For over 10,000 years dogs have been alongside man in the journey to civilization. From the early days of humans as hunter-gatherers to the present day, dogs have been a critical, and often overlooked, contributor to progress of life.
As civilization progressed, several jobs or tasks developed that needed to be done, but were difficult for humans to take on. It was in these moments that we looked to our canine companions for assistance in these areas.
It can be argued that humans would not have accomplished many of our advancements if we did not have our four-legged partners working beside us.
The following is a list of specific jobs and tasks that dogs help humans with. To be clear, these are tasks that have had a massive impact on the advancement of civilization. This is not a list of cool tricks like teaching a dog to fetch your shoes or get you a beer out of the refrigerator.
However, if anyone has taught their dog to make coffee, I could be persuaded to add that to this list as coffee certainly makes me more civil on a daily basis.
Without further adieu, here are 27 amazing jobs that dogs do that make life better for us humans!
For centuries farmers and shepherds have relied on dogs to help move their herds of stock animals around the farm and from farm to market. These dogs are often referred to as herding dogs.
Herding is a predatory behavior that humans utilized to help round up and move stock. Of course this predatory behavior had altered through selective breeding so that the dogs would work the stock, but not attack it.
You may be surprised to know that there are actually a few jobs within herding that dogs are utilized for.
1. Driving Dogs
Driving dogs are used to move herds of stock from one location to the other. These dogs are used more for keeping a herd moving forward rather than keeping the flock together. Drivers tend to stay behind the herd, pushing them forward. Some common breeds that are driving, or were historically, are:
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- English Sheepdog
2. Header Dogs
Headers specialize in keeping the flock together and in a group. Headers typically work at the front of the herd. They will constantly run to the sides and to the front to steer or stop the herd. These headers can detect which way a stock is going to turn based on watching where the stock is turning their head.
Some breeds used developed for header are:
- Border Collie
- Australian Shepherd
- English Shepherd
3. Livestock Guardian
Livestock Guardians serve as the bodyguards for the flock or herd. In some areas stock animals are at risk of being attacked by large predators, such as, bears, wolves, or boars. Livestock Guardians are typically bigger and stronger dogs that discourage attacks or if need be, take on the predator in a fight.
Some flock guardian breeds are:
- Great Pyrenees
- Anatolian Shepherd
Drafting dogs are dogs that are used alone or in teams to pull people or cargo. These dogs specialize in pulling over long distances or tough terrain. There are medium size to large size drafting dogs depending on the size of the loads. For heavier loads, bigger dogs called “freight dogs” were used to pull the heavier cargo loads.
There are two main jobs in the pulling world.
4. Sled Dogs
Sled dogs were first used by far northern American Indian cultures to get around in the snowy and icy arctic environment. These dogs were bred by natives for performance and desire to work, not for appearance. These sled dogs are used for traveling trapping lines and for taking supplies long distances. They are bred for the cold and harsh environment of the arctic and love to run all day.
Sled dog breeds include
- Siberian Huskies
- Canadian Eskimo Dog
- Alaskan Malamute
5. Cart Dogs
Cart dogs are used for pulling all sorts of cargo and typically have strong builds, as well as, determination. Traditionally, they were used by butchers and farmers to haul goods to market. Today there is less need for cart pulling, but this practice lives on through modern dog pulling competitions.
Some cart dog breeds are:
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Greater Swiss Mountain dog
Search and Rescue dogs
Search and rescue dogs are used to detect scent in order to aid in the search for missing people. These dogs detect scent from human skin rafts, which is just the fancy word for the trail of skin cells dropping off of our bodies. Our skin cells shed at a rate of 40,000 cells per minute. Click HERE to read more about this on the Virginia Search & Rescue Dog Association’s website.
In addition to these skin rafts, it’s thought that evaporated sweat gases, gases from breathing, and decomposition gases from bacteria on human skin also play a part in scent detection.
St. Bernards are historically famous search and rescue dogs. In fact, their name comes from the St. Bernard Pass, which is in the Swiss Alps between Italy and Switzerland. A group of monks in the area kept these dogs to help find people that were lost or stuck in the pass. According to Smithsonian Magazine the dogs helped rescue over 2000 people in 200 years.
There are several jobs that dogs perform within the realm of search and rescue.
6. Air Scenting Search Dogs
Air scenting dogs are used to detect human scent particles carried by the wind. These dogs shine by detecting a scent source as far as a quarter mile away. Additionally, these dogs can continue searching at night. One air scenting dog can cover roughly the same area as 50 humans.
Air scenting dogs can also be used as “Cadaver Dogs”, which are air scenting dogs trained to find dead bodies.
Some common air scenting search breeds are:
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retrievers
7. Tracking Dogs
Tracking dogs work on a lead with their handler. These dogs are usually nose down, following the scent track left by foot prints and ground disturbance.
Common tracking breeds include:
8. Trailing Dogs
Trailing dogs are dogs trained to a specific scent. These dogs also work on a lead with their handler, but focus on tracking pools of scent.
