Last month I got an email from Jo in New Zealand. She liked my post about working dogs and asked if I would put her link in it.
I checked her post and loved the article about 6 popular dog sports. I learned something new, and I thought you might too. I was also flattered to get Jo’s email. Here’s her link. I hope you’ll check it out.
PS – I think I’d like to do a post about sporting dogs, and Jo’s link is the perfect place to start!
The story behind this post: It all started with a publicist, not mine, Riley’s. Riley’s owner, Jill Mangel Weisfield , had a publicist for her book, and she emailed me and asked if I’d review it. She sent me a copy to read. I loved it so much I decided to review it for My Reads and write a post about working dogs.
In her adventure Riley searched for the right job. She imagined pulling a sled, guarding the president, competing in a dog show, guiding a blind person, working at a fire house, and becoming a therapy dog.
I researched and found even more job opportunities for Riley! It’s true— a dog is man’s best friend! Keep reading to find out why dogs are the best pet ever!
Sled Dogs: Long ago dogs pulled sleds in cold and snowy places like Alaska. Mushing peaked during the 1880’s gold rush. In the early 1900’s dogs still delivered mail until planes took over. Sometimes dogs still help out by moving people and supplies.
Dog sledding was a popular sport until snowmobiles appeared in the 1960’s, but in 1973 the Iditarod revived dog sledding. It takes 8-15 days to race from Anchorage to Nome. It may be early March, but the dogs race through blizzards and gale-force winds. The wind chill can drop to −100 °F. Yikes!
Carting: Carting or dryland mushing is a sport found all over the world. It looks like dog sledding without the snow, and it keeps the dogs in racing form during the off-season.
Draught Animals: These are draught (draft) dogs from long ago. I’d never seen the word draught before. It means that they’d pull carts for their owners, usually farmers or peddlers. Sometimes they carried mail or people.
In WWI they pulled small field guns. The Soviet Army in WWII used them to pull carts with stretchers for wounded soldiers. Would you believe the military dogs had guard dogs to protect them too. They were valuable!
Turnspit dogs: Can you find him in the picture? He’s inside the wheel, and he’s running to get some meat. He reminds me of a hamster on a wheel, except hamsters do it by choice, for fun.
Now can you see the spit on the fire? It’s cooking some meat. The dog’s wheel is connected to the spit.
When the dog runs, it turns the meat so it won’t get burned. In today’s world, that seems mean, but if you were a kid back in the day, you’d rather have a dog turn the spit than you. This picture was from a book about a tour to North/South Wales in 1797 by Henry Wigstead. I wonder if George Washington had a turnspit dog.
Turnspit dogs were also called Kitchen Dogs or Canis Vertigus, but no one’s sure what breed they were because no one recorded that information. Some people think they might be related to the Glen of Imaal Terrier or the Welsh Corgi. I think both are too cute to be put to work!
Hunting Dogs: Dogs have been helping people hunt since before bows and arrows. Hunters love their dogs. They can find, track, and bring back the animal you shot. Sometimes they chase away animals you don’t want like mice or cockroaches.
Dogs are trained to hold big animals like bears or wild boars in place until you arrive.
Bird Dogs: These dogs were bred to point hunters toward the game and to retrieve it. They’re energetic, and they love water. Bird dogs are great with kids, and they’re great as therapy dogs.
Here are some of the most popular bird dogs. Do you recognize any of them? Do you have one?
My dad’s favorite dog was a Brittany. She was his best friend and a family legend, pointing out pheasants hidden in the woods.
Sight Dogs: I’d never heard of Sight dogs till this post, but they have great eyes and great speed. They can chase down things that move fast like cats, squirrels, even kids. They love to play games like fetch. Sight dogs love to run, but if there’s nothing to chase, they’re happy laying by your feet. Here are a few sight dogs.
Herding Dogs: Everyone can picture them. They’re Biblical! Remember, the shepherds watching their flocks by night? I picture them with a dog or two. Don’t forget cowboys and their dogs herding cattle. I’ve never pictured dogs herding geese, but they are in the first picture below. I’ve seen dogs herd kids. My border terrier, Leia ,used to herd me if there was something she wanted me to do.
Did you know there’s actually a herding group of dogs? There are 80 different breeds in this group! But not all herding dogs turn out to be good herders. Some are better as pets. Click on the next link and you can read the whole list. Link: https://www.dogbreedinfo.com/h/herdingdogs.ht
Did you know herding dogs have trials? To win one, a dog must move the sheep when their handler is farther away. BTW a handler can be the owner or a professional hired by the owner. The dog must control the sheep and take them to the handler, and then repeat, by doing the opposite. It’s interesting that the away drive is harder. It’s against instinct for a dog to move the sheep away from the handler. The final task for the team is to move the sheep into a space like a pen or a cart.
Sometimes the dog must separate the sheep into 2 groups according to a judge’s directions. It’s called shedding. Singling is when the dog and handler work together to pull a few sheep out of a large group. They may also do a cross drive where the dog moves the sheep from one side of the field to the other, in front of the handler, but at a distance from him.
