A dog lying on the ground on a leash next to its handler.

Over the years, adopting former police and military dogs has increased in popularity. However, many people are unaware of what the official adoption process is like. If you or someone you know are considering adopting a military working dog (MWD), read these tips to learn more about what adoption and ownership really entails.

What Is a Military Working Dog (MWD)?

MWD is the official name for retired police and military dogs. MWDs have been retired from duty — usually due to the inability to perform required tasks, and sometimes due to health or age. Many have worked as field or training dogs, and have a unique set of skills honed for a specific purpose. In some cases, this can make potential owners nervous, but worry not — all adoptable dogs have to pass behavioral tests to ensure they’re outgoing companions and a good fit for civilian adoption.

Dogs with specialized skill sets or who don’t pass the civilian adoptability criteria are made available to their former trainers and nonprofit organizations for special needs MWDs.

Is an MWD Right for Me?

Some MWDs are young pups that were not cut out for military or police lifestyles, and others are older dogs in declining health. Many were never trained for combat missions, and civilian-available dogs are not considered any more dangerous than the average dog. Considering a former MWD for your family is much like considering any other adoptable dog. A few questions worth asking yourself might be:

  • Do I have a fenced-in yard?
  • Do I have enough room in my home for an active dog?
  • How much care and attention can I provide a dog?
  • What is my ideal dog like?
  • Who else lives in my home that might not be compatible with a new dog?

Once adopted, the MWDs lose any military benefits, meaning the family that adopts him or her must cover any health issues financially, just like any other pet.

Next Steps in MWD Adoption

All retired MWDs available for adoption are located at the Military Working Dog School, which operates out of Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. There is no fee to adopt a retired MWD, but you must pay for all transportation costs.

If you are selected as a candidate for adoption, you will need to provide proof that you meet all expectations for potential families (these are the standard expectations for any rescue animal: you have the appropriate space for a pet, permission from your landlord, and the ability to care for his or her health needs). Any family that is chosen for adoption will be required to meet with military personnel for an official interview.

Once you are chosen to move forward in the adoption process, you will wait for a scheduled appointment to visit the base and meet with the dogs that match your lifestyle and interests. Your selected dog will complete a veterinary exam before being released to your family.

Remember – Patience Is Required

Since MWD adoptions are both limited and popular, you will need to remain patient throughout the entire adoption process. The Lackland Air Force Base works hard to ensure that all MWDs go home with families that are able to give these special dogs a healthy, happy home.

Adopting a former MWD? Check out this post on nutrition for working dogs!

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.