Dogs are bred with a purpose, some to be general companions, while others for work and human service. Working dog breeds are incredibly smart, resilient, and loyal.
Their capacity to learn is practically limitless. In our article, we are going to dive into the topic of working dogs and help you get to know this amazing line of pups.
What Is A Working Dog?
Humans have bred and trained dogs for work and service for centuries. Dogs have been used for war, protection, and as general companions since the time of the Romans. We have created a number of jobs that require the work of working dogs.
Working dogs, like Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois perform incredible services and continuously exceed our expectations. These dogs, as well as others, assist the blind and disabled, protect our military and police officers, and perform search and rescue missions.
Below, we are going to discuss the common types of working dogs in detail, as well as introduce the dog breeds.
Common Types Of Working Dogs
There are several different types of working dogs. These working dog types correspond with the line of work they were originally bred to complete.
Though most dogs no longer spend their time working, knowing what type of working dog you’re dealing with can help with relationship building and trainability.
Herding dogs are still commonly used today, and many of the world’s most popular breeds fall into this working dog type. Border Collies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Australian Shepherds, and other herding breeds were bred to herd and protect livestock.
They are exceptionally smart dogs and are able to pick up on many different types of signals, such as different pitched whistles, to know what direction the herd needs to move.
They are also impressively brave and naturally protective. They aren’t afraid to chase and nip at the heels of large livestock and won’t shy away from predators. Herding dogs are often great at agility and love learning new tricks.
For the average dog owner, expect to spend a good portion of your time exercising your herding dog. They’ll enjoy a nice brisk run or an exhaustive game of fetch.
Herding dogs are also notorious for herding other pets, such as cats or other small dogs, and might even try corralling your children.
Another group of iconic working dogs is guard dogs. Guard dogs are fiercely protective and are naturally suspicious of strangers. Many guard dog breeds have been adapted for military service and law enforcement jobs.
In general, a few breeds that fall into this category are Mastiffs, German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Doberman Pinschers, and Rottweilers.
It’s critical that these breeds be socialized with other people, animals, and dogs while they are puppies. Though these dogs can be naturally reserved due to their breeding, socializing them while they are young can help tone down their suspicion towards strangers.
Owning one of these breeds comes with its own set of responsibilities. Socializing is key, and proper training is a necessity.
Trackers were specifically bred to use their noses for hunting. Trackers are often used by hunters to look for game and wildlife. Law enforcement and search and rescue teams use trackers to look for people.
Probably the most famous tracking dog breed is the Bloodhound, but there are several other breeds that can fall into the tracker type category. Beagles, Coonhounds, and the always versatile Labrador Retriever are popular tracking dog breeds.
If you’re interested in owning a tracking dog breed, just remember to keep them leashed when outdoors. Once they’re on the trail of something, it’s pretty difficult to regain their attention. Without a leash, a tracking dog can easily outrun and outmaneuver a human.
Bird dogs are extremely popular because of their happy disposition, intelligence, and behavior around children and in service work.
One of the most iconic bird dogs is the German Shorthair Pointer, with its beautiful spotted coat and brown paws and face. Other common bird dogs are Labrador Retrievers, Setters, Spaniels, and Poodles.
Bird dogs, as their name suggests, are bred to assist hunters by retrieving wounded birds. They are intelligent and have a great sense of smell and sight. They love to play fetch and are naturally drawn to the water.
They enjoy dock diving sports and spending quality time with their humans. If you choose to make a bird dog a part of your family, then keep a tennis ball and towel on hand.
Sight dogs are similar to bird dogs in that they help hunters track down wildlife, but sight dogs primarily use their incredible vision to accomplish their goal. They are swift and can catch small animals, except those with fast maneuvering techniques like squirrels and rabbits.
Like other working dogs, they are highly intelligent and reliable. They enjoy retrieving games and mentally stimulating tasks. Some of the fastest dog breeds fall into this category. Sight dogs can include Greyhounds and the Irish Wolfhound.
These dogs are great companions. They’ll happily run alongside you or hang out at home while binge-watching the latest Netflix series.
