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What Jobs Can Dogs Do?

image of white labrador working on some documents

We all tend to pamper our furry friends with tasty food and treats, amusing toys, trendy clothes, and comfy beds. But did you know that giving your pup a job to do can be extremely beneficial for them? 

Most pet pups will let you know whenever there is a visitor at your door. Your furry friend will also watch over you, the members of your family, or your property. Moreover, specially trained canines help to fight crime and often assist in saving people’s lives. 

The list of jobs that dogs can do is, as a matter of fact, a lengthy one.

There are so many examples of hard-workers in the canine world. Trained working pooches seem to be very enthusiastic about the tasks they are in charge of. So, let us have a look at some of the everyday situations in which pups prove to be a real helping paw.

Should Dogs Work?

It is not unusual to come across negative comments when working canines are in question. Some animal rights activists support the idea that activities such as dog shows and competitions or using pups by the police are acts of cruelty. 

The truth is that work dogs show a great deal of eagerness when achieving their tasks, enjoying the reward and praise they receive. Training such a pooch in a proper way from an early age builds a solid, life-long bond with their trainer. These pups are driven by strong instincts, which make them excel at tasks they are responsible for.

Keeping a pooch engaged and active, both physically and mentally, is a path to their general wellbeing. Unfortunately, we must not turn a blind eye to all the real-life cases of animal abuse and cruelty to animals – these are a whole different story and need to be dealt with consistently.

Different Types of Working Dogs

Therapy Dogs

Have you ever spotted a pup walking the halls of a retirement home, hospital, school, hospice, or various types of shelters? These friendly, gentle fellows are known as therapy dogs. Their primary task is to make people feel better, helping them overcome whatever issue they are facing.

By providing people with soothing physical contact, therapy dogs may well speed up the recovery process [1]. As a result of such a comforting experience, people are more likely to cheer up and keep a positive attitude.

Guide or Service Dogs

For decades, specially trained pups have been used to assist people with disabilities. The most common instances include guide dogs that help blind people get from one place to another safely. Some of the breeds that make the best assistants of this kind are Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German shepherds.

A large number of people today rely on these dedicated pooches when handling their daily tasks.

illustration of guide dog with blind person
dog helping a girl in a wheelchair illustration

Herding

Marked by a high level of energy and agility, herding dogs have an incredible ability to control livestock, sometimes consisting of several hundreds of animals. And they will not give up running in circles and barking at the top of their voice before their herd is rounded up- it is simply in their genes!

Companion Dogs

This is probably the very first role a canine had [2] in ancient times. No wonder these animals are referred to as the man’s best friend. People and canines usually get on really well, no matter if they are working together or just having fun. 

Pups do not hesitate to show their devotion, loyalty and sense of attachment, and this kind of relationship is a huge benefit for both the pet and their owner.

Tracking or Hunting Dogs

Hunting can hardly be imagined without canine companions by a hunter’s side. Ever since ancient times, people and pups have been engaged in this kind of activity as a team.


Some breeds, including dachshunds, terriers, and hounds, perform outstandingly well when it comes to tracking the prey. But most importantly, they will retrieve it in one piece, rather than chew it to pieces.

War or Military Dogs

An extremely high ability to detect bombs is the reason why dogs’ assistance is so appreciated during combat [3]. Army canines contribute to a great extent to the safety of their battalions. 

Retired military pooches can be great support in fighting the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of them are eligible for adoption once their service is over.

illustration of a soldier and a military dog
illustration of rescue dog

Sled Dogs

They are robust, resilient, and capable of being disciplined team workers. Plus, they enjoy being outside in the freezing weather and deep snow. That is probably the best way to describe sled dogs.

People living in the most remote parts of the world, coping with the harsh polar climate every day, rely heavily on sled dogs when both transportation of people and supplies is concerned.

Search and Rescue Dogs

Thanks to their exceptional sense of smell, bravery, and a big heart, search and rescue dogs help save people’s lives no matter how dramatic or dangerous the circumstances may be. By detecting human scent, these trained canines make irreplaceable partners in various types of rescue missions. These may range from locating missing people to rescuing victims following a natural disaster.

Acting Dogs

Beethoven, Buddy, Lassie, Jerry Lee – there seems to be an endless number of tailwaggers from the movie screen who have won our affection and keep melting our hearts. Pups appear in movies frequently, many of them rising to stardom and becoming household names.

A feature all canine actors  share is their exceptional ability to follow orders and directions attentively.

Detection or Police Dogs

Owing to their keen sense of smell, detection dogs present an invaluable asset to the police. After completing the relevant training, these pups will detect anything – from drugs, people, animals, explosives, or money with a high level of success.

They are mainly present at airports, border crossings, schools, or police stations, i.e., places with potentially higher safety risks.

illustration of a police dog training

Jobs That Canines Can Specialize On

1.

