Mike Ritland grew up in Waterloo, Iowa and joined the Navy at age 17 in 1996, after being inspired by his grandfathers―both of whom had served in World War II―and fascinated by an article about the challenge of SEAL training in Popular Mechanics. He graduated with BUD/S class 215 and became a member of SEAL Team 3.
In April 2003, Ritland’s 16-member SEAL Team was deployed to Iraq along with the First Marine Division, and they were tasked with taking the city of Tikrit. During one clearing operation, he observed a group of Marines approaching a cave-like structure in a rural area outside the city. After searching thousands of buildings and similar structures without issue, the temptation was to assume that all was clear, but the platoon was alerted to danger by an explosive-detector dog. Ritland learned later that a grenade booby trap had been set in the doorway and would certainly have killed the first marines to enter. He knew instantly that he wanted to work with dogs such as the one he’d seen, and learn to harness their remarkable abilities to defeat the tools of modern warfare.
After 12 years of active duty as a U.S. Navy SEAL, Ritland became a BUD/S instructor and then started his own company, Trikos International, to train dogs for the SEAL teams. Today he continues to supply working and protection dogs to a host of clients, including to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs, Border Patrol, TSA and the Department of Defense. He has trained hundreds of working dogs, and has over 15 years of experience in importing, breeding, raising, and training multiple breeds of working dogs. He also started the Warrior Dog Foundation to help retired Special Operations dogs live long and happy lives after their service. Proceeds from Mike Ritland’s book Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale from the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines will be donated to the Warrior Dog Foundation.