Top 10 Best Military Dog Breeds

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson

Think you know your enlisted K-9s? Well, think again. You’ll be surprised with some of the picks on our military dog breeds list. Especially number 10!.

If you’re anything like me, the moment you think “military dog” you envision a German Shepherd Dog or Doberman patrolling a barbed wire fence and barking fiercely when confronted by the enemy. It’s an image that we've seen so many times in movies and television shows. But as always, you can’t trust Hollywood for accuracy. Those are far from the only breeds of pup who have used in military service and just one of the many roles assigned to the enlisted K-9s and military dog breeds. When you dig into the history, it’s amazing what a wide range of pups have performed a wide range of tasks in military service. From large to small, muscular and burly, doggos went above and beyond the call of duty to fulfill the missions they were tasked with. There is no surprise here – dogs are known as loyal and brave companions, even in war. 

So what are the jobs typically assigned to our favourite furry friends by the military? Well, there are many and often those jobs require completely opposite tasks and behaviours. While Sentry dogs are taught to walk alongside their guard or handler and warn by growling or barking at approaching strangers, a Scout dog is trained to work silently so that they can detect and alert their handler to snipers, enemy presence, and ambushes. A Messenger dog carries information between handlers, while Mine Dogs are trained to detect both metallic and non-metallic land-mines as well as booby traps and trip wires. Casualty dogs are your war-time version of a search and rescue pooch who can quickly locate injured soldiers. While Tunnel dogs have been used to explore the confines of underground spaces to seek out enemy forces and alert handlers. Finally, Explosives Detection dogs have been specifically trained to pick up on the scent of the chemicals used in bombs and alert their handler when those odours hit their little pup noses.

As you can see, there are quite a wide range of tasks for military service dogs these days. That requires a wide variety of breeds who can deliver on those tasks. Since the military has been training dogs for decades, they have experimented with a wide variety of breeds and come up with quite a list of powerful pups who are up to the tasks. So, who are the top dogs when it comes to military duty past and present? Keep your eyeballs glued to this page to find out. (Photo credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

German Shepherd Dog

Everyone knows the German Shepherd thanks to their elegant looks and fierce loyalty. This beautiful pup is a top pick for a variety of reasons. First of all, German Shepherds are strong, agile and easy to train for scout dog duty. But that’s not all. Importantly, these doggos aren’t overly aggressive, so that they can remain calm in hostile locations. Plus, their loyal and predictable personality makes for a dependable wing-man when one of these beauties is by your side in a war zone. Few breeds are up to as many service dog tasks as German Shepherds. Needless to say, one of their first roles was on the German side in World War One, and perhaps even before that. They were a common sight in the trenches of the Great War’s battlefields, and ever since they played a crucial role in many of the world’s militaries. (Photo credit: serav/Shutterstock)

Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois is one truly majestic doggo. This German Shepherd look-alike possesses the same dependable, intelligent, and trainable personality as the real deal. And all the while, it is a distinct breed in its own right. There is a little twist with a Belgian Malinois that makes a difference though. These pups come in a more compact form than German Shepherds, which makes them better for missions where they are parachuted or repelled into a situation with their handlers. That slight difference in size can make a huge difference in a war zone. That’s why the Malinois often get the toughest roles in the military, where they prove as dependable and very brave animals. And when the duties are done with, they show you their affectionate and loyal side. (Photo credit: Ekaterina Brusnika/Shutterstock)

Labrador Retriever

You wouldn’t think you’d find a Labrador Retriever on this list, did you? Well, here they are: these are not just wonderful household pets, but skilled in military roles as well. Everyone who has ever owned a Labrador Retriever can tell you that their nose is naturally gifted. So, it only makes sense that this pooch with the always-on sense of smell would be the ideal choice for sniffing out explosives. They are also well suited to search and rescue missions where timing is critical and you need an ultra-obedient dog with an effective nose on the job. Labrador Retrievers are the perfect pups to smell out danger and lead with their noses on the battlefield. What is more, they are also quite emotion-driven, and can be compassionate to humans in need. In rescue operations due to natural disasters, such a character can prove to be invaluable. (Photo credit: OlgaOvcharenko/Shutterstock)

