Differences in Types of Working Dogs

Differences in Types of Working Dogs

Differences in Types of Working Dogs

Quick and eager to learn, a working dog is defined as type of dog who performs diverse tasks, to help humans with a specific need. Working dogs are typically intelligent, resilient, and alert. Though there are a multitude of different types of working dogs, this article will explain the most commonly confused three.


Service Dogs- Service dogs are trained to perform tasks, to mitigate an individual’s disabilities. Out of the three types of dogs discussed in this post, service dogs require the most training. Some different types of service dogs are- guide dogs, medical alert dogs, medical response dogs, and mobility dogs. Often, service dogs are attained through a program, but they are also occasionally owner trained. There are no breed-specific dogs, but the three most common service dogs are German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Poodles. Although there is no specific service dog certification the dog must achieve, they do need certifications such as the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC). Service dogs can have different trainers, but only one handler. The service dog is intended to complete tasks to help and soothe their disabled handler only, where as therapy dogs are intended to provide service and comfort for multiple different people. 

Therapy Dogs- These dogs often have a laid back, calming personality in order to soothe people in need of some animal therapy. Often, these dogs are found going to places of multiple people in need of a dog’s love and attention. Location examples include hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc. The breed of therapy dogs can vary from small to large breeds, although a relaxed state of mind and easy-going temperament are key to a canine becoming a therapy dog. Anyone can get their own dog trained to become a therapy dog, if the dog meets the requirements. Some helpful training certifications for the dog to undergo, to assure success are the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and AKC Urban CGC. Therapy dogs are allowed in public places, but only the places they are scheduled to “work” at to provide their therapy to others. Often, these dogs are meant to provide therapy to numerous different people, instead of just one person, such as an emotional support dog. 

Emotional Support Dogs- While not exactly a “working” dog, these dogs are often confused with service dogs and therapy dogs. An emotional support dog is a dog used by humans for one specific purpose- to provide emotional support and comfort to their owner in need. These dogs do not typically have any special training or knowledge of tasks, because their only intended task is to exist for the comfort of their owner! These dogs do not officially require training, but basic training is often helpful for any type of dog you own. There is no typical specific breed required for this type of dog, either. Emotional support dogs are not allowed in public, with the exception of some rental homes and airports- only when accompanied by special documentation from your doctor.

Working dog types not mentioned in this article include: 

  • Police K9s 

  • Detection dogs- such as bomb sniffing dogs

  • Search and rescue dogs

  • Herding dogs

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