working dog breeds

Working Dog Breeds: Canines That Get the Job Done

Guaranteed to have a stronger work ethic than any of your coworkers, working dog breeds are the most diligent dogs you’ll find! These hefty boys and girls vary in color, personality, and fluffiness, but they all have one thing in common: they get the job done!

If you’ve ever found yourself asking why your dog doesn’t pay rent, you should get yourself a working breed and put them to work! (Only joking!) These breeds are certainly cut out for the 9-5, as long as that involves some physical labor and guarding, that is! Admire the working dog by exploring its temperament and history, as you read below.

What is a Working Dog Breed?

Breeders specifically created working dogs to aid and service humans. With proper training, they can work side by side with their human companions to accomplish many tasks. Of course, some breeds are better at one job than another and are classified into group categories by the American Kennel Club. Let’s explore the different kinds of jobs working breeds can have.

Herding Dogs

Farmers use herding dogs to help keep track of sheep and cattle. By controlling the dog, a shepherd controls his livestock. Usually, these dogs follow whistles and other signals from their handlers to help move livestock in a particular direction. A herding dog may nip at livestock’s heels, bark, or circle the herd to drive them forward, while others only need a stern look to get the flock to do what they want!

shepherd dog

Hunting Dogs

Hunting dogs come in different varieties: those that hunt for humans and those that hunt with humans. Gun dogs refer to small game hunting dogs that work with shotgun-wielding hunters to help catch or track down prey. Hounds are another hunting dog that retrieves downed game (Duck Hunt, anyone?) for hunters.

Hounds include these specific subcategory types:

  • Scenthounds: These dogs have piqued noses and can follow scent trails to lead hunters to prey. They often hunt in packs.
  • Sighthounds: Tall, lean hounds with excellent sight and fast agility skills. These dogs hunt using coursing, in which they spot prey at a distance, chase, and then catch it.
  • Lurchers: A combination of scent and sighthounds that possesses excellent vision and scent that makes them perfect for hunting down rabbits and game birds.

Service Dogs

Working dogs with friendly dispositions and patient demeanors are made for service dog roles. This class receives sufficient training to aid those with vision and hearing impairments, mental illnesses, epilepsy, mobility problems, and diabetes. They can also be therapy dogs, working as companion animals that provide emotional support for sick and injured hospital patients.

People teach service dogs many specific tasks, like bringing medicine, opening doors, or guiding their owners around obstacles. Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds are most commonly used as service dogs.

Search and Rescue Dogs



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With their amazing noses, dogs like the Bloodhound are the proprietors of search and rescue. During World Wars I and II, people used the dogs to locate injured soldiers and guide lost soldiers back to camp. Training begins early for these dogs and includes obedience training, socialization, and scent and agility training.

Police Dogs

With their mighty statures and strong bodies, police dogs help law enforcement perform a range of duties. Police dogs also act as sentries or “attack dogs” that go after fleeing suspects and track down culprits that hide from the police. These dogs aid in police activities, including sniffing out:

  • Decomposing bodies
  • Airport contraband
  • Illegal narcotics
  • Explosives

police dog

Guard Dogs

Dogs with an instinct to defend territory are a part of the guardian dog breed. A guard dog is characteristically loyal, alert, and fearless when it comes to protecting. Guard dogs can be the family pet that warns you of a stranger approaching your home, or they can be the guardian of a child while they play in the park. You shouldn’t confuse this working dog with an attack dog because, unlike attack dogs, they are not trained to attack on sight. Their first course of action is to alert the family of danger, but they can be taught to defend if necessary.

Sled Dogs

This working dog class usually works as a team to help pull people and supplies around snowy areas like Alaska and Antarctica; some are used in racing competitions. A sled dog must be well-adapted to the snow to withstand running across frozen landscapes for extended periods. They usually have thick coats with a fluffy undercoat to keep them warm, furred paws, and a healthy appetite that prepares them for the rigorous conditions of sled-pulling.

What Are the Characteristics of a Working Dog Breed?

Working dogs must be highly intelligent and able to receive and obey training commands. Extensive training is necessary to handle these breeds to manage their head-strong attitudes and physically intimidating sizes, making them unsuitable for novice owners. Working dogs are usually larger, very strong, and have high endurance.

Are Working Dog Breeds Good for Families?

Some breeds can be excellent family dogs for those who are well-equipped and capable of training and handling a working dog. Hunting, herding, service, and guard dogs often work alongside non-professionals and are best for doubling as the family pet. That isn’t to say that other working dog breeds wouldn’t make good family dogs!

Working dogs can make the most loyal and loving pets, but they require outlets to release all that extra energy. They also need to stimulate their mental capabilities to prevent destructive behaviors, aggression, and excessive barking.

How Do You Keep Working Dog Breeds Occupied?

Like any dog, a good toy can keep a working dog stimulated. Puzzle toys are a great tool for keeping them physically and mentally active, as are outdoor activities like hiking and job-specific games.

