Working Dogs: 'Man's' Best Friend, On the Field and Off

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PetMD Editorial
Published: November 14, 2008


While some dogs are prized for their ability to stay pristine and fluffy while being fed special treats and sitting on silk pillows, others like to get out there and break a sweat. Here is a list of some of the more familiar "working" dogs.

On the Farm

Farm dogs are the quintessential working dog. Rugged, honest, and hard working. They round up sheep and cattle, and accompany the farmer on many missions (some even make it as small screen stars in sheep dog trial competition shows).

Guard Dogs

A guard dog doesn’t just bark and growl, it is on alert at all times, watching for intruders and protecting property. If you’re thinking of embarking on a career of breaking and entering, we don’t really recommend the old Hollywood plan of offering the dog juicy steak to distract it from your capers. These dogs are highly trained and disciplined.

Police Dogs

Police dogs are trained to help police in various areas of their work. Some are even trained to identify suspicious terrorist activities. There are also able to detain suspects once they have chased down a suspect.

Sniffer Dogs

Used in all areas of law enforcement, these dogs are trained to detect explosives, chemicals, and illegal drugs. Customs will often use them to detect the illegal importing/exporting of exotic animals and plants.

Cadaver Dogs

These are not Satan’s hounds, but rather dogs used to detect the smell of bodies or human remains at disaster areas, accident sites, and crime scenes.

Tracker Dogs

This dog is trained to track missing persons, lost persons, or criminal suspects. Do not cross these dogs unless you want to continually rub chicken grease all over yourself to disguise your scent (and even then, it might not work; they’re pretty wily).

Guide Dogs

We all have probably seen a guide dog once in our lives. Quiet, intelligent, and thoughtful, guide dogs are a wonderful companion (and a pair of eyes) for the blind and visually impaired.

Hearing Dogs

They don’t sit in for judges in court cases (you know, like at a hearing…oh, forget it), but assist the deaf and hearing impaired. Very similar to guide dogs.

Therapy Dogs

These dogs are used by the injured, the ill, the handicapped, and with the elderly in their homes, retirement homes, and in hospices. They provide companionship and also give people a sense of hope and well being with their gentle, loyal, and loving natures.

Dogs of War

They are used in secret military experiments … No, seriously, much like in the civilian world, the military uses dogs for many tasks, including assistance in mine detection, search, and as guard dogs.

Sled dogs

Perhaps not as popular today as in the past, the sled dog is used in rough, snowy, and isolated terrain to transport people and goods via sled. Not only were they used by Sir Edmund Hillary during his epic trip to the south pole in 1958, but also by the very hunky mountie in the old TV series Due South.

Rescue Dogs

Used everywhere around the world, rescue dogs have been sent to search, find and rescue people from avalanches, rubble and even the water. In Italy, special rescue dogs are dropped into the water wearing floaties (flotation devices on their forelegs) to assist the troubled swimmer back to shore.

Dogs have been used throughout history to help people in all kinds of situation and peril. Is it any wonder we call these faithful, courageous, and intelligent creatures "man’s best friend?"

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