Woof! From Water Rescue to Therapy Work, Here Are 22 Amazing Dog Jobs

Some dogs take their jobs seriously. 

Did you know that the Italian Coast Guard has a special K-9 lifeguard unit, where their trained Newfoundlands jump out of helicopters to save people from drowning? 

Are you worried about termites? Look for one of the many pest control companies that employ Beagles and Beagle mixes, used for their incredible scent detection. 

There are Jack Russell Terriers who are the last line of defense against an extremely invasive type of snake on the island of Guam. Without these little protectors, the brown tree snake would quickly wipe out other species in countries that had shipments from the small American island. 

At the end of the day, all dogs were bred to serve some purpose for us humans - and many dogs may be better in one capacity than the one they were originally intended for! 

Have you ever noticed how many dogs are employed? 

Probably not. But there are many jobs out there that can be done best by our four-legged friends. 

What Are Some of the Jobs Dogs Can Do? 

There are so many! Many breeds have a natural tendency towards some type of work, and our dogs are already broken into classes, based on these traits. 

In the case of dog shows and the American Kennel Club, there are 7 Dog Breed Groups, organized by the original work each group was developed to do. 

Sporting, Hounding, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding are the groups you will commonly hear reference to, and how they are organized at dog shows. However, the line tends to be more blurred nowadays! 

These are just some of the jobs dogs can hold! 

Service and Guide Dogs 

  • Seeing eye dogs
  • Therapy dogs
  • Service dogs who can predict epileptic seizures
  • Nursing home companions
  • Allergy alert dogs
  • Cancer detection
  • Drug sniffing

    Rescue and Emergency Dogs 

    • Water Rescue
    • Landmine-sniffing
    • Arson and explosives detection 
    • Pet detectives who find missing animals
    • Disaster search and rescue
    • K-9 Police dogs

    Pest Control and Protection Dogs

    • Termite location
    • Sheep, goat and cattle herders
    • Guard dogs
    • Protection from snakes
    • Marine protection (Eco-agent)

    Performance Dogs

    • Performance jumpers
    • Show dogs
    • Actors
    • Iditarod sled-dogs

    What’s the Difference Between a Service Dog and a Therapy Dog? 

    Some of the wording around this can be tricky, as it’s common to hear people refer to these interchangeably.

    • Service dogs
    • Working dogs
    • Therapy dogs 
    • Emotional support dogs

    Generally speaking, service dogs help people with specific tasks related to visible and non-visible disabilities. Epilepsy,diabetes, PTSD and those with mobility limitations would count here. Guide dogs are service dogs specifically trained to help blind or visually impaired people. (Alberta)

    Despite an estimated 3.3 million Canadians reporting some level of disability in 2009 there remains no national standard in terms of how to recognize or certify service dogs. There are both private and non-profit service dog organizations throughout Canada, listed on The Badge of Life Canada site. 

    There is different legislation in each province, but generally, a trained service dog should be treated much like a wheelchair, a tool that is helping their person go more safely through their day. And so, they are allowed to go wherever their human does. Emotional support dogs are not.



    By contrast, working, therapy and emotional support dogs may likely will not be wearing service dog vests, and may not necessarily need certification for what they do. For example, a sheep herding Border Collie is a working dog, but he doesn’t need to go grocery shopping with his owner, as that’s not related to his job, and his owner does not require assistance. 

    Therapy dogs may be trained by their own owners, but are usually required to go through some type of certification to be properly titled, “Therapy dog.” As they are usually teamed with their trainer or owner, therapy dogs tend to be used for visiting and bringing comfort to other people, be it in a hospital, school, nursing home, etc. 

    And lastly, emotional support dogs are usually individual companions for people. They don’t need to be certified by any organization. If you are wondering how to keep track of all of this, Icandog.org has a super simple chart to check if a dog qualifies as a service dog, therapy dog or emotional support dog. 

    What Should You Do If a Service Dog Approaches You Without Its Owner?

    While we are warned to be respectful of handlers and their working service dogs, if a dog wearing a service vest approaches you alone, pay attention to it! These animals are trained to help their human, and they may be trying to get your attention because something is wrong. 

    Because they are often trained to not jump up or bark, it’s likely they will approach you and nudge your leg or hand. If this happens to you, you can give them a verbal cue, like, “What’s wrong?” or “where’s your person?” and then follow them, as they will likely lead you to their person, who very likely needs assistance! 

    What Should You Not Do With a Service Dog? 

    Basically, standard etiquette is to not distract them from their job. 

    You might not be able to tell why that person needs a service dog, but it’s really not your business! That dog is working with and for that human, and distracting it could mean that person gets hurt, lost or worse. Resist the temptation to approach them and just let them work. 

    Generally, you should not do these things around a service dog and their companion: 

    • Pet it or ask if you can pet it
    • Allow children to approach them 
    • Talking, whistling, clapping or trying to catch the dog’s attention
    • Praising it for anything
    • Asking the handler about their disability 

    The Healing Properties Dogs Have on Humans

    With their pack mentality, it’s natural for dogs to bond with humans, and very common for them to protect and nurture the ones they love most. There are thousands of videos of dogs bonding with babies, kittens, farm animals, birds and even squirrels. 

    For humans, the simple love and kindness of a dog can go a long way, especially if they are lonely or isolated from others, whether of their own doing or not. Think about people in long-term care, a nursing home, or kids who have to be at the hospital for weeks or months on end. 

    Here is where therapy dogs can really help! There are some great programs here in Alberta, such as CAAWLs, where I volunteered with my Newfoundland, Dio. While she was considered a ‘wellness dog”, for emotional support (There is much more training involved to be a working therapy animal.), we got to visit groups from teens to seniors, and almost everyone wanted a hug, to pet her soft coat or just to sit near her. 

    Dio the Newfoundland on her first day of volunteering with CAAWLs. 

    The amount of comfort people got from just being around a calm and gentle dog was pretty incredible. For some, it reminded them of their own dogs who were not with them any longer. For others, she was just an immediate friend. Being able to bring comfort to people was a very rewarding experience.

    Dogs Can Do Almost Anything

    From sniffing out bombs and landmines to pulling carts, acting on film and TV or just making someone’s life easier, our dogs are constantly working at something! 

    What jobs did we miss? Do you have any stories about your working dog? Tell us on our social media and post a picture of your working pup. 

    Looking for more about dogs with jobs? Check out our excellent hardcover book: 

    Dogs With Jobs: Working Dogs Around the World by Merrily Weisbord and Kim Kachanoff, D.V.M

    Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash