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World-first service medal for military working dogs


Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston AM RAN gives military working dog puppy Ulf, a Belgian shepherd, a big hug at the launch of the Canine Operational Service Medal at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, on 8 June 2017.
Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnston AM RAN gives military working dog puppy Ulf, a Belgian shepherd, a big hug at the launch of the Canine Operational Service Medal at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, on 8 June 2017.

Defence’s Directorate of Honours and Awards has made history by implementing the Chief of the Defence Force’s vision of developing and awarding a service medal for military working dogs. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is the first military organisation to formally recognise the contribution military working dogs make during operations, with the Canine Operational Service Medal becoming part of Defence’s internal recognition system.

As technology has evolved, the need for Defence to use other animals such as camels and donkeys ceased, but military working dogs continue to serve as explosive detection dogs, combat assault dogs, patrol dogs and military police dogs. The Canine Operational Service Medal will be awarded to military working dogs with 30 days service in operations from 1999 onwards. Further research will be undertaken into recognising military working dogs from the Vietnam War to 1999.

The Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston, announced the Canine Operational Service Medal in front of the sculpture of the explosive detection dog and handler at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in June 2017.

‘Military working dogs have been by our side in combat and on peacekeeping missions for more than a century,’ Vice Admiral Johnston said.

‘The Canine Operational Service Medal is a symbol of service and recognises our deep appreciation for the critical work these canines perform to help keep ADF personnel safe.’

Corporal Mark Donaldson VC attended the announcement of the new medal and gave a personal account of his experience as a dog handler.

‘Over the years, as an observer and as a handler of military working dogs, I and many of my comrades have seen how much these animals contribute to every effort of the Australian military capability,’ Corporal Donaldson said.

The medal itself is made in Australia from nickel silver and features combat assault dog, Quake, who died on operations in Afghanistan in 2012. The reverse features the ADF emblem. The four ribbon colours represent animals (purple), land (green), loyalty (yellow), and sea and sky (blue).

A clasp with the name of the operation is presented with the medal.

More information about the Canine Operational Service Medal is available at www.defence.gov.au/Medals/News.asp.