Organizing a makeshift “rescue” mission for a toy in the backyard or playing hide and seek can mimic the activities of a search and rescue or hunting dog. Playing fetch, tag, or creating an agility course for your pup to practice in are also great activities that working dogs will find stimulating. Any training that challenges them to think about and execute an action is perfect as well, such as teaching them to:

  • Put away their toys
  • Help out with some basic chores
  • Identify their toys by name
  • Retrieve specific toys
  • Perform a new trick
  • Obey clicker or vocal commands

Working Dog Breed List

Many popular dog breeds are a part of the working group.

Akita

People used this Japan-native pooch as a guardian and companion for samurai and trained it to hunt wild boar, elk, and brown bears. In ancient Japan, Akita dogs were a status symbol for the imperial family and their court members and were known for their reliable protection and independence. However, they are usually not great with other dogs.

The most famous of this breed is Hachikō, who has his statue at Shibuya Station in central Tokyo in honor of his loyalty and faithfulness to his master, who he waited for every day at the station, even nine years following the owner’s death.

akita dog

Alaskan Malamute

Bred for their strength and endurance, the Alaska Malamute is a prominent sled dog commonly trained to haul heavy cargo over long distances in the Arctic. This dog is affectionate and playful and has a high prey instinct that persuades them to chase smaller animals but is quite amicable with humans.

Anatolian Shepherd Dog

Anatolian Shepherds have a history in World War II of being used for intimidation tactics, but today they are more commonly used as ranch dogs and livestock guardians. These dogs are friendly towards strangers and especially affectionate with their owners but require lots of outdoor space and stern training to keep them content and well-behaved.

Bernese Mountain Dog

With the amount of fur a Bernese Mountain Dog grows, it’s no surprise they do well in colder climates, so if you live somewhere sunny, you may want to reconsider owning this breed! Originating from Switzerland, Berners were bred for driving cattle, guarding property, and using their strong muscles to pull carts loaded with twice their weight. Berners are gentle giants with high energy levels and deep affection for their families.

Black Russian Terrier

Known for their all-black, bulky coats, these huge dogs can weigh up to 140lbs and stand as tall as 2.5 feet! Using their size to an advantage, scientists in Moscow in the 1930s used Black Russian Terriers to patrol borderlines and track down escapees from prison camps.

Boxer

This medium-sized German dog can take on diverse roles as a hunter, cattle dog, police dog, guard dog, and service dog, making it one of the most talented working dog breeds. While Boxer dogs are tough and muscular, they are also extremely playful, gentle, and patient with children—they’re so good at babysitting that they’re sometimes called nanny dogs!

Great Dane

Another gentle giant that has a heart as big as its body, the Great Dane, became popular thanks to the famous Scooby-Doo and is one of the largest dog breeds to exist. Despite its imposing size, people often call the Great Dane a goofball because of its playful nature and sweet disposition. As working dogs, Great Danes are excellent service dogs that are patient with children and fierce protectors.

Great Pyrenees

Bred to be shepherding and herding dogs, the Pyrenees is easygoing and somewhat lazy breed that can spring into action at a moment’s notice when needed. Though not the best breed for apartment living, their mellow demeanor, and protective habits make it one of the better working dog breeds to choose as a pet.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss mountain dog is an all-around pasture keeper relative to the Bernese mountain dog. This breed is adept at herding, sled pullers, and livestock guarding. The Bernese is easily trainable but needs lots of physical exercise as a part of its daily routine.

Portuguese Water Dog

These water-loving dogs make great beach party guests and are typically very loving and people-pleasing, making them easier to train. First found on the coast of Portugal, people assigned this breed the tasks of helping fishermen catch fish, retrieve lost tackle, and carry messages between the ship’s crew and people on land.

Rottweiler

Rottweilers were famously ancient Rome’s first herding dogs that eventually protected livestock and attacked farm intruders. Today, people use this breed widely in police work as guide dogs and in search and rescue operations such as those done at the World Trade Center.

Tibetan Mastiff

People used this Herculean breed as a guard dog, though its size often frightens off intruders before they get a chance to break-in. Their origins are mysterious, with their ancestry dating to very early times. We know that they were guardians of the Himalayas and people often gave them as gifts to travelers.

tibetan mastiff

Other Working Class Breeds

There are over 30 different breeds in the working class! Others in this class include:

  • Boerboel
  • Bullmastiff
  • Cane Corso
  • Chinook
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • German Pinscher
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Komondor
  • Kuvasz
  • Leonberger
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Newfoundland
  • Saint Bernard
  • Samoyed
  • Siberian Husky
  • Standard Schnauzer

Final Thoughts – Working Dog Breeds

The phrase “work like a dog” makes a whole lot of sense now, doesn’t it? Though a working dog needs lots of training to stay at its best, that hard work pays off in their returned loyalty and love. Whether you’re a farm-owner looking for a little help with your sheep or need a furry, friendly companion to grab your bread from the top shelf, the working dogs are here to help!

These dogs can participate in a range of roles helping on farms and ranches, with police work, and around the home. But the biggest job they could ever take on is capturing our hearts.



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