Pet Obesity: What You Need to Know

October 8 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, so we’re taking this opportunity to bring you all the information you need to know to keep your pet healthy and happy for years to come. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 54% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. […]

Pumpkin Treats for your Pupkin

‘Tis the season for pumpkin spice everything! Between mid-September and New Year’s Eve, one can hardly throw a stick without hitting something pumpkin-flavored. We humans certainly do love our festive seasonal flavors, but did you know that pumpkin has many benefits for your dog’s health, as well? Pure pumpkin (note: not pumpkin pie filling, but pureed pumpkin) […]

The Harsh (and Wonderful) Realities of Adopting a Puppy

I’m coming out of obscurity for you this week, readers. I manage Pet First’s social media communities and I’m an avid pet lover. The reason I’m opening the curtain this week is to tell you about a personal experience that I believe needs to be shared with the world. Recently my family adopted a tiny […]

Fall Activities for Dogs

The days are getting shorter. The air is becoming crisper. Leaves are beginning to show the faintest hints of orange and red. There’s only one thing that can ease the pain of summer’s close, and that’s Fall. Get your pup outside to enjoy the flawless Fall weather with these fun activities! Hiking This one is […]

Earlier this week, we celebrated Labor Day, a holiday designated for American workers. Dogs have been working alongside humans for thousands of years. Even today, as we observe the solemn anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania, we’re heartened to read this story of Bretagne, the last living search dog who dutifully served  to recover survivors in the horrific aftermath of the attacks. Working dogs are in a class by themselves; their heart, determination, and loyalty are unwavering. Let’s take a look at some remarkable working dog breeds.



These large, strong dogs shot to fame when President Obama and his family adopted a Newfoundland puppy for their daughters soon after his inauguration. The quintessential working dog, Newfoundlands (or “Newfies”) were flawlessly designed for work. They were originally trained to pull nets for fishermen and haul heavy loads of wood from the forest.

Newfies are also excellent water rescue dogs. Equipped with large paws, webbed feet and a thick, nearly waterproof coat, they are fast and strong swimmers and often work with the Coast Guard to save lives at sea.

Saint Bernard

St.BernardOriginally bred as a guard dog for the Hospice Saint Bernard mountain pass hostel in Switzerland, these beautiful dogs were also helpful in finding and rescuing lost travelers in the remote mountains surrounding the hostel. The most famous rescue dog at Saint Bernard pass was Barry, who is believed to have saved 40-100 lives by finding and rescuing lost and stranded travelers. After a rash of severe winters in which many Saint Bernard dogs lost their lives in avalanches, remaining dogs were bred with Newfoundlands in an attempt to preserve the breed. As a result, the Saint Bernards of today are close relatives of Newfoundland dogs, and share many of the same characteristics.

Amazingly, the monks at the Hospice Saint Bernard never trained these dogs to perform search and rescue; young pups would learn these operations from the older dogs. After generations, these behaviors became instinctual, although today, most Saint Bernard dogs enjoy lives of luxury as pets. Fiercely obedient and inherently gentle and kind, Saint Bernard dogs make great family pets or agility competitors.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Aberneselso native to Switzerland, the Bernese Mountain Dog has been bred for versatility. These strikingly beautiful dogs helped to herd cattle, pull carts, and guard his herd and companion against predators. Bernese Mountain Dogs have an innate desire to work and thrive when given stimulating activities to perform such as agility courses and simple chores. They have thick, powerful legs and long, thick coats that helped them adapt perfectly to the cold mountain climate of the Swiss Alps.

Bernese are very affectionate and loving and make great family dogs in homes with kids. They are easy to train and require relatively little grooming (although they do shed). Like Saint Bernards, Bernese Mountain Dogs mostly live as pets or competitors, although many also perform search and rescue operations.