Common trailing breeds:
- German Shepherds
The role of a hunting partner is one of the earliest jobs, if not the first, that dogs had working with humans. Their exceptional senses paired with our ingenuity, allowed for massively more successful hunts. That meant more food for everyone involved – even the dogs.
Within the realm of hunting, there are a few different jobs a dog can perform. Some tasks overlap each other and many dogs can do more than one role. Let’s take a look at these hunting duties.
9. Hunting Hounds
The first job up is that of a hound. Hounds are used to chase animals or track them down. Hounds typically have very loud barks and extremely strong noses – actually they most often have THE strongest noses.
Hounds are typically used to hunt foxes, deer, coyote, wild boar, and rabbits. Hounds can be trained to hunt other prey as well. Some hounds are specialized in forcing animals up a tree until the hunter arrives. This is referred to as “treeing”. This is a tactic used in hunting raccoons, squirrels, bears, and mountain lions.
Hounds are divided into to sub groups:
Sight hounds – these hounds are tall with long legs and are bred for speed to chase down prey. These are breeds such as:
Scent hounds – these hounds are lower to the ground with long ears. These guys are bred to process scent and their big ears help funnel scent to their noses. These are breeds such as:
- Basset hounds
10. Gun Dogs
A gun dog is used to locate and retrieve game. This is most common in bird and waterfowl hunting. There are three types of gun dogs.
Pointers and setters
These dogs are worked by their handler in circles until they locate where prey is hiding. Once they locate the prey these dogs will either freeze and point or crouch until the hunter comes closer for a shot.
Common breeds include:
- German Short-haired Pointer
- Irish Setter
Flushing dogs work within shooting distance of the hunter. Their job is to flush or chase prey that would typically evade or out maneuver the hunter, such as pheasants or grouse. Once flushed, the dog will watch the bird’s flight and where it falls after being shot. Then the dog will retrieve the bird and return it to the hunter.
Common breeds include:
- Boykin Spaniel
- Springer Spaniel
- German Short-haired Pointer
Retrievers are slightly different in the fact that they are not moving around or trying to find prey. They are mostly used in waterfowl hunting. A Retriever’s job is to sit and wait by the hunter remaining alert and quiet. Once the hunter shoots the bird, the retriever goes out and brings the bird back to the hunter.
Retrievers have to be strong swimmers and have what’s called a “soft mouth”. This means they are gentle with the birds when retrieving as not to damage the meat. A cool fact is that many retriever breeds are able to carry around an egg in their mouth without breaking it.
Common breeds include:
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The last type of hunting dog is a terrier. A terrier is typically a small dog used for hunting small prey. They can also be used to track larger wounded prey. Historically, terriers were developed to locate the den of the target animal causing the prey to bolt out of the den, capture the prey, or kill it. The name terrier comes from the Latin word for earth. Terriers were also developed to kill pests such as rats and mice.
Some common terrier breeds include:
- Jack Russel Terrier
- Rat Terrier
- Fox Terrier
Military Working Dogs (MWD) & Police Dogs (K9 Units)
Military Working Dogs, referred to as MWD, and Police Dogs, referred to as K9 Officers are highly trained and very effective partners in battle and law enforcement.
In fact, dogs have been used in war for centuries. Atilla the Hun and the Roman empire are some of the earliest armies to utilize dogs. According to the documentary series, Dogs on the Job, the use of dogs in the Korean War decreased human casualties by roughly 65 percent.
The most common breeds used for MWD or K9 units are:
- German Shepherd
- Belgian Malinois
- Labrador Retriever
There are several highly skilled roles in this group. Let’s take a look.
12. Scout Dogs
Military dogs are often used to scout ahead looking for enemies positions or ambushes. These dogs walk point and can even help detect snipers – silently alerting their handler.
Uswardogs.org mention that scout dogs can detect enemies at a range up to 1,000 yards. This gives a distinct advantage to the handler.
13. Sentry Dogs
Sentry dogs are used to guard positions or be on watch to detect intruders or enemies approaching. These dogs are invaluable as they can work well at night. Sentry dogs were used to guard supply depots, airports, facilities, and other import military positions.
14. Messenger Dogs
Before radios and modern communication, Messenger dogs traveled quickly and quietly between two positions carrying valuable information. They are able to take advantage of natural cover and are less likely to raise an alarm. These dogs were critical in World War I.
15. Attack Dogs
Attack or apprehension dogs are used in both military and police situations. These dogs specialize in locating and subduing suspects. These dogs rush in, tackle, and bite the suspect until officers or soldier can apprehend the suspect. These dogs have to be intelligent, mentally stable, and strong.
16. Suspect Tracking Dogs
Much like search and rescue dogs, these police dogs specialize in tracking down suspects attempting to avoid or escape the police.
17. Narcotics Detection Dogs
Most people are aware of these working dogs. Narcotics detection dogs are useful in searching for illegal substances. They use their strong nose to detect the smallest trace of illegal substance. These dogs are used in police departments, at airports, by border patrol agents, and other locations where investigating narcotics is needed.
