The most commonly used dog breeds in the modern military are German shepherds, retrievers, Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherds. These dog breeds were chosen for their endurance, resiliency and keen sense of smell. Dogs have been used in the military since Greek and Roman times, and the breeds that have been used often change.
In Germany and the Netherlands, breeders have been breeding specialized dogs for warfare purposes for centuries. As a result, 85 percent of the dogs used in service today were bred there. In addition several units in different parts of the U.S. armed forces have combined their skills to breed military dogs, which account for the other 15 percent of dogs used.
The dogs that enter the military generally work in three different areas. They can work on detection of narcotics and explosives, or they can work to patrol and apprehend enemies. About 500 dogs are deployed for combat at any time, although each dog is attached to a single handler.
A dog's military career can end because of injuries, age or the lack of desire to continue following commands. When dogs retire from the service they are carefully paired with civilian owners and adopted into new homes.