What is a Working Dog?

Doberman Pinscher

Anyone who is passionate about helping dogs live long, happy and healthy lives would say that all dogs should have some sort of job. Giving a dog a job they enjoy can help to prevent an almost endless list of potential behavior issues (such as excessive barking, inappropriate chewing and digging, separation problems, and more). It can also help them maintain overall physical wellness. So, by this definition, all dogs are, or at least should be, working dogs.

But, there is also a grouping of pure bred dogs that are categorized by kennel clubs as working dogs due to the fact that they were developed to have the physical and mental ability to help people in a myriad of tasks, including: guarding, pulling carts or sleds, performing water or land rescues, and assisting the police and military. In addition to being wonderful companions, these types of dogs have been invaluable assistants to people all across the world for many years.

While most of these dogs no longer perform the specific tasks for which their breed was developed, they still have the considerable abilities to do so. The development of working dogs involved selecting hardy, highly intelligent dogs with wonderful temperaments. As such, these dogs do best when given plenty of opportunties to show their stuff in appropriate ways. A typical working dog breed may no longer need to pull a cart, or rescue someone from the snowy alps, but they will proudly show their stuff in a training class, obedience, agility or flyball ring. And many of these dogs have what it takes to become therapy dogs, a most rewarding experience for the dog, their family and the people they visit.

Some working breeds are: Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Black Russian Terrier, Boxer, Bullmastiff, Doberman Pinscher, Dogue de Bordeaux, German Pinscher, Giant Schnauzer, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Komondor, Kuvasz, Mastiff, Neopolitan Mastiff, Newfoundland, Portugese Water Dog, Rottweiller, Saint Bernard, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Standard Schnauzer, and Tibetan Mastiff.

Most working breeds are a joy to teach and thrive with people who enjoy the process of finding the right motivation to get their dog to do what they want them to. Of course, all dogs need plenty of early and ongoing socialization. However, due to the typical size and presence of a working dog, this is an even more pressing priority for them. Having been developed to work closely with their human families, working dogs tend to bond easily and intensely with them. They should also be accepting and friendly with visitors and people they meet on the street, at the veterinarian, and the groomer. When raised and treated with love and respect, working dogs can provide as much love and companionship in return as any family could hope for.

If you are interested in welcoming one of these types of dogs into your family, be sure to meet as many adult dogs of the breed or type you are interested in as possible so you can get a better sense of the general activity level, grooming, and health needs. Also, contact that breed’s breed specific rescue organization and your local shelters. Adopting a canine companion in need is a wonderful option.