Doberman Pinscher

You all know the Doberman Pinscher as the epitome of an elegant and powerful-looking canine. They are so majestic that no one can really resist their charm. And, it is no surprise that this lean, athletic pooch has been a favorite of the US Marines dating back to WWII. Often dubbed the Devil Dog of the Marines, the Doberman Pinscher’s intelligence, easy trainability, and alertness make the breed a perfect choice for the role of a Scout or Patrol dog. They’ve been on the front lines for generations now and that won’t be changing any time soon. Their athleticism and unshakable bravery are incredibly crucial in those decisive moments in the action. (Photo credit: xieyuliang/Shutterstock)


Here is another distinctly German breed, with a reputation of a reliable and protective guard dog. This beautifully big pooch is confident, ready to work, and best of all loyal. That made Rottweilers the ideal candidate to serve as messenger dogs back during WWI and WWII. During an era when communication was far more difficult, soldiers had to rely on these remarkable dogs’ strong devotion to their handlers to make their way through dangerous and scary terrain to deliver information. While messenger dogs thankfully aren’t as necessary on the battlefield these days, they still often serve in the military. They are very smart, work great under pressure, and have a stout and sturdy build. All this is very valuable in military roles. (Photo credit: Serova_Ekaterina/Shutterstock)


It is really no surprise that the Boxer found its way on this military-related list. With an inherent wariness around strangers, an alert disposition, natural strength and impressive agility these athletic dogs with the jowly good looks and iconic underbites were an ideal candidate for work in the military during WWI. At that time, boxers held a wide variety of roles including messenger dog, scout, and patrol dog. They were one of the most versatile service dog breeds of the era and continue to be trained for military service to this day. Their lean and athletic build proves, time and time again, to be their biggest advantage in the military. (Photo credit: Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock)

Airedale Terrier

This is a bit of a rarer sight in the military, but nothing less valuable than the other candidates on this list. While Airedale Terriers can be a bit headstrong, these athletic pups are quick to pick up commands, obedient, loyal, and aren’t a big fan of strangers. This makes them ideal candidates to serve as scouts or patrol dogs. The Airedale Terriers’ superior sense of smell was spotted by the military and frequently used in search and rescue missions during WWI. Plus their moderate-to-small size is a big advantage when they need to seek out survivors in the rubble and the ruins. (Photo credit: Lenkadan/Shutterstock)

Giant Schnauzer

The Giant Schnauzer began being used in a soldierly capacity during the 1940s when the Soviets were trying to develop the perfect military dog. Giant Schnauzers were used as a foundation breed for the Soviets and served that army well. Typically, these dogs have a reserved personality and are inherently suspect of strangers as well as quite territorial. So, obviously that’s the dog you want to take on night patrol. These pups won’t let any stranger cross enemy lines without alerting their masters. From the time of the Soviets, this breed has become a valuable part of many world militaries, and are in use even today. (Photo credit: Nikiforova Viktoria/Shutterstock)

Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies

You would think that the Huskies and Malamutes are goofy fluff balls that love to pull sleds. But they have a reliable and stout side as well. War wasn’t always on the field or in the jungles during WWII. A number of planes en route to Europe ended up crash landing in Greenland. The U.S. knew they needed a special type of dog to locate and help rescue these airmen, stranded in the icy and cold landscapes of the remote north. So the military drafted Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. These pups were up for the difficult task in the snow and have served as military service animals in cold climates ever since. They proved to be the ideal helping hand in these harsh conditions that are so natural to them. Thanks to the military employment of these breeds, many lives were saved in critical moments. (Photo credit: DiLiDon/Shutterstock)

Yorkshire Terrier

I know what you’re thinking. How could these cute little pups who fit easily into a handbag possibly serve in the military. Well, heroes truly come in all sizes, so let’s not forget a wee Yorkie named Smoky who protected his human troop pack during WWII by pulling urgently needed telegraph wires through a really scary, partially destroyed 70-foot pipe that ran under an airfield exposed to enemy fire. Sometimes you need a little dog to get you out of a tight spot and the fiercely loyal and (despite the pint size) fearless Yorkshire Terrier has proven to be up to difficult tasks where larger doggos would dare not go. From Smoky’s bravery we can learn that although tiny, these dogs are quite spirited, and can go that extra mile in critical situations. So much spirit in such a tiny doggo! 

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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