| Herding Dog
| Attack Dog
| Detection Dog
| Guard Dog
| Hunting Dog
| Livestock Guardian Dog
| Police Dog
| Rescue Dog
| Search and Rescue Dog
| Sheep Dog
| Sled Dog
| Therapy Dog
| Military Animal
This working dog is a
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
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
- To distinguish between
that are bred primarily for their appearance in an attempt to match a
detailed description of what such a
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
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
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
- 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,
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
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
dogs for the
hearing dogs for the
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
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
dogs and watch dogs help to protect private or public property,
either inliving or used for patrols, as in the military and with security
Fighting dogs are used (or abused) to generate income in
fighting or as
dogs of war.
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
mascots, who accompany their teams or organizations for support and
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
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
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
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
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.
such as flyball,
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
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
Sources and References
National Geographic Channel has aired several dozen episodes of a
documentary program "Dogs with Jobs",
portraying dogs in useful, often less-common, jobs.
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