Happy Labor Day! As we celebrate the contributions made by hard working citizens that have enabled the growth and prosperity of our nation, we cannot forget our four legged friends!

It is because of dogs that the human civilization was able to evolve from an early hunter and gather lifestyle to one of agriculture and farming. This led to more advancement, as our country became an industrialized, modern society. We couldn’t have done it without harnessing the working instinct and ability of domestic dogs. While Labor Day normally pays tribute to human workers, we must also pay tribute to the canines that have been working alongside man for thousands of years!

military working dog

Photo credit:US Army via Flickr

Despite our many technological advances, there are still an astounding number of important jobs and functions that dogs perform for us each and every day. While some of the jobs that dogs were originally bred to perform are not in high demand today, these traditional roles and working instincts are preserved and can be seen in dog sports and competitions.

Look to the list below to see some of the amazing services that the modern, domestic dog is employed for:

Primitive Roles

Border Collie herding sheep

Photo Credit: Scot Campbell via Flickr

Dogs have been performing these roles since their early days. While our modern society has diminished the need for these roles, many people still employ dogs for these purposes. You will also find dogs performing these tasks in under developed countries or civilizations.

  • Herding Dogs
  • Sled Dogs
  • Carting Dogs
  • Hunting Dogs
  • Guard Dogs
  • Watch Dogs

Search and Rescue Dogs

search and rescue dog

Photo Credit: Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres via Wikimedia Commons

Search and rescue dogs save lives everyday and are used in natural disasters, wilderness tracking, mass casualty events, and locating missing people. These dogs are trained to detect human scent.

  • Tracking dogs
  • Trailing dogs
  • Air scenting dogs
  • Water search/recovery dogs
  • Avalanche dogs
  • Disaster dogs

Detection Dogs

US Army detection dog

Photo credit:The U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons

Detection dogs, also called sniffer dogs, are trained to use their sense of smell to detect specific substances.

  • Drug or narcotic detection dogs
  • Explosives detection dog
  • Agricultural product (importation) detection dogs
  • Cash or currency detection dogs
  • Pest detection dogs (bed bugs, termites, etc.)
  • Truffle detection dogs
  • Firearm/gun/ammunition detection dogs
  • Chemical weapon detection dogs
  • Cadaver (human remains) detection dogs
  • Arson detector dog
  • Medical detection dogs (melanoma, etc.)
  • Search and rescue/missing person/tracking detection dogs
  • Wildlife detector dog
  • Airport/runway detection dogs

Military/ Police Dogs

military police dog

Kwinto, a military police dog with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Photo Credit: Lisa via Flickr

Dogs have a long history in warfare and were trained as scouts, sentries and trackers. Their uses continue to exist in modern military and police use today.

  • Detection dogs (locating booby traps, trip wires, explosives, narcotics, human remains, crime scene evidence, etc.)
  • Tracking dogs (locating enemies such as snipers, tracking suspects, etc.)
  • Police patrol dogs (chase suspects, guard them once caught, can respond viciously if handler is endangered, ride along in patrol cars)
  • Sentry dogs (defending camps or priority areas and alerting guards of a stranger’s presence)
  • Search and rescue dogs
  • Intimidation dogs (intimidating prisoners)

Service Dogs

guide dog

Guide dog Eevi – her pedigree has 13 generations of finnish guide-dogs . Photo credit: smerikal via Flickr

Service dogs are trained to perform tasks to alleviate their handlers’ disabilities. Service dogs work with their handlers as a team with the goal of helping them to stay safe and gain independence. The law also protects Service dogs and their handlers. They’re allowed to accompany their handlers in all public places regardless of any individual company or businesses rules. In addition, these dogs are not meant to be pet or given attention or affection by others when on duty.

  • Guide dogs
  • Hearing dogs
  • Mobility dogs (walker or balance dogs)
  • Psychiatric service dog (assists with psychiatric disability such as post traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia)
  • Medical alert/response dog (alerts and responds to oncoming medical conditions – seizures, diabetes, migraines, allergies, narcolepsy, etc.)
  • Autism service dog
  • Combo dogs (assist with combination of disabilities)

Therapy Dogs

therapy dog

Photo credit: Langley therapy dog via Wikimedia Commons

The responsibility of a therapy dog is to provide psychological or physiological therapy to their owners or other individuals. They typically have easy going and friendly personalities and often visit institutions like schools, hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and more. Opposite to service dogs, therapy dogs are encouraged to interact and socialize with people while on duty. Though these dogs are trained, they do not receive the same legal designation as service dogs and are often allowed entry in public places like schools and hospitals by permission on a case by case basis.

  • Comfort Dogs
  • Therapeutic Visitation Dogs
  • Animal Assisted Therapy D0g (typically works in rehabilitation facilities assisting physical and occupational therapists)
  • Facility Therapy Dog (often work in nursing homes and are trained by staff and live at a particular facility)

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals don’t normally undergo specialized training and are primarily used in a home setting. Their function is to provide owners with emotional comfort through companionship, affection, non-judgmental support, and a focus in life. These dogs also do not receive the same legal designation as service dogs but with one exception. The Fair Housing Act does allowed owners of emotional support animals to reside in housing facilities with a “No Pets” policy.

Let’s be thankful for the valued service of our hard working dogs! Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings on why we should also support the labor of man’s best friend. Feel free to shoot any additional jobs or roles I’m missing from this list in the comments. Have a great Labor Day!



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  • dog breeds

    Aww it’s so sweet to celebrate working dog in labor day :) It’s true that the dogs have contributed so much for human. These photos are very beautiful, especially the “search and rescue” one, makes me realize that dog is not only human’s friends, they are more than that, find and save people, find bomb, sacrifice for human… Love and respect!

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