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Police dog

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Recognizable the world over, police dogs assist tactical police units. Training includes scent work (for tracking humans) and suspect apprehension – which may include biting. Training a dog to bite is a precise skill. The bite must be significant enough to apprehend a suspect but not significant enough to cause serious injury. Police units are usually responsible for serious injuries sustained via bites from police dogs.


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Flyball is a sport in which dogs race over hurdles to reach a box with a pedal that, when pressed, releases a ball to catch. While not a job in the strictly productive sense of the word, flyball provides both mental stimulation to dogs who need both. It can also form part of training a dog to perform a specific service or task.

Sheep dog

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Humans have been selectively breeding dogs for their herding abilities for millennia. Sheep dogs help farmers to gather and move flocks of sheep. A skilled sheep dog can even separate out a single ewe or lamb from the rest of the flock. Dogs that make good sheep dogs include Border Collies and Briards.


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Canicross is a canine sport that’s ideal for active breeds that need considerable exercise. Dogs like Dalmatians, originally bred to follow carriages for long distances, frequently excel at canicross. In canicross, unlike simply running with a dog, a bungee leash attaches the dog to the runner’s waist. The dog helps pull the runner forward – and the resistance makes the sport good training for sled dogs.

Border patrol dog

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“Border patrol dog” is something of a catch-all phrase. Exactly what their job description involves depends on where they’re working. Some dogs have a guard dog function while the primary role of others is to detect stowaways in vehicles, drugs, explosives, or even large quantities of cash.


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The majority of dogs belonging to breeds originally bred to retrieve game in the hunting field are now primarily kept as pets. However, some Golden Retrievers, working Cocker Spaniels, and others from similar breeds still fulfil a role as gun dogs. Many are equipped with bright orange coats to ensure that hunters don’t mistake them for a fox or other potential target.

Seeing eye dog

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One of the best-known jobs for dogs is the role of seeing eye or guide dog for the blind. Pioneered in the UK in the 1930s, seeing eye dogs now perform their invaluable role in countries around the world. Training is rigorous and many dogs don’t make the grade – although do still make lovely pets!


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Outside its native Canada, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is one of the less well-known gundogs. It gets its name from its particular role on a shoot: “tolling”. To toll means to entice ducks or other waterfowl within reach of the hunters’ guns. The Duck Tolling Retriever does this by waving its white-tipped tail in the air and moving in a playful, lively manner.

Cattle herding

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As they’re much larger and stronger than sheep, cattle usually require a different sort of dog breed to herd them. Instead of Border Collies, breeds such as the Australian Cattle Dog, the Texas Heeler, and even the Cardigan Welsh Corgi have been bred to help ranchers and farmers round up cattle.

Guard dog

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Guard dogs come in all shapes, sizes and even temperaments. When they find themselves in threatening situations, even the most unexpected breeds can display guard dog tendencies. However, breeds often used as guard dogs include German Shepherds, Dobermanns, and the Cane Corso. The size, power, and potential risk for injury that these dogs pose places a significant burden on the owner to ensure proper training and control.

Search and rescue dog

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Search and rescue dogs are used in a variety of situations to find people missing in collapsed buildings, in snowdrifts, and even under water. Training is long, beginning when the dog is a puppy – and successful dogs must keep working in the face of all manner of distractions. Some search and rescue dogs detect the scent of living people. Others search for cadavers.

Emotional support dog

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One of the newer jobs, emotional support dogs are not usually recognized as service dogs. Despite this, they perform an invaluable role as companions for people suffering various forms of psychiatric disability. Although an adjunct to medical treatment, these dogs frequently help mitigate the effects of some of the worst symptoms experienced by their owners.

Therapy dog

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Therapy dogs are used in schools, hospitals, hospices, and elder care facilities. They provide comfort, support and companionship to people living through difficult or challenging circumstances. Medical evidence proves that stroking a dog reduces blood pressure, even in someone suffering from dementia. Many people also report feeling calmer and happier in the presence of a dog.

