American Working Dogs

August 30, 2019 :: Posted by Tommy Terrier

First celebrated in 1882, Labor Day is the yearly national celebration of the contributions that workers have made to the prosperity of the United States.  Today we celebrate by sharing how dogs, our beloved four-legged companions, have assisted in furthering the prosperity and strength of the US.

Dogs have been working alongside humans for centuries, their skills and abilities are absolutely incredible.  They have an amazing capacity for work and a versatility that is hard to compete with, making them excellent work partners for a number of tasks.  One particular job may not be as well-known as others, conservation.  Dogs trained in detection work are taught to use their noses to track all sorts of smells, allowing them to help their handlers identify and eradicate invasive plant and animal life, or helping them to identify and protect rare plant and animal life.  Groups like the Midwest Conservation Dogs are working to help save honey bees by detecting the pests and diseases that affect honey bee colonies.  Other groups, such as Conservation Canines, track scat (feces) of wildlife species that are considered threatened or endangered in order to keep record of things like their genetics, health and diets.  These dogs, along with their handlers, are working hard to protect the land, plants and animals we share this world with.

Police Dogs and Military Dogs, a more commonly known variety of working canines, work with their handlers to provide assistance in the line of duty.  Typically taught in protection, detection, search and rescue, and tracking, these dogs are driven partners who thrive in their field of work.  Detection dogs can be taught to scent for a variety of things; diseases, drugs, explosives, insects, scat, plants, blood sugar levels, humans and even cancer.

Farmers and ranchers have also used the help of dogs in herding a variety of livestock such as cattle, sheep, ducks, and chickens.  These working dogs have been bred for years to be driven and confident around different species of animals and to use their bodies and gazes to move other animals across landscapes for their handler.  Of course, training plays a key role in a dog’s skills and development, but genetics is also an incredible factor when a handler is choosing their working dog.

Of course, there are also the often-confused Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs who are trained for different purposes.  Service Dogs are specially trained to perform certain tasks that benefit the disabled handler they are working for by mitigating their limitations.  Service Dogs are allowed public access and often provide tasks such as guide work, mobility assistance, and seizure alerts.  Therapy Dogs on the other hand, are not permitted in all spaces.  Therapy Dogs are trained to provide emotional comfort to people in need, such as people in nursing homes or hospitals, college students during exam week, and even for children learning how to read.

With such a vast array of work that dogs can do to assist humans, preserve life, and contribute to society, it’s no wonder dogs have been known as “man’s best friend”.  From conservation work to therapy work, dogs truly are an incredible species who deserve to be honored this Labor Day.

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