All in a Day’s Work: Dogs at Work

Dog Behavior & Training > Training Your Dog >

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.


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