Avalanche rescue

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A specialised type of search and rescue dog, these dogs seek out the buried victims of avalanches and, every year, are responsible for rescuing many off-piste skiers and snowboarders, hikers and climbers. St Bernards, with their cask of reviving brandy around their necks, are the original avalanche dog. However, German Shepherds and many retriever breeds also excel at the work.


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Channelling the physical and mental abilities of high energy dogs, agility is fun for dogs and owners alike. Building on many of the skills bred into them, Border Collies often excel at agility but almost any healthy dog can have a go. It’s a great way to build a dog’s fitness and strengthen its bond with its owner.

Mobility assistance dog

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Mobility assistance dogs perform a wide range of functions tailored to the specific needs of their owners. For instance, a wheelchair user might need their dog to retrieve objects from the ground, take clothes out of a dresser, press elevator buttons, or even pull the wheelchair along a ramp.

Carrying a backpack

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Some support dogs will learn to wear an appropriately-sized backpack as part of their training for their role. However, any dog with fully developed bones and joints, and who has no relevant health issues, can benefit. In particular, acclimatizing a dog to wearing a backpack often helps with leash and obedience training.

Seizure assistance dog

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No one knows quite how seizure assistance dogs do it but they manage to detect an imminent epileptic seizure and alert either their owner or someone else. They will then position themselves in such a way as to limit any physical harm suffered by the person having the seizure.

Autism support

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Rather than provide help with specific physical tasks, autism support dogs provide non-judgmental emotional support for people who may find the world a difficult and bewildering place. The support of these dogs can enable their owners to navigate social situations they might otherwise avoid. Some autism support dogs who are paired with children are trained to track their young owner if that child wanders off.

Pulling carts

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Although many countries have made dog carts illegal on public roads, you can occasionally still see them in some parts of the world. Traditionally used in parts of Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany for transporting groceries, motorized transport has generally superseded the dog cart. Similarly, although once a common sight in Britain for transporting young children, they’re now restricted to hobbyists.


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Although obedience is not a “job” in itself, it’s an integral part of training any dog to perform a specific role. It’s also vital in building a strong and trusting relationship between a pet dog and its owner. Finally, for dogs that need a lot of mental stimulation, obedience lessons and practise give the dog something to do and help tire it out mentally.

Hearing assistance dog

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Being deaf can be very isolating. It also brings additional concerns over fire alarms, traffic crossing signals, knocks at the door, baby cries and so on. A hearing assistance’s dog’s role is two-fold. First, it provides company and emotional support to lessen the isolation. Secondly, it alerts its owner to all those noises – and what they mean – that the person is unable to hear.

Truffle hunting

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Although more commonly associated with pigs, dogs are often used for truffle hunting. Their fine sense of smell makes them perfect for the task and, unlike pigs, they’re usually less interested in eating the truffles. The Lagotto Romagnolo is the top breed choice for many truffle hunters but Spaniels, Beagles, Poodles and many other breeds are also used.

Scent work

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Although some dogs are trained to recognize specific scents (drugs, money, dead bodies, and so on) to assist their human handler, any dog can benefit from scent work. Hiding a treat and teaching your dog to find it using its nose is a task that most dogs – once they understand what they’re being asked to do – hugely enjoy. It also tires them out mentally.


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In some parts of the world, dogs have long been used to provide transport. In what’s often known as “mushing”, sled dogs are perhaps the best example of this. Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and Laika are still used to pull sleds in some Arctic regions – or to compete in sled dog races. Thick coats, considerable stamina, and physical power characterize the typical sled dog.


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A more recent spin-off from the older sport of mushing, bikejoring involves a dog, or team of dogs, on a bungee line that’s connected to a bike. A special antenna keeps the bungee line away from the bike’s front wheel, ensuring that the dog can pull the bike without getting the line tangled.

Military working dog

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Military working dogs undertake a variety of roles. In modern day life, these typically involve patrolling, explosive detection, guarding, attacking, and search and rescue. However, dogs have occasionally also been used for front line work. For instance, during World War I, dogs hauled supply carts and delivered messages, and frequently did so when under fire.


