Types of Working Dogs

Dogs are incredible animals. When kept simply as pets, they are loyal, loving, playful, and fun. They have earned the nickname of ‘man’s best friend’ for a reason. However, dogs are capable of much more than just being a valuable companion. Dogs can also do important work, from helping with herding tasks, to rescuing victims, tracking criminals, and more. When given the right training and the right opportunity, dogs are able to thrive in the working environment.

To gain a better understanding of what it is that dogs are capable of achieving, please review the list below of the various types of working dogs.

Herding Dogs

The first type of working dog that we are going to highlight is the herding dog. In the modern world, the focus of working dogs has shifted away from this traditional task, however there are still plenty of herding dogs hard at work all around the world. These dogs have been trained to act in a manner that will help to herd up other animals, such as sheep. It is important to have the right kind of dog when trying to use dogs as herders, because they need to understand that they are not to treat the target group of animals as prey.

Many different breeds of dogs are able to work as herders, including the Australian Cattle Dog, the Border Collie, German Shepherd Dogs, and many more. The ideal herding dog for a given situation will depend on the animals being herded, the terrain being covered, etc. Sometimes, it is necessary to have a larger dog for the purposes of herding, while in other instances a relatively small breed like a Border Collie can do the job successfully. As with any other kind of working dog role, herding dogs need to be effectively trained if they are going to perform their duties reliably.

Rescue Dogs

One of the truly amazing capabilities of dogs is their ability to help save human lives. When employed in a search and rescue capacity, trained working dogs have the ability to locate and help rescue humans from perilous situations. Rescue dogs have been used during some of the most-notable events in recent history, such as after the September 11th attacks. With their tremendous sense of smell and persistent determination, dogs make for excellent rescue workers.

As far as specific breeds which are suited for rescue, there are actually a wide-range of types of dogs that can be trained for this purpose. German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Springer Spaniels, and others are all capable of working in a search and rescue capacity. Of course, if a dog is to be an effective rescue worker, it will need to be meticulously trained from an early age. There is a lot of detailed work that goes into teaching a dog how to perform in this manner out in the field, but that work can be paid off when a dog successfully helps in saving a human from a dangerous situation.

Hunting Dogs

A hunting dog is a dog that works alongside a human or humans during the hunt for other animals. Dogs can help humans during a hunt in a variety of ways. For one, the dog can simply chase the prey out of a location and up into the air, allowing their human owner to have a clean shot. Or, the dog can be used to retrieve the bird or duck that has been shot from the field and bring it back to their owner. As another option, a dog can even be deployed simply to grab the attention of the prey, which may be drawn out of its location into an area where it can be shot.

The list of potential dog classifications that can be used as hunting dogs is lengthy. There are scent hounds, sighthounds, retrievers, setters, spaniels, terriers, dachshunds, and many more. It is important to have the right kind of dog at your side depending on the hunting method that is being used, as well as the prey that is sought. If you train the right dog for the right hunting job, the relationship has a chance to be highly successful for many years to come.

Guard Dogs

The job of a guard dog is simple – to keep unwanted guests, either human or animal, away from a given area or piece of property. The key to having a successful guard dog is that the dog is able to discriminate between welcome and wanted parties and those who are not welcome. The ability to loudly bark is an important piece of the guard dog puzzle, as the barking can both scare off the unwelcome guest and also alert an owner to the presence of an intruder. It is important to highlight the difference between a watch dog and a guard dog – where a watch dog will simply bark when an intruder is present, a guard dog may attack as well.

There are plenty of dog breeds which are capable of serving in a guard dog capacity, including the Boxer, the American Bulldog, the English Mastiff, the Pit bull, the Giant Schnauzer, and more. In some settings, it is more useful (and safer) to have a watch dog as opposed to an actual guard dog, where other settings will require the training and use of a large and powerful guard dog.

Tracking Dogs

Tracking is a skill which is innate for dogs, although their ability to use this skill in a working environment can be greatly enhanced through the use of purposeful training. To track an object, such as a human or another animal, the dog will lock on to the scent that is left behind by the object of the tracking attempt. Once a dog is able to pick up a scent and determine its general direction, it may be able to follow it for tremendous distances until the source is located.

