Last Updated: June 7th, 2019
A dog can be your smartest and most loyal friend, but did you know they also make exceptional coworkers?
Since dogs were first domesticated, they’ve been working alongside humans. Dogs have a remarkable skill set that makes them helpful companions for hunting, fishing, farming, and security.
Today, there are many canine coworkers in the modern workforce, and some are performing life-saving roles: bomb detection, hearing for the deaf, alerting of medical emergencies, calming psychological trauma, and even opening doors and pushing buttons for people with disabilities.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the amazing jobs that dogs are doing, and which pups are generally best suited to those roles.
Four Incredible “Dog Jobs”
1. Search and Rescue
With their unrivaled sense of smell, dogs can detect the scent of a human buried under rubble, lost in the wilderness, and even underwater or snow.
They are often used to find missing children, to assist law enforcement on crime scenes, in avalanche rescue, and to find survivors trapped in collapsed buildings. They’re also incredibly strong swimmers, often able to rescue people drowning in rough surf.1
Search and rescue dogs may go through years of training, and they are hugely valuable to the workforce. A wide variety of dogs fit the requirements of this job – working dogs, herding dogs, sporting dogs, and mixed breeds. Dogs working search and rescue must have great stamina and endurance and be completely non-aggressive.2 You’ll commonly find German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and bloodhounds working these jobs.
2. Service Dogs
The primary role of service dogs is to make people with disabilities more able – whether physically or psychologically – and service dogs do some mind-blowing work.
Types of service dogs include:
- Guide dogs – for the visually impaired.
- Mobility dogs – assist people with disabilities to walk, balance, push buttons, or open doors.
- Hearing dogs – hear sounds for their handler and alert them to it, like a knock at the door or a telephone ringing.
- Medical alert dogs – can sense an oncoming medical emergency, like a stroke or epileptic fit. They may also serve someone with a life-threatening allergy by keeping them away from that allergen.
- Autism service dogs – provide stability and a calming influence, and they help the handler to keep any erratic behavior to a minimum.
- Psychiatric or therapy dogs – help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, or other mental health disorders. They keep their handler calm and are trained to never leave their side. Therapy dogs may also be provided for comfort as companions for those in nursing homes, hospices, and certain classrooms.3
Dogs that work great as service dogs include borzois (incredibly intelligent and aware); Labradors and golden retrievers (exceptional guide and therapy dogs), and Cavalier King Charles spaniels (great therapy dogs because of their kind, calming nature). Many terrier mixes are used as hearing dogs because of their high energy, as well as poodles, cocker spaniels, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas.4
3. Explosives Detection
Another life-saving job, these dogs are trained to be able to sniff out a wide variety of explosive materials and alert their handlers. Their in-depth training teaches them to detect such dangerous materials in luggage, packages, vehicles, buildings, open spaces, and on humans.
They are trained to never lose focus in crowded, noisy zones; nor around gunfire. And if they find something, they don’t move it. They simply sit in front of it until their handler can either get help or disarm the explosive.5
Wondering why dogs are so great at this job?
A dog has an olfactory area 40 times more powerful than a human. Their “smell” cells clock in at 300 million, compared to only 6 million for humans. The best breeds for explosives detection are German shepherds, Belgian Malinoises and Labrador retrievers. They are all incredibly intelligent, but more importantly, they all have an unmatchable work ethic. Interestingly, though golden retrievers have a slightly better sense of smell, they’re almost too smart for the job. If they don’t want to “play the game” (whether in training or actively detecting explosives) they’ll just refuse to do it.6
4. Herding Dogs
One of the oldest professions there is for a canine is as a working dog. These canines are known as cattle dogs, sheepdogs, or “stock dogs.” Dogs have been herding animals for humans for hundreds upon hundreds of years.
Herding dogs are highly skilled at rounding up animals using frantic weaving and running, eye contact, barking, and sometimes nipping at the heels. But it’s believed that they actually have a very specific ingrained technique – first, they bind the herd together, and then they drive the group forward.7 Many believe this is simply a modified version of former predatory behavior.8
Some dogs were specifically bred to be herding dogs from the time they became domesticated, so it’s in their genes. They instinctively know how to herd – whether they become modern herders or not.
These dogs include: Australian cattle dogs, Belgian sheepdogs, border collies, old English sheepdogs, and German shepherds – though their names tend to give it away! 9
One Bark For a Pay Raise
All of these dogs perform work that is absolutely crucial to humans, and work that many times, humans don’t have the skills or stamina to do. And, quite frankly, humans would be lost without their help.
Whether canines are employed as therapy dogs, various types of service dogs, sniffer dogs, or for use on the farm; they embrace their work with love, kindness, and enthusiasm, day in and day out.
It certainly makes you ponder your own job satisfaction …