper training to help them adjust to their new life.

Can You Adopt a Retired Military Dog?

A MWD can have up to five handlers during his/her career. The government selects one of them to adopt. If that handler cannot adopt the MWD, one of the other handlers will likely be able to adopt. Even with all these options, many MWD’s still need homes and can be adopted by the public.

The most common dog breeds used for military service are German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers. These breeds are highly intelligent, loyal, and have a strong work ethic – qualities that make them excellent police or military dogs.

That said, civilians planning to adopt a retired MWD must provide a suitable home and be able to meet the dog’s specific needs. These dogs require an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and a strong pack leader.

The Process of Adopting Retired Military Dogs

Adopting retired military dogs varies depending on the branch of service. Generally, interested adopters must meet certain criteria, such as:

  • Have a stable home environment with a securely fenced yard
  • Be able to provide for the dog’s basic needs, including food, shelter, and medical care
  • Have the financial resources to cover any unexpected expenses related to the dog’s health or well-being
  • Be willing to undergo training and follow specific guidelines set by the organization or the dog’s previous handler
  • Accept that retired MWDs may have certain behavioral issues and be prepared to work with them.
  • Families must not have children under 12 years old.
  • They agree not to breed their retired K9 dogs.

The adoption process often includes suitability checks to ensure the applicant can provide a safe and suitable home for the dog. If you have other dogs in the house, a meet-and-greet may also be required to ensure compatibility. Applicants may also have to undergo an interview and home visit before approval.

Do I Need to Pay an Adoption Fee?

Yes, MK9 charges a $300 adoption fee. This fee helps cover a portion of the costs associated with the care of the dogs, including vaccinations, spaying/neutering, food, boarding and other medical treatments, ensuring they are healthy and ready for their new home.

The Behavior of a Veteran Dog

Adopting a retired military working dog means welcoming a hero with unique behaviors and instincts into your home. These dogs have been trained extensively and have lived much of their lives in highly structured environments, responding to commands and performing tasks that require focus, strength, and intelligence. It’s important to recognize that their transition into civilian life can come with challenges.

Retired MWDs may exhibit behaviors such as vigilance or watchfulness due to their training in guarding and protection. They might also show signs of wanting to take on a ‘job’ or needing to be mentally stimulated regularly. Some may have difficulty adjusting to a more relaxed lifestyle or being around other animals and unfamiliar people.

Mental issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing traumatic events during their service are also common. It’s essential to consult with the organization and get appropriate training to help these dogs adjust and thrive in their new homes.

It is also worth noting that these dogs are accustomed to an active lifestyle. Ensuring they get enough physical exercise and mental stimulation is crucial in helping them adjust.

Patience, gentle guidance, and consistent training can help your retired MWD adapt to their new environment and become a loving and integral part of your family.

The Rewards of Adopting a Retired MWD

Despite these initial challenges, adopting a retired Military Working Dog (MWD) can be an incredibly rewarding experience. These dogs have served their country with bravery and dedication, and now they deserve to live out their golden years in a loving home where they can relax and enjoy life as cherished pets.

Here’s what you can expect when adopting a retired MWD:

  • Disciplined Companions: Their training in the military involved strict discipline, and they thrived under a regimented routine.
  • Loyal: The bond between a K9 dog and their handler is one of the strongest bonds out there. These dogs are incredibly loyal, and once they trust you, they will be fiercely devoted to you.
  • Healthcare coverage: Some programs offer healthcare coverage for retired MWDs, which can help with the costs of any necessary medical care.

Opening Your Home to a Retired MWD

Adjusting to life with a retired Military Working Dog (MWD) requires patience, understanding, and a commitment to their well-being. Here are some tips to help both you and your new companion make a smooth transition:

Establish a Routine

Creating a structured environment with regular feeding times, exercise, and rest periods can help signal to the retired MWD what is expected of them and when. This helps reduce anxiety and builds trust between the dog and its new family.

Introduce Your Home Gradually

Start by allowing your new pet to get comfortable with a specific area of your home, gradually introducing them to other spaces. This can help prevent them from feeling overwhelmed and give them a sense of security.

Provide a Safe, Secure Space

A crucial step in welcoming a retired MWD into your home is providing a safe and secure space they can call their own. This could be a comfortable bed in a quiet corner of the house, away from the hustle and bustle of family life.

Ensuring their space is equipped with familiar items, such as toys from their training days or a blanket, can help create a sense of continuity and comfort. This personal haven can significantly ease their transition and contribute to their overall well-being in your home.

Be Mindful of Triggers

Retired MWDs may have triggers or sensitivities due to their training, such as loud noises or certain objects. Be mindful of these and try to avoid them as much as possible. Desensitization techniques can also help them overcome these triggers over time.

Stay Consistent with Training

Civilian discipline differs significantly from military discipline. It should be more about establishing routines and boundaries than enforcing strict commands. Stay consistent with training and be patient as your retired MWD adjusts to a different lifestyle.

