Panetta has his own canine friend, a golden retriever named Bravo, who has shown him the kind of difference a furry friend can make.
"We could not do our job of protecting this country without people like you who are willing to put their lives on the line," Panetta said to the wounded warrior trainers. "And I really appreciate your service and your sacrifice. I appreciate the effort to, you know, be able to have a dog help someone be able to lead a fuller life. In many ways that's what Bravo does for me in some very tough jobs that I've been in -- having the company of Bravo around and having him provide emotional support.
"Thanks for everything you're doing to help our veterans. We owe them an awful lot," he said. "I guess one of the ways we can repay it is to have them have the company of a dog."
ABC News' Jake Tapper and Stephanie Smith contributed to this report.