Dogs may be amazing creatures, but K9s are capable of truly impressive feats. Commonly employed across the U.S. to serve distinct functions like finding survivors under rubble or detecting distant threats such as snipers, these service dogs are invaluable to the day-to-day operations of the armed forces, law enforcement and first responder teams.

Every year on March 13th is K9 Veterans Day. This is a time to honor and appreciate K9 veterans. Here, we’ll briefly talk about the history of K9 Veterans Day, explain what K9s are capable of doing, and offer ways to participate in this national holiday.

The history of K9 Veterans Day

K9 dogs have been used throughout much of military history across the world, from the Greeks and Romans breeding Cane Corsos as guard dogs to the Persians, who used the Saluki for hunting game. In the U.S., the use of dogs in the military goes back to 1942 with the Dogs for Defense organization and its War Dog Program, also called the K9 Corps. These dogs were trained to be sentries to guard supply depots. Training began on March 13th of that year, which is where the special date originated.

Joe White, a Vietnam War veteran and dog handler from Jacksonville, Florida, first petitioned the idea of a national holiday for K9 veterans in 2009. White was especially close to K9 dogs during the war. The day became an official holiday in 2013. The concept behind the day was to bring awareness to K9s and offer them a special day of honor.

What do K9s do?

Dogs can be trained to do pretty much anything, to begin with, but K9s are special. Some of the tasks a K9 might learn to do are:

  • Patrolling and scouting. These dogs are capable of alerting their owners to the presence of enemies. Often sent away from their handlers to detect threats, this type of K9 will be especially quiet and provide subtle signals if they detect something — for example, they may stiffen their stance or twitch their ears.
  • Explosive device detection. Commonly stationed at traffic stops and checkpoints, these dogs can sniff out the ingredients of explosive devices.
  • Special Forces work. These multi-purpose dogs serve with units such as the Navy SEALs and Army Rangers. They are extremely capable K9s with a variety of skills, from jumping out of aircraft to assisting with amphibious operations.
  • Sentry duty. This type of military dog can detect threats. Often stationed at supply posts, airports and important storage facilities, they are highly useful when visibility is limited, such as during nighttime.
  • Locate the injured. Search and rescue dogs, also known as casualty dogs, can locate survivors in places they may be hidden, such as under rubble after a natural disaster.
“The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

 How can you honor K9 veterans

There are many ways you can show your support for K9 veterans, such as:

  • Make donations to K9 organizations.
  • Host or join events honoring K9 veterans.
  • Bring awareness to the day on social media.

Also, if you have any personal stories you’d like to share, tell them! Virtually everyone loves to hear tales of exceptional dogs, especially heroic K9 veterans.

K9s enhance the capabilities of the U.S. armed forces and other teams

Whatever you do to celebrate this K9 Veterans Day, try to bring attention to the practically limitless capabilities of these canines. Dogs have consistently had a place alongside people doing incredible things, and it’s worth taking the time to appreciate the jobs K9s can do across the world.