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All in a Day’s Work: Dogs at Work

You and your dog play, lounge on the couch watching Netflix, and take road trips together, but your canine is capable of doing so much more than just goofing around and relaxing. You might train your dog to fetch the newspaper or do other tasks around the house. Most canines get satisfaction out of doing work that feels productive. Even if it’s just sitting in exchange for a treat, your dog is proud of herself when she obeys your commands. In most cases, the praise that comes with obedience is worth the effort that the dog puts into it.

Your canine may enjoy executing tasks for you, but is she a member of a working breed? The American Kennel Club has designated certain breeds to be working dogs. These include the Akita, Bernese mountain dog, boxer, Doberman pinscher, Portuguese water dog, and St. Bernard. You’ll notice that the German shepherd isn’t on the list even though it’s a popular breed for police dogs. Many other dog breeds make ideal working dogs even if they’re not classified as such.

Read on to learn about different types of jobs that dogs can do. You’ll also find out which breeds are best for various kinds of work.

Guide Dogs

Guide dogs help visually impaired people by leading them around obstacles. The first guide dogs aided blind World War I veterans with navigation and mobility issues. These dogs can assist blind people in gaining independence and confidence. However, both guide dogs and the people they assist must go through rigorous training in order to effectively work together. This process can be very challenging, but it ultimately builds a strong relationship of trust and affection between guide dogs and their owners.

Believe it or not, guide dogs haven’t always been allowed in restaurants, hotels and other communal locations. Fortunately, laws have been established that allow service dogs to accompany their owners in public places as long as they don’t pose a threat to health or safety. Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers are the most popular dog breeds for this job.

Herding Dogs

Collies, Australian shepherds, and sheepdogs are some of the breeds that belong to the American Kennel Club’s herding group. These dogs were part of the working group until the categories were separated in 1983. Herding dogs have an extraordinary ability to control other animals’ movements. Throughout history, they were put to work on farms and in pastures to help keep livestock from roaming.

Today, herding dogs are most commonly owned as pets. These breeds tend to be very intelligent, friendly, and easy to train, making them fantastic family dogs. However, if you have a herding dog, you might notice a few of their old herding instincts coming into play from time to time. For example, if your children are running around in the yard, your herding dog might try to gather them together by barking and nipping very lightly at their heels. Old habits (and instincts) die hard!

Search and Rescue Dogs

Search and rescue (SAR) dogs are incredibly good at picking up scents in the air and on the ground. These hero hounds are often sent out to locate people after destructive events, including earthquakes and avalanches. They’re also very effective at tracking people who get lost in the woods. Last but not least, SAR dogs are used to sniff out corpses during criminal investigations.

SAR dogs may work for fire or police departments. They may also be brought in by rescue organizations and individual disaster canine teams. Although German shepherds, retrievers, and bloodhounds are most often used in search and rescue missions, any breed can be groomed for this job. This training process takes about a year and a half and (unsurprisingly) involves many, many games of hide-and-seek.

Police Dogs

Police dogs are often referred to as K9s. Police dogs can search for drugs, firearms, explosives, or other materials that are important in a criminal investigation. Most of their time is committed to searching for missing people and sniffing out illegal materials, but police dogs are also trained to protect their human partners and attack criminals during physical conflicts. K9s are usually paired with the same police officer until one of them retires. German shepherds and Doberman pinschers are very popular breeds for this role.

Military Dogs

Dogs are one of the few animals with the strength, discipline, and loyalty to excel in military operations. Military dogs can be utilized for scouting out enemy positions or tracking down hostile soldiers who are on the run. It’s also worth noting that military forces can use their dogs to intimidate enemies. German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Labradors are often used as military dogs because they are strong, agile, and easy to train.

Therapy Dogs

Dogs can be therapeutic in a variety of settings. For example, therapy dogs are often brought to schools and college campuses to help alleviate stress. Moreover, dogs in this role can be used to entertain and raise the spirits of people in hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers.

According to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, the difference between a therapy and service dog is that a service dog is trained to assist handlers with disabilities, whereas dogs that provide therapy offer psychological or physiological healing to people who are not their handlers. Although guide dog etiquette limits the amount of interaction that should take place between service dogs and the public, people are encouraged to touch and talk to therapy dogs. These dogs can be any breed. However, they must have good manners and be calm and obedient.

Guard Dogs

Guard dogs are specifically bred for their ability to protect their handlers. Guard dogs may work for law enforcement or the military. They may also serve as security for different properties. Guard dogs can even protect livestock on farms. German shepherds, Rhodesian ridgebacks, bull mastiffs, and Rottweilers are good examples of guard dog breeds.

Is Your Dog a Working Dog?

In order to ensure that their dogs have ideal temperaments and physical traits, most police forces and military organizations purchase canines from specialized breeders, which means that it will be very difficult for your pup to make it as a military dog or K9, especially if they’re small or reaching their later years. However, as long as they’re friendly and disciplined, almost any canine can thrive as a service, emotional support, or therapy dog! If you’re interested in learning more about these positions and how to register your dog for them, then be sure to head to the official website of the United States Dog Registry. And remember, even if your favorite four-legged friend isn’t a working dog on paper, they’re still fiercely dedicated to loving and defending your family. Treats, squeaky toys, and praise should suffice as payment for their ardent service.