The picture above is from a 2010 trial in Utah. I found it, plus more information at this link.
Fire House Dogs: That’s the one and only Dalmatian. You know as in 101 Dalmatians? I’ve never seen a live one at my home fire house. They’re just statues. Read on and discover how Dalmatians became fire station dogs.
Back in the days of fire carriages in merry old England, the firemen would get the call, throw in a steam pump, hitch up the horses, and take off. The Dalmatians kept the horses from spooking and they could run forever beside the coach.
I love this fact! Dalmatians were the first siren. Their bark warned people to get out of the way because a fire carriage was coming. They also kept the horses calm when they arrived, and they guarded the equipment. Back at the fire house, they took care of vermin like rats.
But when fire trucks were invented, Dalmatians weren’t needed to bark or calm the horses. Any dog would do, but firemen have kept Dalmatians around. They’re tradition! I hope it never changes! Here’s the link that helped me write this post. It has more information than I could share.
Show Dogs: Have you ever seen dog shows on TV? The dogs are shampooed, trimmed, combed, and primped until they’re perfect. It looks like a beauty contest, but it’s not.
The AKC, American Kennel Association, says dog shows are about finding the dog that best fits the breed standards. That’s a list of physical traits, movement, and temperament. Each breed has its own standards. A Cocker and a Brittany are both spaniels, but they have different standards. A judge picks a winner based on those standards. A handler preps their dog to show off their best traits and to minimize others.
The AKC, American Kennel Association, says dog shows are about finding the dog that best fits the breed standards. That’s a list of their physical traits, how they move, and their personality. Each breed has its own standards. Boston and Border are both terriers, but with different standards. A judge picks a winner based on which dog fits the most standards. A handler preps their dog to show off their best traits, and to minimize others.
Did you know there are 340 recognized breeds world-wide? The AKC recognizes 192. Each breed has its own American club. There’s one club for Boston Terriers, and another for Border Terriers. A dog that conforms to standards will do well in shows. Winning means your dog is worth more money. Their puppies are worth more too. Winning might even get them a dog food commercial, and more money.
Some shows are small local events with just one breed. Others, like the one at Westminster feature all 192. They might have more than 3000 dogs entered in them. Here are 2 links to the AKC: https://www.akc.org/sports/conformation/ and https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/
If a dog doesn’t have enough traits, or it’s a mix of breeds, they can’t be in dog shows, but don’t worry! They can still be a great pet, and here’s another possibility.
Agility Dogs: Agility contests are for all dogs. It’s a growing sport across the US with over a million entries a year. Winning is strictly about how fast and how accurately a dog can race. It reminds me of the obstacle courses some people do on TV. Fast and accurate is the way to go! Each mistake is subtracted from your score.
The course is too complicated for a lone dog. They need a handler to guide them through a series of jumps, dog walks, seesaws, tunnels, pause tables, and weave poles.
The handler gets to walk through the course before the race, without their dog, but during the competition they’ll work together as a team. The dog will race off leash, without rewards like food or toys. The handler can’t touch the dog or anything on the course, but they’re allowed to use voice or hand signals. It must be hard for them to do this cold without running the actual course, but at least at home the handlers can prepare their dogs by using different obstacles, and by changing the order. Training, obedience, and working together is key!
To learn more, click on:
https://www.akc.org/sports/agility/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_agility
Guard Dogs: Dogs have been guarding people and their possessions since the shepherds watched their flocks, since dalmatians became fire house dogs.
Guard dogs and watch dogs are basically the same. They both guard something, but guard dogs work professionally for businesses like security firms and the military. Watch dogs work as pets and as home protectors. If this dog lived at your house, I think I would call and check before coming over. How about you?
Police Dogs: This is a German police dog, but dogs serve policemen world-wide. They can check out crime scenes and track down the bad guys. Dogs can make them freeze until policemen can arrest and handcuff them. Police dogs are also called K9 units. Did you get their joke? Policemen chose K9 because it’s a play on the word for dog…canine. LOL!
Military Dogs: They’re also known as War Dogs or the K9 Corps. Their newest name is Military Working Dogs. Whatever you want to call them, they do many of the same jobs that Police and Guard Dogs do, but these dogs also detect mines and wires. They track or scout for enemy soldiers. They stand guard as sentries. They also serve in search and rescue units. They are truly a soldier’s best friend.
Most military and police dogs are German shepherds, Dutch shepherds, and Malinois (Belgian shepherds). They look like they’re related. That’s probably because they come from the same part of the world.
re’s a map of Western Europe. The part that’s colored is Germany. Each color represents 1 of their 16 states, and that’s where the German Shepherd came from.
Find the northeastern corner of the map. Do you see the Niederlands? That’s the Netherlands where you find all things Dutch, including the Dutch Shepherd.
Go south. Do you see Belgien? That’s Belgium, home of the Belgian Shepherd.