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More than 20 dogs have gone into space. Their roles advanced space technology and, ultimately, helped make it possible for humans to go into space. Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow, was the first – and most famous – space dog. Sadly, like many of those who followed her, Laika died in her space shuttle.

Water rescue

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Newfoundlands, a giant breed of dog with a gentle temperament, partially webbed feet, a double coat, and a natural love of water, are sometimes used as lifesavers. Canadian fishermen, in particular, have a long history of using the dogs to effect sometimes quite dramatic rescues in even rough seas.


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Reputedly deriving from a form of transport, skijoring involves a dog (or sometimes a horse) pulling a person on skis. Nowadays it’s only rarely used as genuine transport. Instead, it’s become a competitive sport that a variety of active breeds of dog appear to enjoy. Border Collies, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Golden Retrievers are just some of the breeds that participate.

Anti-poaching dog

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Poachers continue to present a series risk to a variety of endangered species, including cheetah and rhino. Specially trained dogs often assist anti-poaching units in tracking and apprehending poaching suspects. The presence of the dogs in a national park or reserve may also sometimes deter poachers.

Airport runway safety dog

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Bird strike is a serious potential risk for any aircraft. Consequently, airports employ a variety of techniques to keep birds away from runways. Frequently, birds of prey are used (with the help of a handler) but some airports are now experimenting with dogs. These dogs have a relatively simple task: to chase birds off the runway.

Drug detection dog

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Used by police forces and border officials, drug detection dogs often operate at airports, festivals and other places where illegal narcotics are a concern. Most drug detection dogs are trained to recognize a variety of drugs, including meth, cocaine, and opiods. For the dogs – often Spaniels – detecting the drugs via their scent is a game.

Livestock dog

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Livestock dogs aren’t necessarily herding dogs. Instead, they’re often used in a guardian or protective role – often in areas where large predators, such as wolves or mountain lion, pose a threat to cattle, sheep and other livestock. Large breeds, such as the Anatolian Shepherd and the Pyrenean Mastiff, predominate in these roles.

Allergy detection dog

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For some people with life-threatening allergies, the difference between life and a life-threatening allergic reaction can hinge on their allergy detection dog. These dogs are carefully trained to detect traces of the relevant allergens in the air. They then alert their owner, potentially saving their life.


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Schutzhund is a sport that tests obedience, tracking and protection skills. Originally developed in Germany to assess the suitability of German Shepherds for various police-type, it’s now used for other similar breeds. In addition, it’s also now a competitive sport, giving successful dogs the chance to move up the ranks in pursuit of three levels of title.

Diabetes alert dog

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Managing diabetes and, especially, avoiding potentially life-threatening blood sugar crashes can be difficult. A diabetes alert dog uses its incredibly sensitive nose to detect when its owner’s blood sugar levels are on the way down. Usually, they can then alert their owner in time to take avoiding action. However, if the blood sugar crash is too sudden, the dog will alert someone else instead.

Psychiatric service dog

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A psychiatric service dog is not the same as a therapy or emotional support dog. In the US, the training given to psychiatric service dogs is so rigorous, and their role so important, that they’re not classified as pets. Instead, these dogs support individuals with debilitating disorders like PTSD. While they do provide comfort in times of distress, the dogs also provide practical physical help.


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Many of the smaller terriers were originally bred as ratters but Schnauzers, Pinschers and Dachshunds are also commonly used. Rat catching with dogs was first documented in medieval times but reached heights of popularity in 19th century London’s crowded and insanitary conditions. Then, in World War I, ratters helped keep rat populations down in the trenches and, nowadays, many farms still keep ratting dogs.


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Bred as a hunting companion, a pointing dog (often belonging to one of the Pointer breeds) uses its body to “point” at game. The dogs are taught to stand still, with one foot raised off the ground, and their nose pointing in the direction the hunter needs to look. Pointers usually have a steady nature and are unperturbed by gunshots and other loud noises.