No one here is going to argue that dogs aren't wonderful. We rely on them for love and companionship, and they deliver with unconditional enthusiasm. It's with this enthusiasm that they are often much more than just a family pet and friend. Their skills and intelligence make them perfect for a variety of service positions.
One of the most well known service jobs for dogs is in law enforcement. Dogs provide a great deal of useful skills that humans are simply not as naturally adept at. With intensive training, dogs can perform drug detection for a number of illegal substances, bomb and weapons detections, and defense and criminal apprehension. The most popular breed for law enforcement is the German Shepherd. This breed is highly intelligent and can learn and perform a variety of tasks, making them great general purpose service dogs. For more specific tasks like drug and explosive detection, Labradors, English springer spaniels, and other dogs with exceptional senses of smell are used.
Vision and Hearing Guide
Another well known service that dogs provide is as a guide for people who are blind or vision impaired. The first seeing eye dog in America was a dog named Budd. he was trained in Switzerland, and was brought to America by his owner Morris Frank. Frank said, "Buddy delivered to me the divine gift of freedom," and guide dogs have been doing that for their owners ever since. The most common dogs trained as guide dogs are Labrador Retrievers, because of their high success rate. Poodles have also been known to be trained for people with pet allergies.
Somewhat lesser known are dogs for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Hearing dogs alert household sounds to their owner, and help make their owners more aware of their surroundings out in public. There are no specific breeds for hearing dogs, and organizations likewww.dogsforthedeaf.org/ use shelter dogs for the added benefit of giving homeless dogs a second chance.
Medical Alert and Assistance
Dogs are extraordinary in their ability to sense and detect the most minute changes in the human body. This ability allows dogs to be trained to alert their owner of oncoming medical emergencies, such as seizures for people with epilepsy and dangerously low blood sugar in type 1 diabetics. While most medical alert dogs are trained, some everyday pets have exhibited the ability to naturally detect and warn their owners with no training at all.
People with anaphylactic allergies will be glad to know that dogs can be trained in allergy detection. These dogs can sniff out an allergen, such as peanuts, before their owner comes in contact with it, saving their owner from a life threatening situation.
Animal Assisted Therapy
Many other, and perhaps lesser known, categories of service can fit under Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) This is when interaction with a dog (or other animal) is beneficial mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally. Dogs with calm demeanors who love to be around people are picked to train as therapy dogs. These dogs are being used as therapy for veterans with PTSD, for children and adults with Autism, and people with psychiatric disorders. Volunteers with dogs who are AAT certified dogs will also participate in Animal Assisted Activities, such as visiting hospitals and nursing homes.
From therapy to law enforcement, dogs are truly one of the most versatile animals. Their intelligence and unconditional love make them suited to any number of services and activities, even if it's just as your pet cuddling with you at home.
By Mila Sanchez
Portland State University: Ultimate guide to canines k-9 in law enforcement
America Comes Alive: Buddy The First Seeing Eye Dog
Guide Dogs of America: Breeds and Matching Process
ABC News: Pet Dogs Detect Seizures Before They Happen
Allergen Detection Service Dogs
Social Work: University of New England: Social Work and Animal Assisted Therapy
ASHA.org: An SLP and Her Dog Make High School Fun Again
Boston Globe: When Reading Goes To The Dogs
About the Author
Mila Sanchez is a writer and animal lover living in Boise, ID. She has a BA in English Linguistics, and loves traveling, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax. She and Baymax can often be found hiking in the foothills near her town.