The power of humans to influence other beings into domestication can be seen with the faithful dog. Our relationship with our cute and furry friends has come a long way and has developed into a symbiotic partnership. It has taken decades of work to figure out which breed best exhibits the favorable characteristics for providing useful work and services to us.
As a result, we’ve found a number of dog breeds most suitable for performing functions that are beyond our capabilities, and even those of machines. Here we look at some of the best breeds of working dogs and how they are doing their part in society.
1. Golden Retriever – Visual Aide Dog
Golden retrievers are perhaps one of the most popular dog breeds. Not only do they make for excellent working dogs, but they are also the pet of choice for many families. However, Golden Retrievers are most useful as guide dogs for the blind. There are a number of reasons why this may be the case. If trained early and properly in their life, exposing them to a host of stimuli, people, and environments, golden retrievers can quickly become your ideal visual partner. Plus, their inherent qualities make them suitable for the role as well.
Golden retrievers are friendly-natured dogs; they want to please their companions to a high degree as opposed to the arrogance of many other dog breeds. As a result, this helps them focus on the task at hand, making them perform even in distractive environments. Plus, it makes their training simpler for quick deployment as working dogs.
Since a visual aide working dog needs to adapt to a number of stimuli while navigating a complex environment, as well as keep tabs on their companion, they need to be smart even if the desired action to a stimulus isn’t achieved.
Golden Retrievers have an average lifespan of 10 – 12 years. Considering that the training of working dogs can amount to thousands of dollars, their longevity makes them a perfect investment for the visually impaired. They won’t develop complex issues of the heart or breathing problems that many other breeds exhibit.
2. Labrador Retriever – Seizure Alert Dog
Living with seizure disorders like epilepsy requires changes in one’s lifestyle. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may be on a host of medications, not permitted to drive, or need to refrain from certain stimuli that may trigger your condition. According to the World Health Organization, epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder, affecting 50 million people globally. Seizures can result in people contracting traumatic injuries, both physical and neurological in nature. Fortunately, working dogs, particularly the Labrador Retriever, are one of the best at detecting seizure disorders in humans.
Dogs, in general, have an extremely powerful sense of smell. That’s because of the olfactory nerves in the back of their muzzles. As many as 300 million nerves collect in their olfactory region, sniffing out odors that we simply don’t have the power to detect. For context, humans have about 400 of these receptors.
The Labrador retriever, other than having similar qualities to the Golden Retriever that make it easy to train, focus, and socialize, has a longer muzzle that helps them detect seizures before they even happen. They can do this by detecting the odor that comes off of a patient prior to a seizure.
The Labrador Retriever is highly effective at discerning various molecules and can be easily trained to respond to pre-seizure molecules emanating from their partner. Hence, you can receive a clear indication of when a seizure is about to happen, assume the appropriate position, take necessary medication, and make sure you don’t sustain any injuries. Your seizure alert Labrador will remain by your side and try to wake you up after the seizure passes.
3. Rottweiler – Guard Dog
When looking for working dogs to act as guard dogs, one needs a dog with an aggressive demeanor yet malleable enough that it doesn’t have control issues. That’s where the powerful Rottweiler comes in. It has a legacy of being used as a dog for protection, guarding cattle in their herds, and as a guard on large estates. That’s partly because of its large size and deep growl. With a good diet, they can reach a height of more than two feet and have enough strength to keep any malicious actor at bay.
Rottweilers are wrongfully labeled as too aggressive in the breeding community; however, that greatly depends on the training given to them by their companions. What’s required is obedience training to recognize the common signs of how attackers try to engage people. With this kind of training in mind, Rottweilers can exhibit a calm demeanor even when introduced to strangers. Their intelligence and protective instincts are unmatched by other breeds, making them one of the best guard dogs.
4. Bloodhound – Detecting Dog
Dogs’ keen sense of smell isn’t just limited to detecting epilepsy but can also be trained to recognize any sort of olfactory stimulation. Hence, some dogs can be used alongside law enforcement for a host of functions, like search and rescue during disasters, when a person goes missing, or when trying to find an assailant fleeing from the law. This is where the bloodhound outshines all of its counterparts as a working dog for detection.
What makes them so good at their work is their calm demeanor and laid-back attitude, but they can be aggressive if cued. When performing this kind of detection, dogs have to deal with a number of olfactory stimuli. It puts a lot of pressure on them to discern the correct path leading to the thing being searched. Hence, many dogs get confused and frustrated if they can’t perform well. Not the Bloodhound. It has shown time and time again why it’s the best at what it does, tracking individuals who’ve escaped prison, sniffing out drugs at airports, and patrolling borders.
Perhaps the only issue they present is that they are a stubborn breed. You might find it a bit challenging to train them as their mood often governs what they want to do. Plus, the older they get, the less inclined they’ll be to go on a searching mission.
