Dogs with Jobs: Important Jobs Dogs Have Been Trained To Do

Not only are dogs excellent at snuggling on the couch, playing fetch in the park, and chewing your favorite slippers, they are extremely intelligent creatures capable of some incredible jobs that even humans are unable to do. Here are seven important jobs dogs have been trained to do:

1. Detection dogs

Detection dogs are trained to use their incredible sense of smell to find a specific item. When we think of detection dogs, we often think of dogs that are used by the police or military to detect bombs, drugs, or illegal paraphernalia. Detection dogs are also used for sniffing out endangered bee colonies so environmentalists can work to protect them, sniffing out truffles (mushrooms), and there are even dogs trained to sniff out bed bugs to find bed bugs as soon as possible and also after treatment to make sure the bed bugs are completely gone.

  • Famous Detection Dog: Zanjeer was a Labrador Retriever who detected bombs and ammunition in the 1993 Mumbai serial bombings. He helped avert three separate attacks and recovered over 200 bombs and 600 detonators, therefore saving thousands of lives.

2. Service dogs

Service dogs are trained to help people with a wide range of disabilities. First used as seeing-eye dogs for the visually impaired, service dogs can also be trained for seizure alert, hearing alert dogs (for those hard of hearing), mobility assistance dogs (help pick up objects, open and close doors, and even pull wheelchairs), and there are even dogs trained to sniff for low blood sugar for patients with diabetes.

  • Famous Service Dog: Endal was a famous Labrador Retriever service dog in England. Endal’s owner suffered from serious head injuries, which rendered him wheelchair bound with serious memory loss, speech difficulty, and an inability to judge the speed and distance of traffic. Endal assisted his owner by understanding hundreds of verbal and sign language commands to load and empty a washing machine, operate the ATM (putting the card in and out of the machine and returning it to the wallet), and retrieving items. More importantly, Endal could put his owner in the recovery position before summoning help, pull the bath plug before going for help if his owner lost consciousness in the bathtub, and helped him overcome his deep depression from the head trauma. Endal received many awards for his dedication and assistance to his owner including the Gold Blue Peter Badge, the highest award for bravery and courage.

3. Search and Rescue dogs

Search and rescue dogs are used for finding missing people and for natural disasters or events of mass casualty. These dogs are trained to find the human scent, either of a specific person or human scent in general, in cases such as missing people, avalanche rescue, collapsed buildings, or finding people trapped in the aftermath of natural disasters. Not only are Search and Rescue Dogs useful for finding people, but they are also trained to push debris out of the way and climb into areas that are too small or unstable for humans.

  • Famous Search and Rescue Dog: Apollo was a German Shepard rescue dog famous for his work in aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Apollo was the first rescue dog to arrive onsite after the collapse of the World Trade Center and worked through fire and falling debris, which almost lead to his death (at one point he was completely engulfed in flames), but continued to work unfazed. Apollo was awarded the Dickin Medal (animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross) on behalf of all the search and rescue dogs who worked in the September 11 aftermath.

4. Guard dogs

Guard dogs are trained to detect intruders or unwanted people or animals, warn their owner and attempt to scare away the intruder (by barking), and attack if they do not go away. These dogs are useful for a variety of situations and are therefore trained for a variety of levels of aggression. Guard dogs can be used for domestic use, as bodyguards, and as protectors for livestock to drive away predators such as wolves.

  • Famous Guard Dog: Chips was a Shepard mix who served as a tank guard in World War II. Chips is famous for attacking enemy soldiers and forcing them to surrender after he and his owner were unexpectedly under fire, and then later that same night for warning the squad of approaching enemy soldiers. Chips was the last dog to receive the Silver Star and the Purple Heart before dogs were reclassified in the military as “equipment” and therefore not eligible for awards.

5. Therapy dogs

Therapy dogs are trained to help people in a variety of situations with a number of different problems. These dogs are most commonly trained to allow and enjoy unfamiliar people to touch and play with them as a source of comfort and affection. Therapy dogs are used to help people gain confidence to overcome speech and emotional disorders, stress management, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Autism, and an overall morale boost. Many universities bring in dogs to play with students during high-stress finals week, and there are even offices which have “puppy rooms” for employees to take breaks in and keep stress at bay.

  • Famous Therapy Dog: Smoky was the first “therapy dog.” During World War II, the Yorkshire terrier was found by Corporal William Wynne on the field. The corporal was wounded and hospitalized, so his troops brought Smoky to the hospital to cheer him up. She soon became a hit with the other hospitalized soldiers and Smoky continued bringing joy to patients in hospitals for an additional 12 years. 

6. Actor dogs

Actor dogs light up the big screen in the entertainment industry to star in some of our favorite movies. We’ve all fallen in love with Lassie, Toto, and Beethoven, and even though these dogs probably got their own trailers, they must be well trained for whatever their character needs to do and cannot be easily distracted.

  • Famous Actor Dogs:
    • Gidget: the Taco Bell Chihuahua
    • Rattler: Chance in Homeward Bound
    • Soccer: from the PBS show, Wishbone 

7. Herding dogs

Herding dogs are used to move or gather herds of usually cattle and sheep using their natural predatory instincts without trying to actually harm the animals. A herding dog must be extremely obedient and well trained. A good herding dog will complete its responsibilities without too much commotion.

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