Working dog

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For the comedy group, see Working Dog Productions. For the winery in New Jersey, see Working Dog Winery.
"Farm dog" redirects here. For the specific breed with this name, see Danish Swedish Farmdog.
This working dog is a border collie mix.

A working dog is a canine working animal, i.e., a type of dog that is not merely a pet but learns and performs tasks to assist and/or entertain its human companions, or a breed of such origin. In Australia and New Zealand, a working dog is one which has been trained to work livestock, irrespective of its breeding.

The Komondor is guarding the sheep.[1]

Within this general description, however, there are several ways in which the phrase is used.

For some breeds, there are separate registries for tracking the ancestry of working and show dogs. For example, in Australia, there are separate registries for working and show Australian Kelpies; the working registry encourages the breeding of any Kelpies with a strong instinct to herd, no matter their appearance or coat color; the show registry encourages breeding only among Kelpies whose ancestors were registered as show dogs and who have only solid-colored coats. Other breeds have just a working dog register, independent of the showing registers; such a breed is the Boerboel — the breeders of this dog consider entry into the AKC for example would damage the dog's genetic working base if it were ever to be bred for the showing.

Jobs performed by dogs[edit]

A Turnspit Dog at work in a kitchen.
A German Shepherd detection dog at work

Although most modern dogs are kept as pets, there are still a tremendous number of ways in which dogs can and do assist humans, and more uses are found for them every year. The following list provides an idea of the versatility of dogs:

Search and rescue dogs[edit]

U.S. Army employing special hoist, and doggles, while landing and retrieving dog and handler by helicopter.
Main article: Search and rescue dog

Dogs are commonly used as search and rescue workers in cases of lost people and disasters. The St. Bernard was historically used in Europe in the case of avalanches and lost travelers. Search dogs are used in lost person searches each year saving human lives. Several breeds of dogs were used during World War I to locate wounded soldiers in the field. Several cities in Italy are experimenting with working dogs as rescue swimmers. In this situation, a strong and well-trained dog is equipped with flotation devices and dropped in the water near a floundering swimmer. The swimmer then grabs onto the dog, and the animal tows the swimmer to shore. The Newfoundland has long been used for water rescue, not only on shore, but from fishing boats as well.


The breeding of working dogs originated from selecting highly intelligent[citation needed], hardy, alert mixed-breed dogs. Working dogs resulted when dogs with similar desirable characteristics, such as loyalty and good temperament, were bred. As a result, many working breeds are sought after as family pets. For search and rescue work, typical breeds seen in the field include Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, German Shepherd Dogs and certain members of the hound group. These dogs should have a good prey drive, desire to please the handler, ability to work on and off lead, and be sociable in public settings.

Working dogs make excellent pets as long as potential owners realize that these dogs must be given 'work' to do. Dogs that are not to be used for their original purpose must be trained from a young age and are best suited to active persons and families. Obedience training, dog sports, informal or novelty shows, and trial work are all excellent channels for these breeds' energy. At the very least they must have daily walks or other exercise at an appropriate level for the breed, given toys, played with, and provided with human company.

Working dogs that are left alone or ignored become bored, vocal, and even neurotic; they may exhibit malaise, lethargy, destructive behavior or attempt to escape. Working dogs inappropriately chosen as pets are often surrendered to shelters for these reasons.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kovacs,Gibizer,Udvardine Lukacs: Komondor, Kuvasz, 1996, IBSN 963-7314-33-4
  2. ^ Hartnagle-Taylor, Jeanne Joy; Taylor, Ty (2010). Stockdog Savvy. Alpine Publications. ISBN 978-1-57779-106-5. 
  3. ^ Vintage photos show uses of dogs pulling carts
  4. ^ Dog carts and Lion Carts. 1839 Dog Cart Nuisance Act
  5. ^ Grindeland, Sherry (2007-06-16). "Winning Smiles". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-09-20.