Provide Mental Stimulation

These intelligent and highly trained animals are used to engaging in tasks that challenge their minds and bodies. Finding new ways to stimulate their intellect is essential to aid their adjustment to civilian life and keep them healthy and happy.

Interactive toys, training sessions that teach new tricks or commands, puzzle feeders, and regular playtime can all contribute to keeping your retired MWD mentally sharp and engaged. Creating obstacle courses in your backyard or arranging playdates with other dogs can offer them physical and mental exercise.

Show Love and Affection

While military dogs are trained not to seek affection, they still crave it like any other dog. Give them enough time to warm up to you and build trust, and you’ll see their affectionate side shine through. Showing them love and attention can help strengthen the bond between you and your retired MWD.

Teach Them New Things

Help your retired hero loosen up and learn new, non-military tasks. This could be something as simple as teaching them to play fetch or cuddling with them on the couch. These moments of joy can help your retired MWD feel more at ease in their new life.

For example, teach them new commands. Start with basic commands they might not know yet, such as “rollover” or “shake hands.” Use treats and plenty of praise as rewards for learning new tricks.

Introducing leisure activities they might not have experienced, like swimming in a lake, going for leisurely walks in the park, or even basic games of fetch, is also an excellent idea. These activities can be incredibly enriching for them and provide a stark contrast to the structured physical activities they are accustomed to.

Provide a Forever Home for a Retired Military Working Dog – Adopt Now!

Are you ready to open your heart and home to a retired or retiring military working dog? Giving these dedicated and brave dogs a loving forever home is a rewarding experience that can make a difference in their lives.

Mission K9 Rescue is a non-profit organization dedicated to the service of retiring and retired military working dogs, K9s and contract working dogs worldwide. We work tirelessly to find loving homes for these deserving dogs and provide them with necessary medical care, rehabilitation, and ongoing support.

If you’re interested in adopting a retired MWD, complete our adoption form or reach out to our team. You can also donate to support our efforts in finding homes for these heroic dogs.

Donate – https://donate.missionk9rescue.org

If you prefer Paypal, we are listed as “Mission K9 Rescue”.

If you prefer to mail a check, please use this address for donations by mail:

Mission K9 RescueP.O. Box 395

Needville, TX 77461-0395


EIN 46-4302698 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization

How To Adopt A Retired Military Working Dog

Retired military working dogs are true heroes, having served their country with loyalty, bravery and dedication. These unsung champions protect our troops, detect explosives and perform countless other vital tasks to ensure the safety and well-being of those in the line of duty. After carrying out their duties, they deserve a loving and caring home in which they can comfortably live out their golden years. Understanding how to adopt a retired military dog is essential for those who wish to do so. The experience can prove to be mutually transformative with proper guidance and preparation. 

Keep reading to learn how to adopt retired military dogs.

How To Adopt A Retired Military Working Dog

Benefits of Adopting a Military Working Dog

Prospective dog owners should consider a dog’s breed and personality traits, as well as its history and skillset. Adopting retired military dogs can be an excellent opportunity for families looking for a unique and rewarding experience. 

Here are the benefits of welcoming one into your family:

Well-Trained and Disciplined Companions

Unlike adopting a pet from a regular shelter, you won’t need to worry about adopting a retired military dog with extensive training. Most of them are trained in a variety of skills, such as obedience, drug and explosive detection, and search and rescue. Their exposure to various situations and environments makes them adaptable and trustworthy companions.

Unique Skills and Capabilities

There is no doubt that military dogs are highly skilled animals. Their training involves a wide range of tasks, so adopting veteran dogs will allow you to benefit from their unique skill set. Some canines are even trained in therapy, assisting individuals with physical or mental disabilities.

Second Chance at Life

Military dogs often face the possibility of being put down upon retirement, yet they still have plenty of love and loyalty to offer. When you choose retired K9s for adoption, you are not only giving a deserving animal a second chance at life but also providing a loving forever home for a dog that has served their country.

Eligibility Criteria for Adopting a Retired Military Working Dog

Knowing how to adopt a retired military dog is not enough to take one home. Adopters must fit specific criteria to ensure the dog’s well-being and compatibility. Here are some standard requirements:

Adopters typically need to be at least 18 to be considered for adopting a retired military working dog. This ensures that individuals are legally responsible and capable of properly caring for the canine.

Citizenship: In many cases, adopters must be citizens or legal residents of the country where the military working dog is being retired. This helps ensure that the adoption process complies with legal regulations and that the dog’s welfare is prioritized within the country’s jurisdiction.

Secure and Fenced Yard: Many organizations prefer adopters to have a secure and fenced yard where the dog can safely exercise and roam without the risk of escaping or encountering potential dangers.

Adequate Space: Adopters should have sufficient indoor space to accommodate the dog comfortably. This includes providing a designated sleeping area, access to clean water and protection from extreme weather conditions.

Pet-Friendly Environment: If other pets are in the household, adopters should demonstrate that they can provide a harmonious and safe environment for the retired military dog and existing pets.

No Kids Below 12: One key aspect to consider when adopting a retired military dog is the age of the children in the family. Having a child under 12 in the household may not be the most suitable environment for a retired military dog.