5. German Shepherd – K-9 Units and Military Dogs
German Shepherds are the most popular working dogs. They can perform a range of duties, including acting as a visual aide, detection, guarding, patrolling, but they are the pooch of choice for the military and the police.
What makes the German Shepherd unique is the perfect balance of strength, agility, intelligence, and behavior that it exhibits. As a result, you get the perfect dog that can be deployed in a number of scenarios.
K-9 units are trained alongside law enforcement by a specialized trainer that gives them the knowledge to act and respond to assailants, making them an invaluable asset. Like bloodhounds, they too are deployed by the Drug Enforcement Agency as first responders. In the military, they can be trained to detect IEDs, landmines, and track enemies.
German Shepherds are one of the most obedient dogs. There have been instances that the dog refuses to accept orders from other handlers when their partner dies in combat.
6. Beagle – Therapy Dog
What better way to utilize working dogs than to use them for what they are best at – providing unconditional love and support. Getting a dog as a pet has its benefits. They provide you the emotional support you’re looking for and are one of the most responsive animals to human feelings.
Perhaps the “goodest boy” for this job is the humble Beagle, a short yet playful dog breeding that is an ideal service dog for providing support and love. Their small stature and gentle demeanor mean that they can work go about the house with ease, and are full of energy to cheer you up. They love socializing with humans and other dogs, particularly a great partner for children.
The comfort they provide to their companion makes them suitable to treat a variety of mental illnesses, including depression, PTSD, anxiety, and panic attacks. They’re in such a way to recognize signs of such illnesses and respond by distracting their partners by licking them, becoming jumpy, or waking them up from nightmares.
You’ll see beagles in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and veteran centers offering their love to whoever wants it.
7. Border Collies – Herding
If you’ve had the chance to visit farms and cattle breeders, you’ll often see an accompanying border collie with them frolicking about in the fields. That’s no coincidence. In fact, border collies are instrumental working dogs on farms for herding sheep and cattle. Border collies are a friendly breed of dogs who love to play.
Farmers recognized this behavior and trained them to their advantage. To them, it’s just a game, but for herders, they are reliable farmhands. They are medium-sized dogs with enough agility to keep up with sheep, cows, and even llamas. They are highly responsive to training and adapt to their role quickly.
Normally, herding requires you to form a perimeter around cattle to prevent them from escaping and wandering about. Border collies, with their human partner, form barriers of exit around cattle, guiding them to grazing pastures, milking stations, and grooming barns. It requires immense dexterity and coordination, all excellent qualities that Border Collies exhibit.
8. Siberian Husky – Sledding
Some parts of the world experience such a high degree of snowfall that it becomes difficult to commute from one place to another. But, these places do need essentials like food, medicine, and access to markets; otherwise, they can’t survive in such environments. Though modern means of transport, like snowmobiles, seek to aid us in these regards, many communities don’t have access to them or simply can’t afford them.
For generations, they’ve had to rely on the Siberian Husky. A well-natured dog breed that’s used to living in the harsh snowy environments of the Russian Tundra thanks to their thick coat. Subsequent selective breeding has produced muscular dogs that are ideal for pulling sleds for transportation. The same reasons also make them suitable for use in search and rescue operations in the case of avalanches.
9. Grey Hound – Hunting and Pointing
Many rural communities have to forage for resources in order to survive. Many resorted to using dogs for their superior sense of smell to tracking animals; however, none came close to the abilities of the Greyhound. A tall, slender dog breed with the genetic traits that make it ideal for hunting, tracking, and pointing.
Other than their olfactory senses, Greyhounds are fast. They have long muscular hind legs and a compact torso that makes them agile in the woods, allowing them to jump over obstacles and make sharp turns. It is for this reason that you’ll find them in gaming events as well.
One thing to note while going on a hunt is to make sure that your dog doesn’t get too aggressive and out of control. Ensure that they wear a muzzle if they attack their intended instead of keeping them restrained for the owner to catch up. You wouldn’t want your hunting dog to act out of control and attack humans.
10. Bernese Mountain Dogs – Disability Assistance
If you’ve had the unfortunate incident of sustaining an injury or suffer from a condition that leaves you impaired, then you’ll know about the mobility issues that come with them. Depending on the severity of your condition, you need both emotional, as well as, assistive services. Fortunately, service dogs can be trained to respond to both these conditions.
Perhaps one of the best breeds of working dogs to fulfill this role is the Bernese Mountain dog. It showcases a friendly nature, exemplary work ethic, and commendable intelligence. All essential traits for an assistance dog. Their medium size makes them ideal for reaching places and picking up objects, something you might need help with if you’re limited to a wheelchair.
One thing to note, however, is that Bernese dogs are not suitable for warm environments. They have a long and luscious coat that makes it difficult for them to function. You might have to consider other working dogs when living in such environments as the Labrador or Golden Retriever.
Discover how to create a joyful, healthy home for your pet.
Subscribe to your weekly rundown of practice, real life ideas and training tips straight to your inbox.