Terriers can be rewarding dogs to own, but they do require a lot of work and training. Bred to kill small animals, terriers love to get a hold of an object and shred it to pieces. They are tenacious and energetic, and can accomplish just about anything you throw at them.
They are smart, but stubborn. Make sure to give a Terrier plenty of exercise. Agility sports and a lot of running time are great options to keep a Terrier happy and well behaved. Examples of terriers include the Jack Russell Terrier, West Highland Terrier, and the Airedale Terrier.
Breeding for the Job
Working dogs were intentionally bred over time to perform. They have an ingrained sense of responsibility and loyalty and love completing tasks. While your couch potato may enjoy lounging about, a working dog has energy and needs to feel useful.
Belgian Malinois, especially, can perform under extreme stress and have been known to perform their duty even while injured or near death.
Breeders over the centuries have meticulously worked to develop the breeds we know and love today. Breedings intended to use working breeds for protecting livestock, war and protection, and herding. Some working dog breeds still do these tasks today.
Australian shepherds continue to herd livestock. Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are still bred and used in protection and aggression training.
What Kind Of Jobs Do They Perform Now?
So we just finished covering the common working dog types, but what do working dogs do now? Herding dogs and bird dogs still perform many of the jobs they were originally bred to perform.
While some types of working dogs, like tracking dogs, have had their skills adapted to perform new work, others have evolved to learn a whole new line of tasks.
Service dogs have become invaluable assets to many people with disabilities. A variety of dogs are able to fill this role, including Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, and other intelligent breeds.
These dogs are used to guide the blind, sense and help prevent seizures and other medical emergencies, and provide assistance to those who are immobile or have difficulty walking and standing. These dogs must be well-trained and disciplined, especially when a person’s life or health may be at risk.
Therapy dogs are generally used to provide emotional support to their caregivers and to hospital and nursing home patients. Therapy dogs are also often used to help those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Therapy dogs are well-socialized and are generally relaxed around strangers. Therapy dogs are meant to ease emotional stress and in most cases, bring a smile to someone’s face.
Police and Military Dogs
Police and military dogs are incredibly intelligent, resilient, fiercely loyal, and unafraid. Military service dogs leap from helicopters into the sea, sniff out landmines and bombs, and keep their partners safe no matter what gets thrown (or shot) their way.
In police service, the dignified Belgian Malinois, as well as German Shepherds, have been used for attack and protection, as well as drug detection. Police dogs are trained to protect their assigned officers and subdue suspects.
Also referred to as K-9 Officers, they have been known to hold and wrestle with suspects, even while injured.
Detection dogs are trained to sniff out different kinds of substances on people, such as explosives, contraband, and missing people. A more grim task that detection dogs are sometimes trained to perform is sniffing out human remains and blood.
Labrador Retrievers, Spaniels, and German Shepherds, are some of the breeds that you might find working as detection dogs in your airports and law enforcement agencies.
Search and Rescue Dogs
If you’ve ever watched footage from 9/11 and the World Trade Center attacks, you may have seen some search and rescue dogs in action. Search and rescue dogs serve an important role in finding missing people in the aftermath of human and natural disasters.
These dogs have a strong sense of smell and a lot of stamina. They can be trained to search under various conditions. Some search and rescue dogs are trained to work primarily in the snowy mountains following avalanches, while others may be sniffing around thickly wooded areas and streams looking for missing people or cadavers.
Getting To Know The Breeds
There are so many different dog breeds that perform jobs, we could dedicate an entire article to that subject alone! For this article, we want to help you get to know some of the most popular breeds today.
These dogs are tenacious, intelligent, dedicated, and are loyal family companions.
I own a Siberian Husky and am not ashamed to admit that I think he’s basically the definition of perfect. The Siberian Husky originated in Russia and is admired for its resilience, intelligence, and physical stamina.
They were bred primarily as sled dogs and many still perform this task today. They enjoy meeting new people and work well as therapy dogs. Huskies have thick coats that require frequent brushing, so be prepared with a brush in hand if you’re thinking of owning one.
They thrive in cooler climates and require regular exercise and mental stimulation.
