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 breeds that have been bred and/or trained for various jobs around the world.
Working dogs are the perfect employee. They never call in sick, never vacation or complain about wages. They’re totally loyal, eager to learn and accept and naturally understand their duties without question.
The jobs performed can vary, and below are some of the more interesting and effective breeds performing some of the more unique jobs.
Part herding and part guard dog, the Anatolian Shepherd is powerful breed with recent origins in Turkey. They are known for being strong flock protectors, and are still to this day thwarting off cheetah attacks. They are so effective at this, that the Cheetah Conservation Fund actually breeds them and provides them to farmers who might otherwise kill the cheetahs that hunt their livestock. According to Turkish shepherds, a small pack of 2-3 Anatolian Shepherds can overpower, and even injure a full pack of wild wolves. The breed is known to be very independent, often going out on their own to hunt predators before they strike the flock.
With its origins in Alaska, Alaskan Malamutes are a large, strong breed of dog known mostly for their use as sled dogs. With their broad chests, thick fur and tough feet, they are well-known for their superior pulling strength. Because of their high stamina and impressive hauling capabilities, they are commonly used in dog sled expeditions and long trips. They are also great hunters and have been known to help track bears and sniff out seal blow holes.
Known for having the most keen sense of smell amongst all dog breeds, Bloodhounds are commonly used in law enforcement for various search and rescue purposes. The Bloodhound is also the first dog whose sniffing evidence was admissible in a United States courtroom. The breed can be trained to sniff our nearly anything, including human remains, termites, bedbugs, mold, drugs, bombs, firearms, chemicals, illegal agriculture and food products, animals for hunting and even diseases. Nick Carter is known as one of the most famous Bloodhounds in history. This Lexington, Kentucky police K-9 lived in the early 20th century and is credited with finding more than 650 criminals, including once tracking down a man whose trail was nearly 2 weeks old.
Labradors’ incredible ability to learn and be trained, mixed with their willingness to please and work hard are just a few reasons why they are the breed of choice in the service dog field. Labradors make up 70% of all service dogs in the United States. Initially used as seeing-eye dogs, service dogs have been guiding the blind for hundreds of years; but, that isn’t their only use. Common tasks include pulling wheelchairs, bringing medication to the owner, reminding owners when it is time for medication, retrieving emergency phones during a crisis and generally guiding those with disabilities such as deafness or blindness. One particular type of service dog, seizure dogs are actually trained to sense an oncoming seizure in their owners and will lay on top of them to prevent them from falling or doing harm to themselves when it occurs.
Though this is more of a description of a duty, rather than an existing breed, turnspit dogs were used for centuries to help with cooking. The dogs were bred to run a wheel, known as a turnspit, which was used to turn meat during cooking and smoking. Now extinct, it is believed that true turnspit dogs resembled today’s Terrier-types or Welsh Corgis. Turnspit dogs had short legs and long bodies so they could fit adequately in the turnspit wheel. Turnspit dogs would sometimes work in pairs, taking shifts during the multi-hour cooking and curing process for meats.
When celebrating all the hard work and accomplishments of the American worker, don’t forget about the ultimate laborer – the working dog. Happy Labor Day!