This article aims to be a comprehensive list of actual jobs that dogs perform on a daily basis around the world.
Search and Rescue
One of the first animals to orbit the earth in space was a Russian street dog named Laika. The Soviet space dog was launched into low orbit on November 3rd, 1957. Unfortunately, her survival was not expected or planned for, and she passed away in space due to overheating.
In 2008, a monument was erected in Moscow, Russia near the military research facility that launched Laika into space. The monument depicts Laika standing on top of a rocket. Laika is also depicted on the Monument to the Conquerors of Space located in Moscow.
Today, few animals are sent into space as technology has made the trip safer for humans. However, Laika will always be remembered as the first canine astronaut. For more information on animals in space, click here.
Avalanche Rescue Dogs
This is a specific type of Search and Rescue dogs. Often times you’ll see them training at popular ski resorts.
Highly trained avalanche rescue dogs can cover far more ground at a quicker pace than human rescuers, simply by using their incredible sense of smell.
It’s estimated that these canine heroes can cover about 2.5 acres, or two football fields, in just 30 minutes. Although these dogs naturally possess skills needed to rescue lost skiers, snowboarders, and mountaineers, it can take two or three years for them to hone their craft.
Though many people think of Saint Bernards when they think of avalanche rescue dogs, many other breeds excel in this job, including Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Border Collies, and even mixed breed dogs.
Throughout their training, avalanche rescue dogs must learn important skills such as basic obedience, riding comfortably in helicopters or on snowmobiles and ski lifts, and barking or digging in the snow to alert their handlers to people in need of help.
For more information, visit the American Avalanche Institute’s K9 Training course webpage.
Once again, dogs’ amazing sense of smell allows them to do a job impossible for humans: sniffing out the highly infectious bee disease, American foulbrood. The bacteria responsible for the disease does produce a foul smell that humans can detect at high levels of infection.
However, by the time a human can smell it, it’s likely too late to save the hive. That’s where doggie beekeepers come in. These highly trained canines seek out American foulbrood in its early stages so that the human beekeeper can treat the colony before it’s too late.
Traditionally reserved for teenagers in tennis tournaments, some places like the Brazil Open tennis tournament used shelter dogs to promote awareness of street animals.
Prior to the event, these good boys and girls spent months training for their big day. The dogs wore orange bandanas to support their cause as they dutifully picked up lost tennis balls and happily returned them as they were trained to do.
Detection dogs are highly trained canine professionals that are capable of sniffing out a variety of odors for their human handlers. In military and police settings, it’s common to use dogs trained to sniff out drugs, firearms, and explosives. Although these detection dogs tend to get the most attention, there are many other odors than dogs can be trained to search for.
The Lagotto Romagnolo, for example, is an Italian dog breed developed centuries ago to sniff out valuable truffles in the Italian countryside. Though the breed is not the only dog that can be trained for truffle hunting, they are the only breed developed specifically for this purpose.
Studies are also being performed on dogs trained to sniff out the early signs of disease. From COVID to cancer, scientists are working to understand the true power of a dog’s sense of smell.
The recreational version of detection work, known as scent work or nosework, is becoming one of the most popular companion sports in America. Competitions are held across the country by a number of organizations including the American Kennel Club and National Association of Canine Scent Work. Nearly any dog can compete, including purebreds and mixed breed dogs.
While typically labeled as “sight dogs”, they may also be for people with other disabilities or hearing loss.
You can read more about them here: https://www.guidedogs.org/
In the modern world it’s often forgotten that a vast majority of the land is used for farming and cattle. Herding dogs are used on farms and ranches around the world to move a variety of livestock including cattle, sheep, and even reindeer.
Outside of the agriculture industry, herding is also a popular sport for handlers interested in doing what their dog was originally bred to do. Although some organizations only offer competition for purebred herding breeds, there are some groups that permit mixed breed dogs.
Dogs must first pass a herding instinct test before they are allowed to begin training. Herding dogs may be asked to herd a variety of livestock in competitions including sheep, cattle, ducks, geese, and sometimes turkeys.
For more information on how to get started, check out the American Kennel Club and the American Herding Breed Association.
Although hunting breeds excel in a wide range of disciplines, many still happily perform the job for which they were originally developed. However, not all hunting dogs were bred to do the same job.
Retrievers, for instance, were bred to create a natural instinct to retrieve birds for hunters, while pointing breeds were developed to range out in front of hunters in search of game birds. Once found, they “point” to the area where the hunter can find the birds. Another type of hunting breed, the spaniel, was developed to flush out the game birds so that they could be shot by waiting hunters.
Large game hunting breeds, including hounds, were bred to follow the scent of a specific type of game. Unlike bird hunting dogs, many large game hunting dogs work in packs. Once the pack finds the animal in questions, they are generally trained to hold the animal until the hunters arrive.
Since each type of hunting breed has such a specialized job, competitions are divided into different performance events for retrievers, pointers, spaniels, and hounds. In addition to the AKC, hunting trials are also held by the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA), North American Gun Dog Association, and Professional Kennel Club.
Coast guards and lifeguard agencies around the world hire highly trained dogs rescue dogs to save people from drowning. Typically, these canine lifeguards are water-loving breeds such as the Newfoundland, Labrador Retriever, and Golden Retriever. Although not often used in the United States, lifeguard dogs can be found throughout Europe.
Lifeguard dogs work alongside their human counterparts to help increase the speed at which they can save people. These dogs are often trained to jump out of helicopters and boats to help reach swimmers more quickly.