Previous Dog Ownership: Previous experience owning and caring for dogs demonstrates a level of responsibility and understanding of canine needs.

Training Knowledge: While retired military dogs may come with basic training, adopters should be prepared to continue training and provide ongoing socialization to help the dog adjust to its new home and routine.

Understanding Special Needs: Some retired military working dogs may have specific needs due to their service history or age. Adopters should be prepared to accommodate these needs and provide appropriate care and support.

The Application Process for Adopting a Retired Military Working Dog

As loyal companions and highly skilled professionals, retired military working dogs deserve a comfortable and caring environment to rest and relax. Here’s everything you need to know about the adoption process:

Gathering Necessary Documentation and Requirements

It’s crucial to gather all necessary documentation and meet the requirements set forth by the organization facilitating the adoption of retired military working dogs. This may include proof of age and citizenship, documentation of your housing situation and property, and evidence of experience with dog ownership and training.

Completing the Application Form

Once you have all the required documentation in order, the next step is to complete the adoption application form provided by the organization. This form typically gathers information about your personal details, living situation, experience with dogs and reasons for wanting to adopt a retired military working dog. Be thorough and honest in your responses to ensure a smooth process.

What to Expect During the Waiting Period

There is usually a waiting period after submitting the application. This is because the organization needs to review your details to assess your suitability as an adopter. During this time, you may be contacted for additional information or clarification if needed. Patience is vital during this stage as the organization works to find the best match for both you and the retired military dog.

Being Matched with a Dog and Meeting Them in Person

Once your application is approved, you will be matched with a retired military working dog based on factors such as your lifestyle, experience, and the dog’s needs and temperament. You will have the opportunity to meet the canine in person and spend time getting to know each other before finalizing the adoption.

Finalizing the Adoption

The final step is to complete the adoption process. This may involve signing adoption agreements, paying adoption fees (if applicable) and receiving information about the dog’s medical history, care needs and any ongoing support the organization provides post-adoption.

Preparing for Your Retired Military Working Dog’s Arrival

Before your retired military working dog arrives, it is essential to create a safe and comfortable space where they can adjust and feel at ease. 

This may include:

  • Designating a quiet area or room where military dogs for adoption can rest and retreat if needed.
  • Providing a comfortable bed or crate with soft bedding for relaxation.
  • Ensuring the space is free from hazards such as loose wires, toxic plants, or small objects that could be ingested.

Preparing the necessary supplies and equipment in advance can significantly facilitate your dog’s transition into its new environment. It’s essential to have food and water bowls that match the animal’s size and breed, along with high-quality dog food.

Additionally, it is crucial for safety to ensure your dog has a suitable collar, leash and updated identification tags with contact information. Providing toys and chew items can help keep your dog mentally stimulated and engaged, while grooming supplies like brushes, nail clippers and shampoo contribute to their overall well-being and hygiene.

Adjusting to Life with a Retired Military Working Dog

Taking home military dogs for adoption is a rewarding experience, but it also requires understanding, patience and proactive care. Here are some key aspects to consider:

Understanding Your Dog’s Unique Background and Potential Challenges

Retired military working dogs often have unique backgrounds and experiences that may influence their behavior and needs. Learn about your dog’s history, training and potential challenges.

Establishing a Routine and Implementing Basic Training

Consistency and structure are essential for retired military working dogs. Establish a daily routine that includes regular feeding, exercise and rest periods. Basic training, such as obedience commands and leash manners, helps reinforce positive behaviors and strengthens your bond with the dog.

Socializing and Bonding with Your Dog

Socialization is crucial in helping your dog adapt to new environments and interactions. Gradually expose them to different people, environments and experiences in a positive and controlled manner. Spend quality time bonding through play, training sessions, and calm interactions to build trust and companionship.

Immediately Address Any Health Issue

Stay proactive in addressing any health concerns or behavioral issues by consulting with your veterinarian or a certified dog trainer. Regular check-ups, preventive care and ongoing training contribute to a fulfilling and harmonious life with your retired military working dog.

Mission K9 Rescue Can Help You Give A Hero a Home

There’s no doubt that adopting a retired military working dog brings with it immense gratification. These hardworking and loyal companions have dedicated years of their lives to their missions, working alongside brave soldiers in often daunting conditions. So, when it comes to saying thank you and providing them with a forever home, you can rest assured you are doing a great thing.

Mission K9 is committed to rescue, reunite, re-home, rehabilitate and repair retired working dogs. Not only will you give a retired military working dog a loving home, but you’ll also be supporting Mission K9’s ongoing efforts to ensure these canine heroes live out their days in comfort and happiness.

Now that you know how to adopt a retired military dog, contact Mission K9 and begin your journey. It’s time to give a hero a home.

Donate – https://donate.missionk9rescue.org

If you prefer Paypal, we are listed as “Mission K9 Rescue”.

If you prefer to mail a check, please use this address for donations by mail:

Mission K9 Rescue
P.O. Box 395

Needville, TX 77461-0395


EIN 46-4302698 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization
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