For most of us, a dog is a beloved family member, and a pampered pet. We provide our canine companions with luxury dog beds, an abundance of squeaky toys, and the best pet food we can find. However, not all dogs live pampered lives in return for performing the occasional trick to impress the next door neighbour. Some dogs hold down full time jobs, using their strength, or their sense of smell, to earn their keep.
Here’s a quick look at some of the jobs that a well-trained dog might do:
Therapy dogs, or emotional support animals, are used to comfort people who are stressed, traumatized, or depressed. They are used to help the elderly in nursing homes, calm young people testifying in courts, and offer support to survivors of natural disasters. Some airlines allow emotional support animals to travel with their passengers, providing comfort for those who are scared of flying.
Dogs have been used by the military for many, many years, and some of them have even been awarded medals for their bravery. Today’s military dogs are highly trained, and are almost as well equipped as the humans they’re working with, being given bulletproof vests and high-tech cameras so that they can provide intelligence to their two-legged co-workers, whilst staying as safe as possible themselves.
Most of us are familiar with guide dogs for the blind, but there are lots of other service animals. People with epilepsy often have a service dog that will attempt to warn them of impending seizures, and fetch medication for their owner if a seizure occurs. There are also hearing dogs for the deaf, and dogs that are trained to help patients in wheelchairs, and fetch items for them.
Dogs can be professional athletes too! In Alaska, the Iditarod long-distance racing competition is a huge event, with entire villages turning out to watch the dogs (and the sled riders) pass through their village. Teams have avid supporters, and the breeders consider training and caring for their dogs to be a full-time job. Alaskan huskies are tough, strong, and have thick coats of fur, enabling them to survive in the difficult conditions of the Alaskan highlands.
Dogs have a far better sense of smell than humans do, and this makes them incredibly good at detecting illicit substances. Police train dogs to sniff out a range of things, including drugs and explosives. Dogs are also used in search and rescue missions, and customs officers use dogs to detect foreign produce that tourists might unwittingly (or dishonestly) try to bring into the country.
While this isn’t an official “job” yet, it could well be one in the future. German researchers have ran some small scale trials to see if dogs could detect lung cancer by sniffing a patient’s breath. The dogs had a 71% accuracy rate of detecting cancers, and a relatively low false positive rate too (just 7%). More testing is needed, but it’s entirely possible that we may see dogs used in the diagnostic process in the future.
Guest post written and contributed by dog lover Amy Fowler, on behalf of House of Paws, specialists in luxury dog beds and other cat and dog accessories.
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