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Working Dogs


Dogs and More Dogs homepage

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Hunting Dog
Hunting may be the job that comes most naturally to dogs, as all dogs descend from that great hunter of the animal world, the wolf. Since our first association with dogs in the Stone Age, humans have trained dogs big and small to hunt nearly every animal on Earth. These range from Rhodesian ridgebacks bred to challenge lions in Africa, to dachshunds engineered to go after badgers in their narrow dens. Today, hunting with dogs is mostly a sport. Here, a spaniel stands beside recently retrieved pheasants in England.




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Land Mine Dog
A member of Thailand's Humanitarian Mine Action Unit uses a mine-detecting dog to search for land mines in a village east of Bangkok. Mine-detecting dogs are trained—against their instincts—to walk in straight lines while searching. They can usually smell things situated four inches underground, but they can be taught to smell objects at even greater depths. With their ultra-sensitive noses, dogs have proven among the most effective tools for mine detection and have helped to prevent thousands of injuries and deaths in war-torn countries around the world.




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Rescue Dog
A mountain patrol officer and a German shepherd practice rescue techniques in the French Alps. Officers here often conduct search-and-rescue operations in avalanche situations. Search-and-rescue dogs are trained to search out the odor given off by humans trapped beneath collapsed structures or natural debris. They alert their handlers by barking at the site where a victim lies, and, depending on how the dogs react to what they've found, handlers know from a distance whether the victim is alive or dead, even whether he or she is uninjured or severely injured.




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Sled Dog
Huskies tearing through the streets of Anchorage mark the annual start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a 1,049-mile trek across the Alaskan wilderness that combines human and canine athletic abilities. Although some native Alaskans in remote areas still drive sled-dog teams for transportation, most sled dogs are now used purely for sport. Mushers largely choose huskies to pull their sleds as they are the best pullers, having been bred to do so for thousands of years in the arctic.




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Truffle Dog
Trained hounds like this one in the Tuscany region of Italy have excellent noses for truffles. Today, hunters seeking the gourmet fungi usually use dogs to help locate their quarry, despite a long tradition of truffle pigs. Since truffles can bring over $600 per pound, dogs are a better bet than truffle-sniffing pigs, which tend to eat what they find.




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Acting Dog
As with human actors, fame among the canine variety can beget book deals. Here, Moose, the Jack Russell terrier who plays Eddie on the hit T.V. series "Frasier," promotes his book, My Life as a Dog. Trainers, hoping to groom the next Lassie or Rin Tin Tin, pluck at least half of all the dogs in the entertainment business (although not Moose) from animal shelters.




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Assistance Dog
Dogs who serve people in their everyday lives are called assistance dogs. Over just the past 75 years, people have trained dogs to perform numerous tasks to help people who are blind, deaf, or mobility-impaired. Guide dogs for the blind and service dogs for the mobility-impaired are usually golden retrievers, Labs, or German shepherds because of their strength, size, and receptiveness to training. Hearing dogs serving the deaf can be any kind of dog when given special training, even a tiny Yorkshire terrier.




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Herding Dog
Herding is a centuries-old canine occupation that has a long tradition in Great Britain, home to this collie and its herd of sheep. As with all working dogs, yet even more so with herders, these dogs must not only be good at their task, but they must easily develop a close collaborative friendship with their human bosses. They must also be undaunted by much larger animals that might kick or trample them if they're not vigilant. Bred for stamina, herding dogs work with their masters all day in the fields and take verbal orders from a distance.




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Drug Dog
No dog is genetically programmed to recognize the scent of narcotics, but any dog trained for detection work can learn to sniff for drugs. Dogs have at least 200,000 more olfactory receptors than humans do, so even substances we consider odorless can waft a powerful whiff toward a dog's nostrils. In the U.S., the Transportation Security Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, the F.B.I, and Customs officials all depend on dogs to locate an ever-increasing selection of illegal narcotics quickly and without bias.




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Termite Dog
Scent dogs trained from puppyhood can detect termites with their sensitive noses, as the insects give off telltale methane gas produced by microorganisms in their digestive tracts. This beagle is seeking pests in a house's insulated crawl space. Exterminators often credit their termite-hunting beagles and Labrador retrievers with locating infestations in areas of a house or building where there are no apparent signs of termites, a testament to the dogs' unique skill.




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