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A Guide to Working Dogs: Their Roles and Training

Working dogs are not just companions. They perform essential tasks like search and rescue, guiding, and law enforcement. Learn more about the different types of working dogs and their training.

Working and rescue dogs are much more than faithful companions to have by your side at all times: they perform essential tasks and must undergo special training.

Working dogs. What’s the difference between working dogs and rescue dogs? Some are much more than faithful companions to always have by one’s side. Some dogs perform essential tasks and, to do so, must undergo special training.

Rescue dogs

Rescue dogs make wonderful companions and can bring so much joy to your life.
Labrador Retrievers are known for being friendly, intelligent, and easy to train. They are also very good with children.

Rescue dogs are also known as ‘search dogs‘. They are trained to serve in various situations and must have passed a specific examination. Avalanche and disaster dogs are well known; the latter are responsible for searching for survivors among the rubble.

Other examples are dogs used for searches in large areas and water rescue dogs, which can track down missing persons in rivers or other bodies of water.

Rescue dogs always work with a specialised guide and can work together in multi-dog teams. They are common household dogs: dog and owner are trained together for use in emergencies. Training usually takes two to three years and involves passing several examinations.

Guide dogs

Guide dogs belong to the category of ‘assistance dogs‘. They are dogs that facilitate the mobility of blind or visually impaired people: for those who are visually impaired or cannot see, finding their way around a familiar environment can be very difficult. In these cases, guide dogs intervene, ready to accompany their owners daily.

A guide dog is usually trained for specific cases; training can last six to nine months, depending on the training centre. At the end of this course, the future owner must also complete a three- or four-week course so that the dog and the person can familiarise themselves and get to know and trust each other. Finally, the two will have to pass a couple of tests, where they have to prove that they have become a “team.

Medical alert dogs

Medical alert dogs also belong to the group of ‘assistance dogs‘. They include, for example, diabetic alert dogs that can detect blood sugar fluctuations. Studies have shown that dogs react when they notice reduced oxygen saturation in the blood and can see this thanks to their sensitive ears, which can sense any change in breathing. At the Cancer and Bio-Detection Dogs research centre in Aylesbury, southern England, animal trainers put this discovery into practice and honed the dogs’ innate abilities.

Should blood glucose drop to critical levels, the dog warns its owner in time, who can take remedial action by taking glucose or other types of sugar. The assistance dog can also signal cases of hyperglycaemia so that, if necessary, the owner can resort to insulin injection in time to avoid a crisis.

Other diseases for which medical alert dogs are used are epilepsy and asthma. The duration of training is variable and depends on the organisation providing it and the type of assistance the dog is to provide.

Police dogs

Search and rescue dog looking for a victim in a rubble area during training.
PDs dogs Taff, Flo and Chloe have passed their initial drugs firearms search course. CREDIT: GMP Tactical Dog Unit.

The State Police also uses the help of our four-legged friends. Police dogs follow precise tracks, detect evidence, explosives, drugs or other people, and defend police officers.

However, not all dogs are suitable for service in the police force: on average, one dog in a hundred is employed.

Suitable dogs must then undergo special training and live in close contact with the police officer, who will guide them on duty. The dog can be trained for one year; subsequent training lasts one to two years.

Dogs on duty at customs

Like police dogs, dogs on duty at customs belong to the “dogs in the service of state organisations“. They support the work of customs officers and can detect products that cannot cross national borders, such as smuggled drugs or cigarettes.

These working dogs are employed with a guide and trained in special schools. A relationship is then established between the dog and the companion that binds them in their working and private lives. Training lasts between 12 and 18 months.

Shepherd and flock protection dogs.

Shepherd dogs lead flocks or herd animals, such as sheep or cows. Their task is to keep the flock or herd together because the individual animal is safe from external threats within the group, such as predators like bears or wolves.

Dogs capable of repelling these attacks are known as ‘herd protection dogs‘. However, simple shepherd dogs that are small and agile are less suitable for herd or flock defence. Some dogs can perform both tasks: the animals in this field live alongside the shepherd or breeder.

For this purpose, there are various seminars where breeders can learn all the technical skills necessary to train dogs according to their needs.

Guard dogs

Differences between working and rescue dogs.
Guard dogs perform their task without necessarily having someone with them.

Guard dogs are working dogs that guard a specific territory, which can be a house, a plot of land or even a pasture with animals. The area they protect is usually fenced off, and the presence of intruders is signalled by barking or defending the territory with a direct attack. Guard dogs carry out their task alone, without necessarily having humans with them.

This is why their intervention should essentially have an intimidating function against unauthorised intruders, barking and signalling their presence in the territory. For these working dogs, training is not regulated everywhere in the same way. It is, however, important that a professional trainer supervises the dog and owner together.

In England, training dogs privately or having qualifications is not forbidden. Still, as a prospective client, I feel that capabilities go a long way to reassure your clients about what you know, what you are doing, or what your past experiences are.

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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