While most dogs are kept as pets and for companionship, there are others that have important jobs and roles. Working dogs typically possess natural instincts and these are carefully honed through intensive training programs so that they can perform specific tasks. Dog breed organizations and kennel clubs have categorized certain types of breeds into what is known as a “working group”. While these breeds traditionally carried out roles such as guarding or herding, today these types of dogs may not or may perform these functions. In fact, there are many jobs that can be successfully done by several dog breeds and even mixed breeds.
Below are a few of the common types of working dogs and the roles that are they trained specifically to perform.
Assistance dogs or service dogs are working dogs that are trained to help adults or children with disabilities. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has specific guidelines in regard to service dogs and how they are treated in public spaces. True services dogs will behave very well in any type of situation, which allows the canine to accompany its handler anywhere. Emotional support dogs and therapy dogs are not classified as service dogs.
Examples of common service dogs include:
- Mobility-assistance dogs
- Guide dogs for the blind or those with visual impairments
- Medical-assistance dogs and seizure dogs
- Hearing dogs for those with a hearing impairment
The dog breeds that are used commonly for these purposes include the standard poodle, German shepherd, Labrador retriever, and Golden retriever
Animal-assisted therapy often involves using certified, trained animals in the therapeutic plan of the patient. Therapy dogs often provide emotional support when visiting nursing homes and hospitals, or too injured and sick people. These dogs are also used for visits to daycare centers and schools to educate children about these types of dogs.
Any dog of any age, size, or breed can be used as a therapy dog. But they much have the correct training, socialization, and temperament. A therapy dog must be well-socialized, non-fearful, well-trained, and even-tempered.
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Police dogs, also known as K-9s, are specifically trained to help law enforcement and the police when they are “in the line of duty”. Police dogs are trained to protect an assigned handler. They are also trained to chase and hold down a suspect if they try to run away from a police officer. In certain cases, K-9s are also trained to find certain substances. These are also known as detection work dogs.
The Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are the common breeds used for police work.
Military Working Dogs
Like a police dog, a military working dog will assist military members during their operations. These dogs are often used as scouts, sentries, trackers, and detectors. These dogs are also used in search and rescue operations.
The dogs used in the military mainly include the Belgian Malinois, Dutch shepherds, and German shepherds.
The detection dogs are the breed with an exceptional sense of smell and become highly motivated with the use of positive reinforcement. Detection dogs undergo training to detect and sniff out groups of substances or one specific substance. The common substance types that these dogs sniff out include explosives, drugs, human remains, and blood. Certain types of detection dogs can even be taught to detect abnormal blood sugar levels, cancer, animal feces, and even certain insect types such as termites or bed bugs. Detection dogs are frequently used in health care, wildlife biology, and law enforcement. The oldest use of a detection dog was to hunt for truffles.
Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and beagles are the common breeds used for detection purposes.
These working dogs have an exceptional sense of hearing and smell and excellent agility. These animals are highly trained to serve in a variety of fields, including avalanche rescue, cadaver location, specialized search, and tracking.
Common breeds used for search-and-rescue include border collies, German shepherds, Leonbergers, and Labrador retrievers.
The herding dogs are trained to work with different livestock types, including cattle and sheep. Herding dogs are typically born for this job, which means these dogs are specific breeds that come from the”herding breed” group. However, not every herding breed is naturally an expert herder. Some require training and honing of their skills, while others are better suited as companion dogs. Dogs that turn into herders often also compete in various dog-herding trials.