Jobs for Dogs: 10 Positions Dogs Can Put On Their Resumes

Dogs aren’t just our cute and playful companions. They’re also so sharp they could have their own resumes. Packed with skills like strong sniffers, a protective nature, and a quick learning ability, dogs have long served in a variety of vocations. Here are just a few of them.

Search and Rescue

Search and rescue helicopter

Dogs have an impressive sense of smell, anywhere between 1,000 and 100,000 better than ours, depending on who you ask. With this skill, along with very sensitive hearing, they’re reliable search and rescue partners. They work with police departments and other rescue organizations to find and help missing people. They can either do this through air-scenting, where they search for different smells in the air around them, or through trailing, which involves memorizing a person’s scent from an item that still carries it. Breeds often used in this line of work include Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and border collies.


Their unparalleled sniffers also come in handy for detecting jobs. Dogs can be used to find a wide variety of items, including drugs, firearms, explosives, electronic devices, live people, and cadavers. Their sniffing skills also extend to medical conditions. Dogs have been shown to detect common cancers, as well as infectious diseases like COVID-19. In fact, in one study, dogs were able to accurately pick out 97% of participants who were COVID-positive using just a person’s sweat. Their success didn’t differ between symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, either. Good breeds for tasks like these include Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, spaniels, and beagles.


Guide dog helps visually impaired man

Dogs are also good partners for people with certain conditions who could use a helping hand, or paw. They’ve long been used as service animals for people with visual impairment, hearing issues, or mobility struggles. They can also be trained as medical dogs who sense when a person with diabetes has low blood sugar, when a seizure is on its way, or when someone with serious allergies is in the vicinity of an allergen. Common breeds in this vocation include poodles, collies, golden retrievers, and Labrador retrievers.


While dogs can be of immediate help to the safety of people with physical health issues, they can also provide a mental health boost as therapy animals. Therapy animals are used in settings like senior homes, hospitals, prisons, and schools from pre-k all the way through college. Research has shown that interacting with dogs can help reduce stress, increase levels of the happy hormone oxytocin, improve social development and support, and ease anxiety. While some breeds are more apt to take on the role of therapy dog, any breed can do so. A dog just needs to be calm, friendly, and obedient.

Truffle Hunting

Lagotto Romagnolo in the forest

Dogs enjoy their treats, but they also help humans find one of our favorites. Truffles, a delectable ingredient prized by chefs and often quite pricey, are a fungi that grows under the ground. In the past, pigs were used to dig them out. However, they like some human treats, too, and were liable to gobble some of those truffles up. That’s where the Lagotto Romagnolo came in. This breed has become especially adept at truffle scavenger hunts and is less apt to try to eat them immediately upon location. Other dogs can be trained to do so, as well, but Lagotti are the kings.

Killer Whale Watching

A key ally in the fight to save threatened wildlife? Dogs! The University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology has trained dogs to detect the scat of killer whales. Their ability to find orcas is so fine-tuned that they’re said to be able to tell they’re around from up to a mile away. This comes in handy for research on the Southern Resident Population of orcas in Washington’s Salish Sea, which are endangered. The pups’ motivation may not just be for love of wildlife, though; they’re rewarded with lots of ball play time.

Milk Men… Er, Dogs

Dogs may be known to chase a mail man or two in their lifetimes, but they wouldn’t be as apt to chase a milk man. That’s because they used to be one! It was once common for dogs to pull carts of milk into town for farmers as they sold their stash at the market. You’d be especially apt to find this in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Probably a good trick, too. Dogs are irresistible salesmen.


Dalmatian sits outside

Dalmatians are known for hanging out in groups of 101 and also as unofficial firefighting mascots. They aren’t just a symbol of the trade, though. They used to work in it! The breed – among those with the highest energy levels – used to run alongside carriages to protect people and whatever was onboard. This skill was later transferred to fire carriages. Though they’re not needed in such a capacity these days, the breed is still embraced by firefighters.

Koala Rescuing

During the destructive bushfires in Australia between 2019 and 2020, it’s estimated that 3 billion animals were impacted. That includes thousands of koalas, endangered Australian icons. However, many koalas got a helping paw, thanks to a dog named Bear from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. He’d been trained to find the marsupials through the scent of their fur. This superhero ultimately rescued more than 100 koalas in the aftermath of the fires.


Labrador retriever lifeguard

Newfoundland dogs are known to be adept at water rescues, stemming from their past as working dogs with sailors. They’ve been used specifically as lifeguards, too, far beyond their Canadian home, but other pups have also joined the ranks. Many of them have been trained by the Italian School of Rescue Dogs, or Scuola Italiana Cani Salvataggio. Through this institution, volunteer dogs learn how to rescue people on the water. They’re estimated to save 20 to 30 lives each year.

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