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Celebrating the Working Dog

Most dogs live a life of leisure, hanging around the house waiting for their humans to come home from work, playing in the backyard and accompanying the family on outings. But a select group of dogs does a lot more than just look cute to earn their keep. These dogs work for a living.

Here are a few of the different types of jobs that some dogs have, and what it takes to do the work:

  • Therapy. Dogs are good at providing a therapeutic experience for people suffering from both physical and emotional problems. Their calm, accepting nature makes them especially healing for humans who need interaction with someone they know will not judge them. Therapy dogs do their work as volunteers at nursing homes, hospitals, disaster sites, therapist offices and prisons. Just about any dog can become a therapy dog with the right temperament and good training. Therapy dogs are found in many different shapes, sizes, breeds and ages.
  • Police work. Also known as K9 officers, dogs who work alongside members of law enforcement are specially trained for a variety of jobs. These dogs can help apprehend suspects, sniff out drugs or explosives, or do other police-related jobs. In order for a dog to be successful at police work, he must have a highly trainable temperament and be talented in guard work, scenting or other activities required by the job. German Shepherds and Malinois are the breeds most often used as partners to officers working a beat, while Beagles and other hounds are popular as scent dogs.
  • Search and rescue. Dogs are valuable partners for search and rescue crews trying to find missing persons. Their incredible sense of smell enables them to find a track and follow it through a variety of terrain. Some search and rescue dogs are used to locate survivors of disasters such as earthquakes and explosions. Any breed of dog can be trained to perform search and rescue work. Many search and rescue dogs and their handlers are volunteers.
  • Service. For people who are sight impaired, bound to a wheelchair or suffer from chronic seizures, assistance dogs can mean the difference between a severely limited life and freedom. Dogs are trained to guide the blind, assist the handicapped, alert people with medical conditions, help the deaf, and to provide a variety of other services to those in need. Service dogs are often bred specifically to do their job, like in the case of dogs who assist the blind. Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are the breeds most often selected for this job, and puppies are bred and raised specifically with the task of becoming a service dog in mind. In the case of medical alert dogs, individual dogs varying breeds are born with special abilities that allow them to detect seizures before they happen, let diabetics know that it's time for an insulin shot and even detect cancer in human patients. Service dogs who provide mobility assistance for the handicapped pull wheelchairs, retrieve dropped objects and aid in providing balance and stability to people who have trouble walking.

Working dogs are among the most amazing canines in the world, providing not only help, but also companionship to people in need. Their talents and big hearts make the world a better place for everyone.

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