The term working dog is used broadly to describe a diverse group of domestic dogs used to perform specific tasks to assist humans in their work.
Working dog is also used to compare dogs bred for working ability with show dogs, breeds developed and maintained chiefly for their appearance. The terms is also used more narrowly to describe dogs in the working dog group, a category of dog breeds used by kennel clubs.
There is a wide range of jobs performed by dogs:
- Herding dogs - a large and important group comprising herding and livestock guardian breeds.
- Police dogs and Military dogs - canines trained and maintained by police or military units
- Hunting dog - another large group of historical significance, this includes gundogs of many types.
- Search and rescue dogs
- Assistance dogs
- Guard dogs (watchdog)
Working dogs as pets
Working dogs make excellent pets as long as potential owners realize that these dogs must be given 'work' to do. Dogs that are not to be used for their original purpose must be trained from a young age and are best suited to active persons and families. Obedience training, dog sports such as flyball, dancing and agility, informal or novelty shows, and trial work are all excellent channels for these breeds' energy. At the very least they must have daily walks or other exercise at an appropriate level for the breed, given toys, played with, and provided with human company.
Working dogs that are chained, left alone, or ignored become bored, vocal, and even neurotic; they may exhibit malaise, lethargy, destructive behaviour or attempt to escape. Working dogs inappropriately chosen as pets are often surrendered to shelters for these reasons.