Spit Turning

Silly as it may seem, a special breed was developed in England a couple of centuries ago, to be in charge of a single task – turning a spit of roasting meat, until the process of roasting was completed. These pups were short-legged and stout, similar in their build to Basset Hounds.

Specially designed piece of equipment, resembling a hamster running wheel, was the ‘’workplace’’ of these pups. This practice (and the breed itself) was brought to an end when a mechanized spit turner was invented.

2.

Delivery Jobs

Canines can make excellent delivery workers. In the past, many pups used to do this job by pulling a small cart of milk from local farms. In this way, milk was taken to villages and towns where it was sold. This practice was common across Germany, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands.

A few examples of this tradition have remained until the present day. However,  it is practiced more as a work-out, rather than an actual job.

3.

Carting

In the past, pooches used to pull small carts along the streets of towns and villages. It was one of the ways of delivering certain types of goods.

The tradition was abandoned in the 19th century but was revived during World War I. Breeds such as Great Swiss Mountain Dogs and Bernese Mountain Dogs were used to transport small guns to the battlefield or evacuate wounded soldiers.

4.

Reindeer Herding

Reindeer are vital for the survival of indigenous groups of people living in the northernmost corners of our planet. These animals provide people with meat and hide.

Herding of reindeer is a task successfully performed by breeds like Finnish Lapphund. As a result of their thick coat, these pups tolerate freezing temperatures well and fulfill their duties diligently.

5.

Lobster Catching

Some pups can be trained to catch lobsters and bring them up from the ocean bottom. The best example of lobster-catchers is probably a pair of Labrador retrievers, Lila and Maverick, owned by a sea turtles conservation activist Alex Schulze.

They learned how to spot a lobster, dive into the ocean, reaching the depth of around 15 feet, holding their breath – the result of a long, devoted training process.

6.

Truffle Hunting

Next time you order the chef’s special truffle pasta, remember that this delicious ingredient may well have found its way to your plate owing to a specially trained truffle-hunting pooch. Since truffles only grow underground and their habitat is connected to the roots of certain tree species, it takes a sharp sense of smell to identify these locations. 

Back in the past, pigs were widely used in truffle-hunting. However, their tendency to eat their find on the spot gave them a bad reputation in the business. Breeds such as Lagotto Romagnolo, Beagles, and Springer Spaniels, have proved to be up to the task with an equal level of efficiency, leaving the fungi untouched.

image of lagotto romagnolo truffle dog

7.

Whale Poop Detecting

A team of 17 pooches, lead by a Labrador Retriever called Tucker, works alongside marine scientists and whale conservation researchers, fulfilling their everyday tasks at the Centre for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington [4].

They are trained to scent whale feces from a distance as large as a nautical mile. By collecting whale poop, scientists can study it, thus learning about the diet, migration, and health of whales. That is of extreme significance when conservation of Orcas is concerned, having in mind the fact that this species is on the verge of extinction.

8.

Electronics Detective

For decades,canines have been detecting substances such as explosives and drugs successfully. This skill was raised to a higher level by training some canines to find hidden electronics, including microchips or computers.

Some notorious crimes revolving around child pornography were resolved, owing to canine detectives. A Labrador retriever called Bear was of tremendous assistance in one such case.

9.

Runway Wildlife Control

A responsible task of chasing wild animals of a runway is assigned to a small number of canines. These pups increase the safety of pilots and passengers by driving away animals such as rodents or birds, often found on the runway.

The most famous runway wildlife control dog was a Border Collie named K-9 Piper [5]. He was employed by Traverse City airport in the state of Michigan.

10.

Artist

Hallie, the best-known artist in the world of canines, made a considerable contribution to support Purple Heart Rescue.

Taught by her owner, this Dachshund that turned blind at one point in her life, produced dozens of abstract paintings using bright colors. The money her owner made by selling these pieces was used to support the dog rescue and rehabilitation society.

11.

Art Protector

Riley, a young Weimaraner, gained his popularity as the protector of art pieces in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts [6]. This puppy learned how to keep a close eye on the paintings and other objects kept in the museum and detect insect which can harm the valuable exhibits.

He is known for his vast amount of patience and commitment, combined with a keen sense of smell.

Dog Breeds and Their Job

bernese mountain dog image

Bernese Mountain Dog

These silky-coated friendly giants feel at home in colder mountainous areas. They are smart, obedient, and physically strong and can do drafting or herding jobs efficiently. It is essential to keep them active and consistently trained to help them achieve their full potential.

They make excellent companions to farmers and achieve outstanding results as therapy dogs. Owing to their amicable nature, Bernese Mountain Dogs are wonderful pets, too.

Boxer

These pups seek the company and attention of people and thrive best if provided with plenty of exercises and mental stimulation. Boxers are strong and sturdy. At the same time, they are patient and gentle with children.