As you may expect, some dogs are better at tracking than others. Typically, younger dogs are better able to track than older dogs, and male dogs are usually better at this task than females. Tracking dogs are used in a wide-variety of applications, including in police work, search and rescue, hunting, and more. Once a dog has been trained to track successfully, it can be an incredibly valuable asset to a number of different types of organizations.

Police Dogs

Quite obviously, a police dog is a canine that works in concert with the police in order to complete a number of objectives. Police dogs can be used for a variety of purposes, including looking for lost victims, searching for drugs, searching for explosives, protecting their human handlers, and more. Once well-trained, a police dog can perform many important duties over the course of many years. Police departments commit significant resources to the development and training of their K-9 units because of the many positive ways in which police dogs can help to protect the public.

Specific dog breeds are better at performing the duties of a police dog than others, which is why some breeds tend to be called on over and over again to serve in a police capacity. Some of the leading dog breeds in the world of police work include Basset Hounds, Beagles, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, and more. Different breeds will have different strengths and weaknesses, so it is common for police departments to select the breed they are going to use based on the intended purpose of the dog.

Military Working Dogs

One of the applications that you might not think much about when considering working dogs is their role in the military. While we have all seen police dogs in day to day life, military dogs are removed from civilian world so they are not as present in mind. However, they play a significant role in the functions that the military serves, as they can work to both protect their handlers and to attack the enemy. Dogs have been used for many years in war applications, dating back to centuries ago.

It is common to see a German Shepherd being used as a military working dog. In many ways, military working dogs perform similar functions to that of police dogs, in that they can search out targeted individuals, they can locate explosives, they can intimidate the enemy, and more. Similar to the way they are used in police work, military dogs are assigned to a handler in order to develop a relationship that can be maintained for a year or more in service.

Service Dogs

When you see a dog in your day to day life that is being used in a working capacity, the chances are that you are encountering a service dog. There are a wide variety of service dogs in use today, and these dogs can help owners with a number of different impairments and limitations. The visually impaired, the hearing impaired, those with a seizure disorder, diabetes, and other issues can all benefit from the assistance of a well-trained service dog.

Before a dog can work as a service dog, it first needs to be trained properly based on the type of service that it will be required to complete. Generally, there are three types of dogs that are most-commonly used for this purpose – Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers. These dogs tend to have the right combination of size, intelligence, and temperament to serve in a service role. There are other breeds that can be used as well, but most service dogs come from those categories. As they provide an important service to their owners, service dogs are allowed to enter places where pet dogs would not be allowed.

Emotional Support

Unlike service dogs, emotional support dogs (and other animals) are not trained to help the owner overcome a specific disability (such as visual impairment). Rather, an emotional support animal is a companion that has been deemed to provide its owner with necessary emotional support and comfort. Often, those who use an emotional support dog for comfort are suffering from some form of mental illness. To be technically classified as an emotional support dog, an owner has to have a verified disability.

Since there are no specific work requirements to be filled by an emotional support dog, there are very few (if any) limitations on which breeds of dog can fill this role. Nearly any breed of dog could be considered for this kind of work, as long as they provide their owner with comfort. However, while there are no specific guidelines in terms of breeds, emotional support dogs tend to be smaller animals as opposed to the large dogs that usually fill traditional working roles.

Working dogs are all around us, and they provide a great number of services that we all benefit from regularly. Whether they are deployed with the purpose of helping a disabled person, catching a criminal, guarding a home, or with any other kind of mission, dogs are great at filling a given role reliably. Their loyal nature and ability to focus on the same task for long periods of time makes dogs excellent at performing many work tasks, such as those listed above. In fact, it is likely that there will be more and more roles uncovered in the future which dogs can fill successfully.

If you are going to train a dog with the expectation that it will be able to perform work in the future, you will need to be sure that you select the right breed and follow all guidelines for training. Dogs should be treated with respect and care at every turn, no matter what kind of work they are being trained to complete. Although the training process can be long and rigorous, there is a great reward in seeing a dog complete its assigned task with impressive consistency. The world is better for having working dogs on duty in many different settings, and by training one yourself, you can contribute to the good that these dogs can do.

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