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Working Dogs

Assistance Dog
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 | Attack Dog
 | Detection Dog
 | Freighting
 | Guard Dog
 | Hunting Dog
 | Livestock Guardian Dog
 | Police Dog
 | Rescue Dog
 | Search and Rescue Dog
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From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, by MultiMedia

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This working dog is a border collie mix. This working dog is a border collie mix.

A working dog refers to a canine working animal, i.e. a dog that is not merely a pet but learns and performs tasks to assist and/or entertain its human companions, or a breed of such origin.

Arguably the variety of -often exclusive- canine jobs is a better justification for the dog's honorary title "man's best friend" than the more accidental popularity as pet number one in western cultures.


Within this general description, however, there are several ways in which the phrase is used.

  • To identify any dog that performs any task on a regular basis to assist people. In this context, a dog who helps a rancher manage cattle or who performs tricks for a trainer who receives pay for its acts is a working dog, as is an assistance dog. This might be in comparison to a companion dog, whose purpose is primarily as a pet.
  • To distinguish between show dogs that are bred primarily for their appearance in an attempt to match a breed club's detailed description of what such a breed should look like, and working dogs that are bred primarily for their ability to perform a task. For example, a Border Collie that is a champion show dog is not necessarily good at herding sheep; a Border Collie that is a champion at sheepdog trials might be laughed out of the show ring for its nonstandard appearance. It is possible that a specimen may excel in both appearance and performance, but it is very unlikely.
For some breeds, there are separate registries for tracking the ancestry of working dogs and that of show dogs. For example, in Australia, there are separate registries for working and show Australian Kelpies; the working registry encourages the breeding of any Kelpies with a strong instinct to herd, no matter their appearance or coat color; the show registry encourages breeding only among Kelpies whose ancestors were registered as show dogs and who have only solid-colored coats.
  • As a catch-all for dog breeds whose original purpose was to perform tasks that do not fit into a more specific category of work. For example, the American Kennel Club uses Working Dogs to describe breeds who were originally bred for jobs other than herding or hunting. Such jobs might include pulling carts, guarding, and so on. See Working Dog Group.

Jobs performed by dogs

 A detection dog at work A detection dog at work

Although most modern dogs are kept as pets, there are still a tremendous number of ways in which dogs can and do assist humans, and more uses are found for them every year. The following list provides an idea of the versatility of dogs:

  • Service dogs assist people who are physically unable to do everything that they need to do. This includes guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, and others.
  • Therapy dogs visit people who are incapacitated or prevented in some way from having freedom of movement; these dogs provide cheer and entertainment for the elderly in retirement facilities, the ill and injured in hospitals, and so on. The very act of training dogs can also act as a therapy for human handlers, as in a prisoner rehabilitation project.
  • Hunting dogs assist hunters in finding, tracking, and retrieving game, or in routing vermin.
  • Tracking dogs help find lost people and animals or track down possible criminals.
  • Cadaver dogs use their scenting ability to discover bodies at the scenes of disasters or crimes.
  • Rescue dogs assist people who are in difficult situations, such as in the water after a boat disaster, lost in the mountains, covered in snow avalanches and so on.
  • Detection dogs of a wide variety help to detect termites in homes, illegal substances in luggage, bombs, chemicals, and many other substances.
  • Military Working Dogs or K9 Corps are used by armed forces in many of the same roles as civilian working dogs, but in a miliary context. In addition, specialized military tasks such as mine detection or wire laying have been assigned to dogs.
  • Police dogs, also sometimes called K9 Units, are usually trained to track or immobilize possible criminals while assisting officers in making arrests or investigating the scene of a crime. Some are even specially trained for anti-terrorist units, as in Austria.
  • Herding dogs are still invaluable to shepherds and cattle herders around the world for managing their flocks; different breeds are used for the different jobs involved in herding, and for guarding the flocks and herds. Modern herding dogs help to control wild geese in parks or goats used for weed control. A good dog can adapt to control any sort of domestic and many wild animals.
  • Guard dogs and watch dogs help to protect private or public property, either inliving or used for patrols, as in the military and with security firms.
  • Fighting dogs are used (or abused) to generate income in dog fighting or as dogs of war.
  • Sled dogs, although today primarily used in sporting events, still can assist in transporting people and supplies in rugged, snowy terrain.
  • Performing dogs such as Circus dogs and dog actors are trained to perform acts that are not intrinsically useful, but instead provide entertainment to their audience or enable human artistic performances.
  • Canine mascots, who accompany their teams or organizations for support and publicity

New Advancements in Water Rescue

Several cities in Italy are experimenting with working dogs as rescue swimmers. In this situation, a strong and well-trained dog is equipped with flotation devices and dropped in the water near a floundering swimmer. The swimmer then grabs onto the dog, and the animal tows the swimmer to shore. The Newfoundland has long been used for water rescue, not only on shore, but from fishing boats as well.

Rescue and Disaster Dogs

Dogs are commonly used as search and rescue workers in cases of lost persons and disasters. The St. Bernard was historically used in Europe in the case of avalanches and lost travelers. Rescue dogs in the US are used in thousands of lost person searches each year saving countless human lives. In the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks in New York, rescue dogs searched the rubble pile for survivors. When searching such large disaster sites some dogs become so disturbed at being unable to find any survivors that people are "planted" for the dogs to find so that the dogs retain their enthusiasm and work ethic.

Working dogs as pets

The breeding of working dogs has resulted in highly intelligent, hardy, alert dogs that are often attractive and extremely loyal. As a result, many working breeds are sought after as family pets. Unfortunately, many owners fail to consider that such dogs are rarely passive, so the abandonment rate is very high.

Working dogs make excellent pets as long as potential owners realize that these dogs must be given 'work' to do. Dogs that are not to be used for their original purpose must be trained from a young age and are best suited to active persons and families. Obedience training, dog sports such as flyball, dancing and agility, informal or novelty shows, and trial work are all excellent channels for these breeds' energy. At the very least they must have daily walks or other exercise at an appropriate level for the breed, given toys, played with, and provided with human company.

Working dogs who are chained, left alone, or ignored become bored, vocal, and even neurotic; they may exhibit malaise, lethargy, or destructive behaviour or become escape artists. Working dogs inappropriately chosen as pets are far too often surrendered to shelters when their inventiveness and determination to find something to do exceeds their owner's tolerance for destruction. Working dogs were bred to work all day every day. It is a tragedy for both the dog and the owner when the owner underestimates the amount of attention and time a working dog requires.

Sources and References

  • The National Geographic Channel has aired several dozen episodes of a documentary program "Dogs with Jobs"[1], portraying dogs in useful, often less-common, jobs.

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