In an emergency, the dogs are trained to swim quickly to the person in distress while towing a rescue tube or can. The person can then grab onto the rescue tube while the dog tows them back to safety. In the case of an unconscious person, the dogs are trained to grab the person’s upper arm in their mouth to roll them onto their backs to keep their face above water until they can be towed to shore.
Livestock Guardian Dogs
Herding breeds aren’t the only dogs with jobs on a farm. Livestock guardian breeds were developed to do just what their name suggests. These devoted dogs spend their days hanging out with sheep, cattle, or poultry. Although it may look like they’re relaxing with their friends, these courageous canines are always on the lookout for predators.
Livestock guardians tend to be giant breeds with the power to protect their flock or herd from wolves, bears, and mountain lions. In fact, the natural instinct to guard can be so strong that these breeds are rarely recommended for pet homes. For more information on livestock guardian breeds, check out the AKC’s guide to LGD breeds.
Movie Stars (and Video Game Stars)
In the entertainment industry, dogs are everywhere. From Oscar-winning movies to video games and television commercials, canine actors do their part to make the project a success. Animal actors can be any size, shape, or breed, and are often trained to perform specific tasks.
These highly trained stars are generally trained to respond to non-verbal cues from human actors or off-camera trainers. Although any dog can attend a casting call, it’s best to work with an agent who will advocate for their canine client. Click here to learn more about animal actors.
Police dogs have been used for centuries to assist law enforcement in tracking, trailing, detection, suspect apprehension, and officer defense. The most common breeds used are the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois, but many other breeds are used by police including Dutch Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Bloodhounds.
Some police dogs are trained for a single purpose, such as detection, while others may be dual purpose trained. It can take years for a dog to be trained well enough to assist law enforcement, and it’s not uncommon for dogs to drop out of training due to issues in temperament or training. For more information on police K9s, consult the National Police Dog Foundation.
Rat Extermination Dogs
In cities and rural settings around the world, rats have become a problem. They spread disease, deplete food supplies, and destroy their surroundings. Traditional extermination methods, such as poison, are often detrimental to wildlife, and many rats are smart enough to avoid areas with traps.
So how do you tackle a rat problem without using traps or poison? Dogs, of course! For centuries, dogs have been bred and used for this specific purpose. Terriers, for example, were created to rid farms and cities of rats and keep their humans safe from harm. Some of the most common breeds used in rat control are Jagd Terriers, Jack Russell Terriers, Patterdale Terriers, and sometimes even Dachshunds.
Exterminating rats with dogs is far more humane than using poison anyway. Poison can take several days to kill a rat, while a dog can do it in a matter of seconds.
Search and Rescue
When someone gets lost in a wilderness area, search and rescue (SAR) teams are a lifesaving resource. SAR teams are trained to search for missing people in a range of different environments, so they need dogs that are courageous, highly trained, and adaptable.
Common breeds trained in search and rescue include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Border Collies. However, any breed of dog, including mixed breeds, can do the job if it has the right temperament and is properly trained.
It’s important to note that not all search and rescue dogs are trained the same. Some dogs are trained to search for missing people who are still alive, while others are trained to search for human remains. Dogs that search for human remains are called cadaver dogs and are trained to distinguish the scent of human remains from those of animals.
Sometimes known as assistance or guide dogs, service dogs are highly trained canine companions that help people with disabilities achieve a higher quality of life. Service dogs are trained to perform different tasks specific to different disabilities.
Service dogs can be trained to aid people who are visually impaired, in wheelchairs, or suffer from seizures, mobility limitations, or PTSD. Service dogs should not be confused with emotional support animals, which do not have the same access rights or training requirements.
Although experienced service dog handlers are allowed to train their own assistance animals, most handlers work with organizations such as Service Dogs Inc or Service Dogs for America to find and train their ideal dog.
Although it may seem like a job of the past, sled dogs are still considered the true endurance athletes of the dog world. Historically, sled dogs were used to transport people and supplies across vast distances in the snowy north.
Today, sledding is still a major form of transportation in rural communities in Alaska, Greenland, and Canada. The sport of mushing, or racing, has also risen in popularity, with the two most famous races being the Iditarod and Yukon Quest.
Although huskies are the most well-known breed of sled dog, they are not the only breed developed for this purpose. Purebreds, purpose bred mixes, and landrace breeds are all used as sled dogs in different areas around the world.
You can read more about some famous sled dogs (like Balto) here.
Dogs waiting to enter the hospital rooms of sick children for animal therapy time. pic.twitter.com/ulNfgdfuOA— Greg Hogben (@MyDaughtersArmy) March 18, 2018
Therapy dogs are highly trained animals that provide therapy in a variety of settings including nursing homes, hospitals, schools, airports, and mental health institutions. Although they are often confused with emotional support animals, therapy dogs are required to undergo strict training and certification before they can work in public.
Dogs of any breed, age, or size can become a therapy dog with proper training. This job does require a specific temperament, but therapy dogs are always evaluated prior to beginning training. For more information on therapy dogs, check out the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
Wildlife Control Dogs
As cities expand into wild animals’ habitat, humans have had to get creative to keep the wildlife and people safe. For example, birds can create a serious safety hazard if they are allowed to congregate on airport runways. To keep pilots, passengers, and birds safe, dogs are often employed to chase the birds off the runway.
Wildlife control dogs may also be employed by golf courses, parks, and schools to help rid their property of destructive wildlife such as geese, deer, and foxes. Herding breeds, such as Border Collies, are the most common breeds used for this purpose as they possess a natural instinct to chase other animals.
Did we miss any?
Does your dog, or any dogs you know perform a job or task we missed? Be sure to let us know in the comments below?
Also, which job are you most surprised that dogs perform?
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