18. Explosive Detection Dogs
Like narcotic detection dogs, explosive detection dogs use their noses to find any trace of materials that could be explosive. These dogs are also called “bomb dogs”. These dogs are used in police departments, at airports, and other locations where explosives present a significant threat. .
The next group is Therapy dogs. These are slightly different from service dogs. Rather than performing a specific task, these dogs are focused on supporting people emotionally. It is important to note that any breed with the proper temperament can be a therapy dog.
Let’s take a look at two types of therapy dogs.
19. Reading Support Dogs
Reading dogs are dogs that sit and serve as an audience to children with reading disabilities. These dogs help the children feel comfortable and of course aren’t judgmental as the children overcome their struggles with reading
20. Emotional Support Dogs
Emotional support dogs are used by therapists in clinics, as well as, by agencies in hospitals and nursing homes. In a therapist’s clinic, these dogs help people feel relaxed and safe, causing them to open up more easily. Also this helps to foster trust with the therapist. When the patient sees the therapist is nice with a dog, there is a level of trust that is developed.
In hospitals and nursing homes, these dogs are fantastic at lifting peoples spirits while they are going through tough situations. When humans make eye contact with dogs, oxytocin is released. This is the bonding hormone that makes us feel happy and loved. This, in turn, leads to better general attitudes and happiness.
Service Dogs specialize in providing specific tasks for an individual. Just as with Therapy dogs, many different breeds can excel in the role of a service dog.
There are many tasks that dogs can be trained for, but there are two main jobs that a service dog may have.
21. Guide Dogs
Guide dogs help visually impaired people navigate the world around them. They help blind individuals find doors and exits with ease. They help people navigate sidewalks, traffic, and help their owners avoid potential hazards.
Guide dogs were first developed to help the blind World War I veterans returning home from the war. Prior to guide dogs, blind individuals were unable to live independent lives. They were reliant on people around them for normal tasks. Guide dogs provided life changing independence for the blind community.
22. Neurological Support Dogs
Neurological Support Dogs can serve many purposes, but one popular job is supporting individuals with Autism. These dogs are hypersensitive to the individual’s mood and state. Since people with Autism can be easily overstimulated by sensory input, these dogs help keep their owners calm in situations that can be overstimulating for them, such as being at a grocery store. These support dogs help by minimizing panic attacks and negative reactions. Think of it as diffusing a bomb before it goes off. These dogs are truly a blessing to their owners.
There are a few more jobs that dogs perform that don’t fit into the categories above. Let’s take a look at each one of these unique and awesome jobs. Also, it is important to know that dogs of all breeds do these jobs.
23. Bio Detection Dogs
These dogs are used to help in the detection and diagnosis of different diseases in the human body. The dog works by detecting the odor of human disease. These dogs are able to detect different types of cancer in the human body. There is also ongoing research for the bio detection of Parkinson’s disease, malaria, and other bacterial infections.
Additionally, these dogs can be paired with individuals with certain diseases to alert them to impending emergencies. These dogs can alert a diabetic to blood sugar issue or can warn someone with epilepsy right before a seizure occurs.
Bio detection dogs have also been used to help people with severe nut allergies by detecting traces of allergens.
24. Truffle Hunting Dogs
There are dogs that can be trained to help people find truffles in the forest. Truffles can be hard to find for humans, since we mainly rely on our eyesight more than anything else.
These dogs can help forage for truffles by using their keen sense of smell to detect them. Different types of truffles can sell for a few thousand dollars per pound. These dogs definitely have a return on their investment.
Most of our dogs, by instinct, do this job very well. This is probably one of the top two reasons people like having their canines around the home. A watch dog does their job by alerting you to any strange situation.
Most of our dogs alert us to any possible danger without training. This makes you feel a lot safer knowing that your dog will let you know if something is going on. Just because your dog is naturally a good watch dog does not mean they are a good guard dog.
26. Personal Protection Dogs
These dogs are similar to police attack dogs, but are used by private citizens for personal protection. These dogs are highly trained and are ready to take on an intruder when the time arises.
These dogs are often thought of as just aggressive dogs, but that is simply not true. Professionally trained guard dogs are excellent and patient family dogs who are also good with other pets. They just happen to be ready to jump into action when needed. Don’t expect your dog to do this without any professional training.
27. Companion Dogs
This is the job that most dogs are good at without even trying. Companion dogs are simply just our partners in everyday life. They keep us company, entertain us, and help us enjoy our everyday life that much more.
There are significant benefits to having a companion dog. Studies have shown decreased depression, anxiety, and stress. People who own dogs tend to be happier and live less stressful lives. These dogs add value to our lives just by sitting with us, playing with us, and loving on us when we have had a bad day. These companions are never selfish and are always there to pick you up.
As you can see, there are so many job that dogs help humans with. You can see how much of our success on this earth is tied to our partnership with dogs. From helping with providing food from farming and hunting, to providing security and keeping us safe, dogs make our life easier. Dogs love to work with humans and do their duty. They never call in sick and they always deliver. It is amazing to think of what human life would be like without man’s best friend.