Doberman Pinchers are fearless and highly trainable. They are great protectors and do well as guard dogs. They have a muscular frame that is built for speed and stamina, so if you’re looking for a great running partner, look no further.
They have been trained as police dogs and have assisted in army missions. Despite their protective and reserved nature around strangers, they are loyal and loving with their owners and the members of their household.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Don’t let the size of the Bernese Mountain Dog fool you. They’re agile, smart, and big fluffy teddy bears. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a powerful breed that has been bred to assist with herding and drafting of livestock.
They originated in the cold mountainous regions of Switzerland which is why they carry around a thick fur coat and are light on their feet. They are calm and affectionate, making them ideal for therapy.
They’re also brave, obedient, and are a great choice for farmers with livestock.
The Labrador Retriever is one of the most well-rounded dog breeds in the world, which is why they are used for so many different kinds of work. Labs have been used for hunting, service work, therapy, search-and-rescue, and detection.
They are smart and sweet, and are ideal companions for active families. Labs can hardly resist a good body of water, so it’s great to have a few water toys always on hand.
Labs are loyal and are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, as well as several other countries in the world.
It’s hard to argue with the suggestion that the Golden Retriever is America’s sweetheart. Golden Retrievers are often trained as therapy, service, and search-and-rescue work dogs. They are intelligent, good-natured, and are well equipped with a friendly personality and appearance.
Golden Retrievers are also one of the prime choices for Hollywood movies, including Air Bud, Full House, and Homeward Bound. They are wonderful with kids and make great family pets.
Boxers were originally bred to hunt large game, which explains their strong and quick, almost cat-like reflexes. There aren’t many things that can intimidate a boxer. This is one of the reasons why they were used as couriers in war.
They are obedient, patient, and love to interact with people. Their intelligent and good-natured personalities make them ideal for service work. They can become bored easily, so it’s recommended that Boxer’s receive adequate daily exercise.
Owning A Working Dog
If you’re interested in owning a working dog, there are a few things to keep in mind. In this section, we are going to share with you the three main points we think are the most important to consider before owning a working dog breed.
Working dogs generally require a lot of regular exercise. It’s recommended that you spend around an hour a day exercising a working dog. A brisk jog, game of fetch, or long walk are all great ways to get your working-dog the exercise they need.
Working dogs also need consistent training. These dogs are smart and crave mental stimulation. A bored working dog can lead to a badly behaved working dog. They may take their boredom out on your furniture and personal belongings, and no one wants that!
Take time to teach your working dog tricks and reward them when they complete tasks correctly. Working dogs love to perform jobs and do it well, so praise them and stay consistent.
Some working dogs are protectors by nature. If you choose a breed that falls into this category, then make sure you socialize them well. Protective dogs are not necessarily naturally aggressive but may act out if provoked.
While leashed, introduce them to new people and pets, and be patient. Remember, consistency is key.
How many breeds of working dogs are there?
The American Kennel Club (AKC) currently recognizes 193 breeds of working dog. So you can see why we didn’t list them all out for you here. Some other breeds include the Alaskan Malamute, Cane Corso, Dogue de Bordeaux, German Pinscher, Leonberger, Samoyed, and Tibetan Mastiff.
Can a working dog be a pet?
Of course! As we mentioned earlier, many working dogs are also a beloved member of the family. Boxers, Bernese Mountain Dog, Terriers, and Retrievers are just a few that can commonly be found in homes across the world.
We already know that we as a world do not deserve dogs. They love us unconditionally and add something invaluable to do our lives. Besides serving as best friends and companions, working dogs perform many important jobs that we as a society rely on.
Working dogs are capable of leading the blind and detecting illnesses. They can sniff out explosives and catch criminals, serve in the armed services, and scour wreckage and debris for missing people. There’s little that a working dog can’t learn to do.
If you’re interested in owning a working dog, such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, Boxer, or Siberian Husky, then be prepared to provide them went plenty of exercise, consistent training, and fun rewards.
Whether they are risking their lives, comforting hospital patients, or tracking a suspect, these dogs are ready for the task and – most importantly – ready to be someone’s best friend.