Working Like a Dog: 3 Areas for Working Canines

Everyone has heard the phrase “dogs are man’s best friend,” and it’s true. There is no creature on this earth more loyal than a dog. Dogs love unconditionally and are eager to please their humans. Add intelligence to their repertoire, and it’s no wonder dogs are so easily trained.

Beyond just normal obedience and fun training, dogs are trained for a number of working jobs. Here are some of the most common careers for working dogs.

Law Enforcement

One of the areas most synonymous with working dogs is law enforcement. The various abilities and sheer physical power of dogs make them perfect for many different roles within law enforcement.

The first role that comes to most people’s minds is that of a general purpose police dogs in K9 units. These dogs are highly trained for a multitude of skills, such as defense, criminal apprehension, and drug and explosives detection. Since general purpose K9s are trained in so many areas, they require breeds that are not only highly intelligent, but have high energy and a strong working drive. The most commonly used breeds are German Shepherd Dogs and Belgian Malinois.

Other than general purpose, there are dogs that are extensively trained in one or two specific skills, usually involving detection. These dogs are put to work in places like stadium security, and airport customs, and are used on police narcotics units. Dogs trained for detection see a higher variety of breeds, but do revolve around breeds with the best sense of smell, some of which include Labradors, Brittany Spaniels, and Beagles.

Service Dogs

In the last 100 years, dogs have become instrumental to helping millions of people with disabilities and illnesses all over the world become more independant. The first real surge of service dogs started in the early 1900s, when German Shepherd Dogs were being trained by a woman in Germany to help guide veterans blinded in the first World War. Since their introduction to the United States shortly after, seeing eye dogs have been the most recognized service dog in the world.

These days, there are dogs being trained in several service positions in addition to guide dogs. By utilizing some dogs’ natural intuition of subtle changes in the human body, dogs are being successfully trained to alert their handlers of oncoming health troubles. For example, a medical alert dog can be trained to detect dangerous drops of blood sugar in people with diabetes, or alert a sufferers of epilepsy to an oncoming seizure.

Therapy Dogs

While not full-fledged service dogs, therapy dogs do offer really important services to so many people. Therapy dogs participate in Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) which can include a variety of different programs, but are all focused on bringing comfort to the people involved. The most well-known therapy activity that therapy dogs participate in is probably visiting patients in hospitals and hospices. Other activities include working with autistic and other developmentally delayed children in schools, sitting with victims of assault who are testifying in courtrooms, and helping kids learn to read as calm, non-judgemental listeners.

While therapy dogs do need training, it’s nowhere near as extensive as service dogs, and breed typically doesn’t matter either. It involves passing the AKC Canine Good Citizen test, and getting a certification in therapy through a verified therapy training organization. Not all dogs are fit to participate in AAA; dogs with calm temperaments, outgoing personalities, and impeccable listening skills are best suited for therapy dog consideration.


Dogs are doing important work in so many different fields. While they already trained to do a wide variety of important services, new ways dogs can be trained to make a difference in the world are still being discovered every day. What are some dog careers you can think of? Let us know in the comments! 

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