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Bringing Home a Hero: Adoption Costs for Military Dogs

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

How much does it cost to adopt a military dog

How much does it cost to adopt a military dog? Before adopting a canine companion, it’s essential to know your options and select the most suitable path for your family.

Compared to dogs in rescues or shelters, there’s no fee involved in adopting military working dogs. As with all pets, however, you will be responsible for their food, medical care, and other costs that come with ensuring their well-being.

Applicants must also travel to a military base to pick up the dogs and pay for the trip(s) themselves.

Are Military Dogs Free to Adopt?

Yes. The Department of Defence runs an MWD adoption program for military working dogs at Texas’s Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland facility.

As for why the program exists, military dogs for adoption are available so that the dogs can retire or find happy homes outside of the armed forces. Some canines also have injuries or medical conditions that make service impossible, or their owners can no longer care for them.

Generally speaking, the Air Force base in Texas has three canine types available for adoption:


  • Puppies – Typically 10-18 months old and with very little training, these canines have been found unsuitable for military work. Like all dogs listed here, though, these puppies are perfectly safe for civilians. You don’t have to worry about them being overly aggressive.
  • Training Eliminations – These are older dogs between 18 months and three years old. Like puppies, they have been removed from military work for one reason or another, but tend to have more training than their younger counterparts.
  • Retired Training Aid Dogs – 6 to 10 years old, these are K9s used in training military dog handlers, whose future job includes caring for and working with canines during missions.

As an aside, it’s important to differentiate MWDs from retired service dogs. Service dogs are trained to aid people with disabilities, while MWDs focus on military tasks like detecting explosives and guarding duties.

If you require a service dog or therapy dog, you should find a canine trained for these purposes instead, not an MWD.

However, if you’re certain an MWD is perfect for your circumstances, here are the expenses to consider if you’re wondering: “Does it cost money to adopt a retired police dog or military dog?”

  • Adoption (free of charge)
  • Travel to the military base in San Antonio, Texas

Assuming you’re traveling by plane, a ticket costs around $381 on average. As for trains, the fare will be $20 to $400.

  • Leash, collar, and crate

You’ll need to bring these to transport your dog. They will cost about $60 or more, depending on your chosen products.

  • Everyday fees (medical care, pet insurance, food, etc.) – Approximately $376 a month

Adoption Eligibility Criteria

Suppose you can handle the costs of having a military dog; there are still other requirements you must meet to apply for an adoption. You must be:

  1. A US citizen
  2. Live in a house with a six-foot-tall fence, a yard, and no more than three dogs
  3. Everyone in the house must be over four years old, and you must already have a vet who can provide medical care for your K9.
  4. Prior to adoption, you must agree not to sell your pet and not to use your canine companion for business, security, or illegal activities.

Other than that, we recommend considering the following to gauge your suitability as a pet parent:

  • Do you have time to exercise and play with your dog regularly, for up to two hours a day?
    The answer should be “yes,” as MWDs are very energetic and may develop behavioral problems if left alone without stimulation.
  • Are you looking for a housebroken dog?

MWDs may be adept in certain aspects of military work, but they are not trained dogs in the traditional sense. You’ll need to think about housebreaking them and providing obedience training.

  • Next, does anyone in your family have allergies?

Military working dogs are not hypoallergenic, so it’s best not to make that assumption.

  • Think about other pets you have as well, and whether they will get along with your new companion. Once you’ve adopted a military dog, you cannot abandon it or leave it to fend for itself.


Now, you can answer the question, “how much does it cost to adopt a military dog?”

Though most veteran dogs are adopted by their former handlers, there are still some who don’t have a home after years of serving in the army. If you’re looking for a canine companion, perhaps a military dog can be your new best friend.

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