Siberian Husky

siberian-husky-01Obviously originating from Siberia, Huskies relish cold weather and is an ideal sled dog. Siberian Huskies helped entire tribes migrate to new areas in harsh winter weather and blinding snow. In the 1920s, Huskies transported diphtheria serum over 600 miles to Nome, Alaska, to provide relief for an epidemic that plagued the town. The Iditarod Sled Race still held today commemorates this famous delivery, and Huskies still participate in this event. Huskies also accompanied explorers on the first voyage to the North Pole and many expeditions in Antarctica.

Today, Huskies still work as search and rescue dogs, but also make good pets for people who are active and will provide them the intense exercise they crave. They are high-energy dogs with a drive to work and run.

German Shepherd

1394746213009gshepAlthough classified as a herding dog, German Shepherds have established a strong reputation for themselves as hard workers and companions for first responders and law enforcement personnel. German Shepherds are amazingly versatile, and can be trained in search and rescue, bomb or drug detection, tracking, guidance and assistance, police or military service, herding, competitive obedience, and of course, companionship. Years of selective breeding have given the German Shepherd a distinct profile including a large, broad chest and low hips which make them especially adept at lunging forward quickly and forcefully. For this reason, these dogs are often trained for police service to pursue and attack aggressors or fleeing criminals.

Again, owing to their innate desire to be obedient, German Shepherds are great pets for those who can give them the stimulation they need. They are very high-energy dogs that need to run several times a day and need near-constant mental and physical stimulation.

Golden Retriever

413380Officially classified as a sporting dog, Golden Retrievers have become one of the most popular pet breeds in the world. Goldens are friendly, tolerant, and highly intelligent, making them perfect for families with children and other pets.

As workers, Goldens excel at, of course, retrieving game for hunters, but also at tracking, drug and bomb detection, search and rescue, and therapy assistance. Slow to show their age, Goldens are usually as lively and active as a puppy well into their adult years, and that persistent energy also lends them well to the world of the working dog. It seems that the only job a Golden can’t do well is that of a guard dog; their relentlessly-friendly demeanor and lack of aggression means they’re more likely to wag their tail and help a burglar carry all of your valuables out of your house than to let you know you’re being robbed.

If one doubts the heart and drive of the working dog, one only needs to look as far as the tragedy of September 11 to understand: The dozens of search and rescue dogs brought to the site of the WTC collapse to retrieve survivors became heartbreakingly upset, depressed, and stressed when they could not detect living survivors among the rubble of the World Trade Center. They became so distressed that first responders began hiding in the wreckage to let the dogs “find” them in order to keep up the dogs’ spirits and encourage them to keep searching. And, like our friend Bretange and all working dogs, they did.

Honoring the Working Dog This Labor Day: Top Working Dog Breeds

This Labor Day, as we honor the American laborer and workers in various industries, it’s important that we not forget about the other hard workers happily contributing to our society – the working dog breed. From service dogs, to guard dogs, to hunting dogs, the working dog category is a catch-all for all types of […]

PetFirst Casting Call!

Do you dream of seeing your name in lights? Does your pet have a certain star quality? Good news: You and your pet could find your fifteen minutes of fame on the PetFirst homepage! We’re looking for your best selfies with you and your pet(s) to appear on our homepage. Entry is simple: just post […]

Homemade Dog Treats

  National Dog Day has come and gone, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t celebrate your best furiend every day of the year. Making your own dog treats is one of the best ways to show your pup how much you love them, and it helps ensure that they’re getting only the best ingredients. […]

Basic Pet Health Care Timelines

Pets are an intrinsic joy and bring an incredible amount of unconditional love to our lives. However, they also require consistent maintenance to ensure that they live a long, healthy, and happy life with us. Whether you’re just bringing home a new puppy or kitten, or you’re a seasoned pet-parent, keeping up with everything your  […]

Canine Arthritis: What You Need to Know

Dogs’ joints go through a lot: running, jumping, playing, protecting you from certain death every day when the mailman comes by to undoubtedly murder your entire family. The physical demands of your dog’s day-to-day “being a dog” life can sometimes open them up to injuries, muscle tears, and arthritis. With a little TLC, you can […]