Workin’ for a Livin’: Dogs With Interesting Jobs

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2013

My dogs do nothing to earn their keep…other than entertain me endlessly and adore me unconditionally. That’s a pretty important job, at least in my book.

But when I volunteered to do a post on working dogs, I thought it would be a snap. After all, doesn’t the American Kennel Club have an entire classification of “working dogs”? And what about dogs in other classes, like the Hounds or Herding classes, who come from a long line of workers?

I soon realized it would take dozens of posts to adequately cover all the things dogs do for us. They play roles with the military and police; they work as therapy and assistance dogs; and they still fulfill traditional roles as livestock herders and protectors, as sled dogs, and as hunting dogs.

But I’ve stumbled across some unique and different jobs, and I thought I’d highlight a few:

Bug busters: As communities report an increase in bed bug infestations, the war against the bloodsucking pests (who feed on humans!) has been taken on by a variety of canine soldiers. Specially-trained dogs are taught to sniff out the tiny bugs (in all life stages, as well as their fecal matter) which helps exterminators treat infested areas. By pinpointing where the bugs are, it helps eliminate the amount of pesticide that must be applied.  And bed bugs aren’t the only focus: there are also dogs that can pinpoint termite infestations. With these two types of sniffers on the trail, both you – and your house – can be pest free!

Go, go goose: For years, airfields, golf courses, public parks and other open spaces have encountered problems with proliferating numbers of the Canada goose. The geese are large, soil public areas with their droppings and, in the case of aircraft, can cause plane crashes. The solution: Border collies! These supremely intelligent, energetic herders are great at chasing off flocks of geese. The geese see the dogs as predators, yet the dogs, born to be herders, don’t attack or kill the geese. Best of all, unlike manmade attempts to drive off the geese, with noisemakers or fireworks, the geese never become desensitized to the presence of the dogs.

That’s entertainment!: Dogs have entertained humans for hundreds of years. Perhaps the first domesticated canines played “fetch” with early man, or learned to sit up and beg. Whatever the case, today dogs continue to entertain us in a number of venues, from starring on TV shows and movies, to serving as models in print and TV advertisements. (A well-known baked bean company has a “talking dog” as its mascot!) Today, a rescue from a shelter now is one of the stars of Annie, the Musical, now on Broadway.

Conservation and the environment:  Believe it or not, a unique organization called Working Dogs for Conservation is continuing to successfully use dogs and their handlers on a variety of conservation projects. These elite teams are tracking down environmental invaders ranging from contaminants (such as heavy metals or pharmaceuticals) to invasive plants and animals. For example, the dogs are currently at work helping to control Dyer’s woad, a noxious and invasive plant species, in Montana. The dogs are so good that they can sniff out pre-emergent plants and root remnants, allowing humans the chance to hand pull the plant from 400 acre area on Mount Sentinel. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for these talented canines.

That working relationship with humans, forged thousands of years ago, continues today. Best of all, they never require a raise, and their “bonuses” often are just toys or treats. What a deal!

-Photo Caption: Border collies are used to keep geese off of critical areas, such as airfields and public parks.

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