We all know there are working dogs but if we would ask you to list what jobs they can do, most of us would be stuck after guide dogs, drug sniffing dogs and police dogs.
But there are a whole lot more that a human’s best friend can be trained to do.
By Ene Sepp.
Ene has worked at ski resorts in Estonia and New Zealand. Currently she works as a ski patroller in Colorado and although she does not have an avy dog, she loves to help with the training and be around the pups! You can follow her on goodreads.
This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission from qualifying purchases made through these links. This is at no extra cost to you.
What can service dogs be trained to do?
Medical support dogs are well known and a big number of people are used to see guide dogs for visually impaired people.
But it does not stop there! Dogs can be trained to do a lot more than that.
Allergen alert dogs – is your food dangerous to you?
If allergy causes a runny nose and some rash, you probably will not need a specially trained allergy detection dog.
But for people who can go into anaphylactic shock after touching a tiny amount of the allergen, well trained dog can really be the difference between life and death.
Dogs can recognize and notify even the smallest traces of allergen:
Being capable of alerting in the case when there is no info on the package or when there is cross-contamination is extremely important.
Allergy response dogs are especially helpful for children and teenagers who might want the independence, but who are still learning to make better decisions regarding their health.
Seizure alert dogs
Seizure alert dogs can be divided into two groups.
Let’s first look at seizure alert dogs. Their task is to notify of the seizure before it even happens.
Dogs cannot stop the oncoming seizure, but they can prepare the handler.
It might mean even something as simple as getting them to sit down, so one does not get hurt falling.
Tasks for a seizure response dogs can include activating an emergency response, bringing needed medication or alert a person who can help.
On top of that, they can remove their handler from a dangerous situation.
After a seizure person is often confused and disoriented, having their service dog there, can make a huge difference.
Blood sugar alert dogs
We all know dogs have an amazing ability to detect scents. Diabetic alert dog is trained to alert when they detect a very specific scent from a person’s odor that comes with rapid change or overall low or high blood sugar levels. After all, it is a chemical change that can be tracked!
After receiving the alert, the handler can take the next step that might be eating sugary foods or taking insulin.
Although there are technological solutions that can help with keeping a constant eye on one’s blood sugar level, they might not always be the best choice.
Unlike technology, if blood sugar levels do reach critical numbers, the dog can fetch assistance.
Mobility assistance dog is an everyday helper
Mobility assistance dog can provide support for balance, giving the person more freedom to move around.
They can also help with opening or closing doors, pushing buttons, operating light switches, picking up dropped items, carrying bags, retrieve variety of items and so on.
That kind of assistance is extremely helpful for people who are wheelchair dependent, who have arthritis, cerebral palsy, or anything else that affects their mobility.
Having a mobility assistance dog means more independence and freedom for someone who would otherwise need to rely on another person.
Psychiatric assistance dogs are up and coming support
With psychiatric issues becoming more and more recognized, there is more need to support the people with those issues.
Psychiatric assistance dogs are used when diagnosed with PTSD, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and more.
They offer aid in various ways:
- Disrupt self-harming behavior
- De-escalate a situation
- Guide the person away from problematic situation
- Provide pressure therapy
- Remind to take medication
- Cuddle during a medical episode
You can notice more and more autism support dogs, especially for children with autism.
They provide companionship, comfort, can interrupt harmful behavior, alert parents, or other supervisors about worrisome changes and even help the person avoid dangerous situations.
What do dogs do for humans and other animals?
With above mentioned jobs, a dog is trained to help one specific person and a true companionship is formed.
And then there are dogs that are trained to help whoever is in need, whether that be a person or another animal!
Dogs that find you wherever you are
Dogs working in search and rescue can be trained for almost anything!
There are dogs that locate people buried by an avalanche and dogs that help to find people lost in the woods. But that is not all.
For example, some search and rescue dogs in Colombia are trained to skydive from helicopter to access even the most remote areas. Or cadaver detection dogs who locate the scent of a decomposing body.
Although grim, I can see how this skill is extremely useful in criminal investigation and disaster situations.
Beside working on the land, cadaver detection dogs can be trained to detect scent of the submerged body by just sniffing while boat takes the dog and handler across the water.
Not a task for every human nor dog, but the right team can really change the outcome of several difficult situations.
Let’s move to the world of snow. Beautiful as it is, a lot of snow might come with avalanches.
Getting struck by an avalanche is material for nightmares.
While luckily, I have never been caught in a real avalanche, I have participated in countless trainings that did include being buried and saved.
It does take a lot of training for a dog to reach to the point where they can be deployed to a mission wherever needed.
Everything starts with simple games like “finding” a person barely hidden 10 meters away.
With time and skilled guidance, the dog will learn how to find a person completely buried under a thick layer of snow on sites covering several hectares.
Instead of hunting birds, dogs can save the birds!
Would you guess dogs can help to save wildlife?
New Zealand is well known for its number of birds that don’t fly and nest on the ground.
During the time I spent there, I absolutely loved learning more about the birds you can find nowhere else! Some knowledge though surprised and devasted me.
Humans are responsible for bringing in small predators like stoats, weasels, and ferrets who kill a lot of those birds, including the famous kiwi bird.
There are more than 80 conservation dogs, trained to focus on the target predators while ignoring other animals and the birds they are protecting.
In USA it’s not uncommon to find more than 10 dogs working for the airport and no, not sniffing out forbidden items!
Their job is to chase away animals like rodents and birds that might block the runways.
Sounds like it’s not needed?
You would be surprised to find out how often flights are disturbed or delayed because of the animals refusing to leave the runway.
Endangered sea-turtles need extra help
Disney Conservation Team hires a dog to save sea-turtles!
Sea-turtles come to beach to lay eggs, those nests lure in birds and small predators that eat eggs. Another issue is people who might step on the nest by accident.
After locating the nest, it can be protected.
It can be covered with bird and predator proof net and be roped off, so no one steps in it.
Yes, humans can also locate the nests, but it takes more than half an hour per nest!
For a trained dog, it’s more like half a minute! Protected nests help to increase the likelihood of the little endangered sea turtles surviving and I am forever grateful for the people and dogs that put the work in!
Hunting the fungi!
One of the most unique jobs is hunting for – truffles! Fungi that is so valued in the gastronomic world, but can be hard to find as truffles grow underground.
You might have heard of pigs that look for truffles, but did you know pigs also love to eat truffles! That obviously caused problems.
And so, Lagotto Romagnolo was bred! Now truffles can be found with the help of a dog that has no interest in eating the valuable fungi!
While you can also train other dog breeds to find truffles, Lagotto Romagnolo is the only one bred for that specific purpose.
Deliver milk and everything else
Everyone knows of sled dogs that pull humans and goods along icy and snowy terrain. Surprise, there are also dogs that pull small carts of milk!
Yes, it was a lot more popular back in time but even now, you can find dog-drawn milk carts in France and Belgium.
Although more of a novelty, dogs still do the work.
They can pull other small carts as well – filled with food items to take to the market or kids who enjoy a joy ride in their tiny carriage.
Photo by Phil.