A Dog’s Best Friend—Working Dogs and Their Tools of the Trade

Dogs make wonderful pets because of their loyalty and enthusiasm. These qualities also make them great workers in the community beyond our homes. Get an inside look at the roles dogs have and what gear they and their handlers use to make their work successful.

Dog with harness and vest for visibility.

Service Dogs

This is the most common type of working dog. Service dogs are trained to help take care of people who have disabilities. This can include guide dogs for the blind or a dog who can provide mobility assistance. Common breeds of service dog include Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. They have temperaments naturally suited to being unflagging in any situation. You have probably seen service dogs wear special harnesses that tell you not to pet them. Sometimes the harnesses also have sturdy, metal handles attached to help with the owner’s mobility.

Military Working Dogs

Dogs in the military are essentially soldiers with furry coats. They are trained to detect bombs, scout within enemy territory, and perform search and rescue missions. German Shepherds and Dutch Shepherds often serve as military working dogs. These dogs are celebrated at home if they have completed particularly dangerous missions. The equiptment they wear must stand up to any and all conditions. This might include goggles to protect their eyes from dust and debris and special-made ear protection to protect their ears in combat zones.

Sled Dogs

Huskies and Malamutes are the most popular dogs for this job thanks to their plush coats that keep them warm in winter conditions. They work in teams to pull sleds across flat expanses of snow, typically for recreation or sport, but occasionally for transportation. They need specifically engineered harnesses to evenly disperse the weight they will carry. Some might even wear special dog gear such as booties to protect their sensitive paws from common ailments caused by snow.

Herding Dogs

If you have watched any type of dog show you’ve probably noticed that there is a specific herding category. These dogs have been bred to help herd sheep and cattle. A certain mix of “nature versus nurture” is also at work here. There is often a certain amount of training involved in addition to the dog’s natural instincts. Herding dogs do not wear a lot of equipment beyond a collar because they need to move quickly through pastures and fields. Common herding dog breeds include border collies and Icelandic sheepdogs.

Detection Dogs

Breeds that work as detection dogs must have an exceptional sense of smell. They are used at airports to sniff out explosives and illegal drugs. Law enforcement uses detection dogs when they are on the trail of a missing person or need to investigate a crime scene. Detection dogs also have more benign uses: they can help find truffle mushrooms. Beagles and Labrador Retrievers make good detection dogs.

Hunting Dogs

Breeds with a good sense of direction, smell, and a strong chase instinct are great dogs to take along as a hunting partner. Not only are they intuitive to train for activities like duck hunting, but you can also train dogs to corner small animals in trees or scare larger animals out into the open. Hunting dogs will likely be equipped with high-visibility gear to ensure they are safe from other hunters.


These are just a few help things our canine friends have been known to do for us humans, but there are lots of other jobs they might have—avalanche rescue, guard dogs, police dogs, racing greyhounds, trained acting dogs, therapy dogs—the list goes on. It is incredible how silly, clumsy puppies can grow up to protect and support us. They can perform a variety of tasks that are either out of our capabilities or even dangerous for humans to do.

Article written by Addy Reeds.
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