Dog may be called “man’s best friend,” but dogs can have many other jobs, too! We have already talked about military dogs, TSA and secret service dogs, police K-9s, hunting partners, and even celebrity and acting dogs, but the list goes on!
For example, October 1st was National Fire Pup Day, which honored firehouse dogs. When “firetrucks” were wagons, dogs helped clear the streets, calm horses, and protect firefighters’ belongings. With the arrival of engines, the dogs couldn’t keep up! Today’s fire pups serve as mascots, companions, and guard dogs, keeping the tradition alive in their new roles.
Dogs also come in handy on farms and ranches—specifically when it comes to corralling animals. Sheepdogs, cattle dogs, and collies are born herders. Intelligent and committed, they are known to herd more than sheep or cows, but even people gathered in separate rooms. Their endurance and work ethic keep them on their feet and gleefully working. They make great pets, but they need lots of mental stimulation and exercise to stay happy and healthy!
Last but not least are service dogs and emotional support animals. While these categories are often grouped together, they have very different roles and privileges. Service dogs for disabilities first started in the UK, where some of the first official schools trained dogs to support the deaf. Now, service dogs help the blind find their way, sense low blood sugar levels or imminent seizures, pick up hard-to-reach objects, operate light switches, keep an eye on people with PTSD, and more! There are many schools and programs that train dogs for different tasks and match them with those who need their assistance, like our friends at Helping Paws.
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are everywhere and can be any domesticated creature. There are legal guidelines and certification requirements to earn ESA status. According to the American Kennel Club, an ESA “needs to be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness” to qualify as an ESA (learn more here). ESAs do not have the same rights as service dogs, which are allowed in all public spaces. The United States Department of Justice updated their documents in 2010 to clarify the rights of ESAs. However, state laws vary and can give some ESAs more freedom. For Minnesota’s rules on ESAs and service dogs, visit https://mn.gov/mdhr/yourrights/what-is-protected/service-animals/.
The range of canine jobs is not only diverse, but astounding. With a little training and a lot of care, a dog can become a partner and helping paw, as well as a companion. Our own pets might not have the same smarts, but their affection makes our days brighter. Many thanks to all the organizations who train dogs for canine professions!