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Work Like A Dog Day: What Working Dogs Do

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working dogs

We’ve all heard the term “work like a dog” but what tasks do working dogs typically perform?

Jobs For Working Dogs

The provided information on jobs performed by working dogs.  These jobs include: Search and rescue, tracking, therapy work, seeing eye work, and assistance dog work.

Search and Rescue

Search and rescue dogs have a particularly keen sense of smell. These dogs are trained to find individuals, usually in a disaster type of situation. Dogs are trained to locate missing or lost individuals based on the human scent.

Whether an individual is alive or dead they emit a human scent which is picked up on by a dog. Search and rescue dogs are taught that seeking an individual is like a game. The dogs are rewarded with praise or treats when they locate a hidden individual.  Dogs eventually consider search and rescue work as a big game for which they know they will be rewarded.

Specific breeds often working in search and rescue include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.


Tracking work that is similar to search and rescue, but depends much more heavily on a dogs sense of smell. A dog such as a bloodhound with such an incredible sense of smell is able to take a scent from a single artifact such as a piece of clothing and track a scent until it dissipates. As with search and rescue dogs, tracking dogs are handled by a trained handler who is able to instruct the dog to follow the specific scent.

Bloodhounds and other scent hounds excel at this type of work.


Therapy dogs are used to provide individuals in stressful environments with a way to reach out and bond with an animal happy to interact with the patient. The dogs allow themselves to be petted by complete strangers. They are not easily scared or frightened by large machinery found in hospital rooms.

Many breeds can perform as therapy dogs, but Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers seem to be the most common. These breeds are well-suited for therapy work due to their naturally friendly nature. They are people pleasing and willing to work hard for affection and physical contact.

Seeing Eye Dogs

Training seeing eye dogs to recognize the huge variety of signals and keys in their master’s world is a particularly demanding job on both the handler and the dog. Dogs that are easily scared and easily distracted cannot be utilized as seeing eye dogs.

Traditionally seeing eye dogs are either Labrador Retrievers or Golden Retrievers.

Assistance Dog Work

Assistance dog work is similar to seeing eye work; however, the dog can be relied on for a variety of skills rather than just those which rely on sight. An assistance dog can be assigned to a child with developmental delays or autism to encourage the child to bond and explore the outside world.

An assistance dog can also be assigned to assist an individual who has: lost the use of their arms or legs, their hearing, are diabetic or are prone to seizures.

Assistance dogs are generally socially open and friendly.  They are able to ignore strangers and foreign objects to stay focused on their specific job. Dogs that are traditionally chosen for assistance dogs are Labrador Retrievers, because of their intelligence, dedication and willingness to please.

Working dogs perform a wide variety of tasks that make our lives better.  Take a moment today to recognize the working dogs around you and say thanks.