Tao learn more, click or copy this link:
Search and Rescue Dogs: If you’re ever in trouble, you need a search and rescue dog out looking for you. Their sense of smell and hearing are incredible, and they’re so agile, they can find you no matter where you are. They’re trained to specialize in specific kinds of rescues. Read on to find out about these talented dogs.
Tracking Dogs: They track scents, of course! Their skills help them find both people and animals. They can even track down criminals before the police know who they’re looking for.
Detection Dogs: These dogs can sniff out a single ingredient or a mixture of them. Some of the common scents they look for are illegal drugs, bombs, blood, and dead bodies. They can even smell those things inside a suitcase or a trunk. They can also find live bedbugs, termites, or mice from the scent of their waste.
You can find detection dogs working for police departments, for biologists who study living things, and for medical departments.
Hunting truffles was one of the first detection jobs. Truffles are a special fungus that people like to eat, kind of like mushrooms. They’re harder to find because they’re buried underground, but detection dogs can sniff out this hidden treasure.
Cancer Detection Dogs: These dogs can detect certain forms of cancer by smelling your breath or your urine/pee. Research is promising, but it hasn’t been verified by enough studies. Maybe someday dogs will work for your local doctor or medical lab.
Cadaver Dogs: These dogs can find dead bodies or the parts of one. Whenever there’s a disaster like an earthquake or hurricane, dogs can find our loved ones faster than we can. They also work crime scenes and accidents.
This picture shows the site of a plane crash. A dog is looking for bodies that are buried under snow and ice. It’s sad work, but I’m glad dogs are there to help. If you’re looking for a search and rescue dog, these are the best ones around.
Service Dogs: As a retired teacher these dogs are close to my heart. They help you live with a disability, and they can also be your best friend. I researched five of them, and here’s what I discovered.
Seeing Eye Dogs/Guide Dogs: These are the most famous kind of service dogs. This picture is from 1941, but these dogs have been around even longer. They started work in Germany during WWI, about 1914. They were supposed to help veterans adjust to postwar life.
In 1927 Morris Frank brought a German dog home to Nashville, Tennessee. He started a Seeing Eye school for dogs that’s still working today. If you are blind or have trouble seeing, these dogs can guide you through life.
I was surprised to learn that dogs are red/green color blind, and that they don’t understand signs like stop signs. I wondered how they could help blind people with these 2 big disabilities.
Dog schools teach both people and dogs how to work as a team. You are trained to navigate by keeping a map in your head. You must know how many streets to your destination, which ones have stop signs, and which ones have traffic lights. The dog acts as your pilot and directs you around all the obstacles in your way.
Mobility Assistance Dogs: This is not a mobility dog, but it’s wearing a harness like mobility dogs do. Can you imagine how difficult life would be if you had trouble walking or were in a wheelchair?
These dogs are great, especially if your home is dog-ready. They push buttons for doors and lights. They get things that have fallen or are out of reach. They pull wheelchairs up ramps.
They bring family when you need help. They brace you if you have balance problems. A mobility dog could change your life.
Seizure Dog: This isn’t a seizure dog, but it could be. Seizure dogs are tuned into their humans. They detect seizures that are caused by epilepsy or something else.
Seizures are caused by an unexpected electrical charge in the brain. They show up in different ways, with different symptoms. Most are mild and last about 2 minutes, but if they last longer than 5, they can cause long term issues. Seizure dogs are for these patients.
Seizure dogs help in lots of ways. They summon help. They can start emergency response systems. They can help their human out of the seizure or into a better position. They can even help them stand.
Seizure dogs can also get phones or medication. If their human’s in danger like in the middle of the road, they can help them to safety. Some dogs even tell their humans that a seizure’s coming. Can you imagine what a difference these dogs make in the lives of their families?
These are the most common therapy dogs. They’re also the most common working dogs. Why? I think it’s because they’re all smart, obedient, and easily trainable. They’re perfect pets too!
Hearing Dogs: These dogs aren’t as famous, but if you have trouble hearing, a hearing dog would be a god-send. They are trained to nudge their owners and lead them towards a sound, like a doorbell, alarm clock, telephone, crying baby, a smoke alarm, even their human’s name. If you can hear, you’ve probably never thought of how difficult a hearing disability can be.
Therapy Dogs: They are the most common kind of service dog around, and any dog can be a therapy dog. They just have to have the right personality and the right training. Then they must pass a test to prove they have the right stuff.
If your dog passes, they earn a special vest. It tells everyone around that they’re a working dog. Then they can visit hospitals, nursing homes, libraries, schools, and even colleges, anywhere humans need a little TLC…tender loving care.
If you see a dog in a vest, they’re on the job. Always ask if you can greet them. Sometimes their humans will say yes. Other times no. It depends on the situation.
If you’d like to learn more about working dogs, here is the link that helped me get started: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_dog
Click on this one to learn more about the dog breeds that like to get to work:
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!