In the past, people used them for hunting large game such as bison or wild boars. During war times, boxers served as reliable couriers, as well as guide dogs for injured or disabled people.

Akita

This breed comes from Japan, where it served as a hunting dog. It has a recognizable body shape with a curled tail. Akitas are energetic and require regular daily training.


They make successful performance dogs, and can also be used for therapeutic purposes. Akitas are protective over their household and tend to be bossy; hence, they require proper obedience training.

Great Dane

Initially used for hunting wild boars, Great Danes were spread across Europe to guard estates and be companion pups. Despite their giant body size, they are good-natured, loyal, and friendly.

They are marked by a strong protective instinct and will watch over their owners and home with great caution. To maintain the best of shape, they need plenty of space for a daily workout routine.

Siberian Husky

Initially bred in Asia as sled dogs, Siberian Huskies are still actively used for pulling sleds in regions with harsh climate and heavy snowfall. These pups are friendly, energetic, and very sturdy.


Huskies are lively and social pooches suitable to make pets, companions, or therapy dogs. Their thick coat makes them highly tolerant of low temperatures, and it is necessary to brush it weekly.

image of female great dane
image of saint bernard wearing a barrel

Saint Bernard

Cart and weight pulling are the competitive disciplines at which these pups excel. Moreover, Saint Bernards have, for decades, been used in rescue missions, especially those taking place in snow-covered mountainous regions, following an avalanche or a blizzard. 

These canines are known for their muscular body, large size, and outstanding strength. Their thick, silky coat needs to be groomed regularly. Many people keep Saint Bernards as pets due to their kind nature and great loyalty.

Standard Schnauzer

When the breed was first developed in Germany, farmers used these pooches to protect the livestock and keep vermin away from the farm. These pups also accompanied their owners on their journeys, keeping them safe.

Today, owing to their high intelligence and playfulness, many people keep Schnauzers as pets. Their energetic nature calls for proper obedience training.

Mastiff

Back in the Roman period, Mastiffs took part in gladiator fighting. Apart from this, owing to their exceptional strength and fearlessness, they fought lions and were used in bull baiting. 


Today, Mastiffs make excellent companions and watchdogs. They are good-natured and very loyal to their owners. They thrive best if provided with plenty of space to run and get active on a regular basis.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to put your dog to work?

There is a wide array of games, activities, and exercises that will help put your furry pal  to work. Hide and seek, toss and run, chase, putting the toys away, chasing squirrels, tug or “rescue me” are some of the games you can play with your pup whenever you spend time together.

 These activities will be an ultimate form of entertainment for your best buddy. But more importantly, your pal will be able to put into practice their instincts, such as sniffing, retrieving, herding, pulling, rescuing, or guarding.

Do dogs like having jobs?

Most pups are always up for some action. Giving them particular tasks to complete can be an excellent stimulation. It makes them more active, obedient, and eventually leads to something pleasant, such as a favorite treat. 

Whenever you require your pet pup to do something, it is seen as a type of job. These tasks can vary from ordinary commands such as “sit’’, “stay’’ or “fetch’’, to more complex activities like putting the toys away. Overall, most canines feel positive about being engaged in these kinds of assignments.

What's the best job for high energy dogs?

Many canine breeds are real dynamos. They feel a constant urge to be active, play, do tricks, walk, or run for miles to burn all the energy off. However, even though they may originally have been bred to do particular jobs such as herding, they do not get an opportunity to do them when kept as pets. 

Still, there are several activities a high-energy pup can engage in. These vary from strenuous workout sessions, agility competitions, obedience classes to cart or sled pulling, and many others. 

Conclusion

People and dogs have lived side by side since ancient times, relying on each other for food, protection, shelter, and above all – company. It seems that, during all this time, canines have done a fair share of work – guarding their masters, protecting their livestock or helping them travel large distances in harsh weather. 

Today, there is a number of tasks pups specialize in and perform with such a level of skill and efficiency, that no human could ever compare to them. 

Work dogs enjoy mental stimulation and physical activity. It keeps them in better shape, makes them more obedient and well-behaved, lowers their anxiety and builds a stronger bond with their owners. 

At the end of the day – it is not a paycheck that keeps a work canine going. It is their eagerness to be active, helpful, praised and above all – in the company of people.

References:

• [1] Therapy dog offers stress relief at work – www.health.harvard.edu

• [2] Assistance (Service) Dogs – www.vetmed.wsu.edu

• [3] Dogs in War, Police Work and on Patrol – scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu

• [4] Tucker, the Orca Poop-Detection Dog in SeattleMet -www.biology.washington.edu

• [5] Tribute to Piper – www.mlive.com

• [6] Meet Riley, the Puppy Training to Sniff Out Bugs in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts – www.smithsonianmag.com