While many dogs are companions, other dogs do serious work that helps others. Working dogs have real jobs that they take very seriously. These dogs have natural talents that are carefully honed with intensive training. Working dogs are trained to help others and they love the work.
Many of the jobs done by dogs can be done by multiple dog breeds as well as mixed breed dogs. Kennel clubs and dog breed organizations categorize certain dog breeds in a "working group." While those breeds traditionally worked (such as herding or guarding), today those dogs may or may not perform those functions.
Explore the types of working dogs and the jobs they are specially trained to perform
Service dogs or assistance dogs are working dogs that have been specially trained to assist persons with disabilities. The ADA has special guidelines regarding service dogs and their treatment in public places. A true service dog is trained to behave well in all types of situations so the dog can accompany the handler anywhere. Therapy dogs and emotional support dogs are NOT service dogs.
Some examples of service dogs include:
- Guide dogs for the blind
- Mobility assistance dogs
- Seizure dogs and other medical assistance dogs
- Hearing dogs for the deaf
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Animal-assisted therapy involves the use of trained, certified animals as part of a medical patient's therapeutic plan. These "therapy dogs" offer emotional support to sick or injured persons, often visiting hospitals and nursing homes. They may also visit schools and day care centers to help educate children about dogs.
Dogs of any breed, size, or age can become therapy dogs but they need the right temperament, socialization, and training. Therapy dogs must be even-tempered, well-socialized, well-trained, and non-fearful.
Police dogs, often called K-9s, are trained specifically to assist police and other law-enforcement personnel in the line of duty. Police dogs protect their handlers. They can chase down and hold criminal suspects who try to run from police. In some cases, K-9s might be trained to sniff out substances, but those dogs can also be categorized as detection dogs. The most common dog breeds used as police dogs include German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois.
Military Working Dogs
Similar to police dogs, military working dogs assist members of the military with their operations. These dogs may be used as detectors, trackers, sentries, scouts, and for search and rescue. Most of the military working dogs are German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois.
Detection dogs have exceptional senses of smell and are highly motivated by positive reinforcement. A detection dog is trained to sniff out a particular substance or group of substances. Common types of substances to be sniffed out include illegal drugs, explosives, blood, human remains, and more. Some detection dogs even learn to detect cancer, abnormal blood sugar levels, certain types of insects (like bed bugs), cadavers, or even animal feces.
Detection dogs are used in law enforcement, wildlife biology, and health care. One of the oldest uses of detection dogs is in hunting for truffles. The breeds often used include Beagles, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers.
Search and Rescue Dogs
Search and rescue dogs have great agility and exceptional senses of smell and hearing. These highly trained animals serve in many different fields, including tracking, specialized search, avalanche rescue, and cadaver location. Breeds often used include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Leonbergers, and German Shepherds.
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Herding dogs work with various types of livestock, such as sheep and cattle. A herding dog is basically born for the job, meaning the dog is a specific breed and part of a herding breed group. However, not all herding breeds are naturally expert herders. Some can have their skills honed with training, while others are better suited to lives as companion dogs. Dogs that do become herders can also compete in dog herding trials. Breeds include king shepherds, border collies, Black Mouth Curs, and Icelandic sheepdogs.
There are many other types of working dogs out there beyond this list, and new types of jobs for dogs are developed all the time. Isn't it amazing what dogs can do?