Working Dogs: Canines in the Workforce

Therapy dogMost breeds of dogs are the way they are because they were bred to do a specific job. Even a seemingly ornamental breed like the Bichon Frise was bred for a purpose and served as working dogs in some capacity.

Those cute little balls of adorableness have been around prior to the 1300s when they kept sailors company on long voyages and were also used as currency. Poodles were likewise not bred just for aesthetics, but to retrieve fallen game for hunters. Bullmastiffs were used as guard dogs on estates, intimidating poachers and keeping them detained until law enforcement arrived.

These days, the “classic” dog breeds don’t often serve their original purposes. Instead, they have modern jobs. Here are a few examples of canines in the workforce and the various jobs working dogs may hold:

1. Member of the Armed Forces

Different breeds of canines have been used in combat since the beginning of time. Many breeds even originated because they were needed for war including some of our favorite “gentle giants” like the Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound.

Whether they were toted around for companionship or used on the front lines, there is no denying how important canines have been to soldiers in history. Canines have served alongside US soldiers in every war in the history of the nation, but were not officially recognized for their efforts until the Second World War.

Dogs are trained to detect drugs, weapons, and bombs. They may also be trained to track and attack military opponents. Currently, there are about 2500 dogs serving in the military, with 700 serving overseas. Labrador Retrievers work well as military dogs as do German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. And, just like human soldiers, dogs can get PTSD after traumatic experiences.

We see many dogs on patrol and watch in and around several U.S. military bases, and in recent years, the relationship between the dog and the soldier has evolved. While dogs, many training in the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog Program, are still used for bomb-sniffing and search-and-rescue endeavors in combat zones, they are hardly used as simple messengers or combat weapons like in previous years. The Military Working Dog Program still trains hundreds of dogs for military protection and detection of bombs and other harmful substances, with an estimated 2,500 dogs that are currently on duty throughout the world.

2. Guide dogs

Thousands of pups are employed as guide dogs. Canines were first used to help blind or injured people after the First World War when many soldiers returned home with physical disabilities.

Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds are commonly used as guide dogs.

3. Therapy dogs

Have you ever come home in a bad mood only to have your puppy dog turn it all around? This is a common phenomenon, so common that many dogs are employed as therapy dogs. They may be taken to hospitals, nursing homes, classrooms, or anywhere else where people might appreciate some warm fuzzy friends.

In conjunction with their wartime service, dogs are also being used to help soldiers recover from the wounds of war – both physically and mentally. Dogs are often present at VA hospitals where soldiers are recovering from wounds that are suffered in war. The healing power of a canine companion by your side can be unparalleled. Studies have even found that having a canine counterpart can help soldiers recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a horrible mental condition caused by the horrors of war.

4. Dog actors

Some dogs are employed in Hollywood. But, acting doesn’t come naturally to them – they go through rigorous training to become actors.

5. Sled dogs

The hardiest breeds, with thick coats to withstand cold and snow and ice, may work as sled dogs. It takes discipline, teamwork and lots of training for a team of dogs to pull a sled over long distances in harsh conditions. And sled dogs don’t just exist for fun. Sure, there are competitive races they participate in, but for some remote communities, sled dogs provide a vital mode of transportation.

There is just something about a dog, the way they look at us an wag their tail when we are hurt or sad can turn tears to laughter. They are so much like us, they suffer through the same things that we do when they are with us at war. They help us work jobs, help protect us, help us feel better, help entertain us, and more. No living creature in the world knows the meaning of bravery and loyalty like a dog and they are heroes in all they do whether they are war heroes or the heroes of our hearts.