We all know smart, friendly breeds like Labs and Golden Retrievers who work as assistance dogs, but our four-legged friends around the world are capable of many amazing tasks.
Here are seven dog breeds that were originally bred for one purpose and are now enjoying an entirely new role.
The Cocker Spaniel is said to have originated as a hunting and hunting dog in the Middle Ages. In England, this species of spaniel became known as the cocker because it was primarily used to hunt woodcock.
The breed’s ability to detect smells, along with their friendly temperament and enthusiasm for learning, have made them a versatile working dog in the modern world.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has a six-year-old cocker named Asher who helps identify Covid.
The Covid-19 infection has a distinct odor that Asher and his canine colleagues have learned to sniff out. While the research is still ongoing, it is hoped that Asher and friends will soon be used in airports and other major venues across the UK and internationally.
A dog used to detect Covid will be able to screen 250 people per hour and this non-invasive technique will surely shorten the queues.
The lovable beagle is a scented dog and was bred to hunt small game such as hares and hares. Now the beagle’s highly developed nose is used to save endangered species.
In Florida, conservationists who work at Disney World Resort employ a beagle named Captain Ron to track down the nests of rare sea turtles.
To the untrained eye, a sea turtle nest looks like a small pile of sand – and looking for a pile of sand on the beach is like looking for a needle in a haystack! But with the help of Captain Ron, this task, which would normally take a trained conservationist half an hour per nest, now only takes 30 seconds.
The beagle is able to sniff the mucus that surrounds the buried eggs so that the handler can mark the nesting sites for conservation.
Bred to aid fishermen in the wild, rugged landscapes of the northeastern Canadian provinces, Newfoundland dogs were valued for their strength.
In the past, these gentle giants helped haul in the catch and led fishing boats to shore in rough weather. Today, their thick, water-repellent fur, together with their lightness in the water, make them ideal candidates for the lifeguard.
The Italian School for Water Rescue Dogs trains your dog – as long as he weighs more than 30 kg and enjoys the water – in search and rescue techniques that have been refined in cooperation with the Italian Coast Guard and the Air Force.
Trained Newfoundland dogs are able to bring an inflatable boat with four or more passengers to safety. The dogs are also trained to jump from helicopters to rescue bathers fighting in the water. Dogs that successfully complete the course become volunteers on the beaches of Italy. So watch out for this “paw patrol” on your vacation!
This intelligent dog was bred to herd sheep and cattle on the Anglo-Scottish border, and most ranchers still work with border collies today. Collie is believed to mean “useful,” and this smart, versatile dog continues to prove its worth in multiple disciplines.
Border collies were used as messengers and to locate wounded soldiers in war. More recently, they have been trained to detect cancer, and a very special dog, Piper, was hired at an airport in Traverse, Michigan, to scare birds off the runway.
Bird strikes on aircraft can be dangerous, especially if a large bird like a seagull, owl, or crow is sucked into the engine, but even small damage from impact can be costly and require the aircraft to lie on the ground for hours while it undergoes security checks . In his three years as a K9 Wildlife Control Officer in Michigan, Piper hunted an incredible 8,637 birds.
The Belgian Malinois, or Belgian Shepherd Dog, was originally bred as a herding dog for farm animals, but more recently its loyalty, strength, and intelligence have led to more specialized roles in police and military around the world.
These intelligent dogs are known to track down drugs and bombs, and to bring down criminals. In Colombia, the air force trained a unit of Belgian Malinois to fly with their guides in tandem parachutes into the inhospitable terrain of the Andes.
The more playful the puppy, the better it will be as a tracker. These sensitive noses can even recognize different types of currencies!
Slender, elegant Weimaraners were once used as hunting dogs that hunted big game such as deer and wild boar, but today a particular dog has traded nature for high culture. Riley the Museum Dog works for the Boston Museum of Fine Art, where he is trained to protect works of art not from opportunistic thieves but from another threat – insects.
Moths and beetles can cause terrible, hidden damage to priceless paintings, textiles, sculptures and books, especially in the larval stages of their life cycle. Riley is trained to spot the crawfish before they start nibbling on a Monet or chewing on a Caravaggio.
It is to be hoped that in the future, other museums will also hire art-loving dogs to protect their collections. For now, Riley can also be seen in a book about his adventures.
A status symbol in Regency Britain – the more seats the better – the Dalmatian was bred to be a watchdog. Known as a carriage dog, it has been trained to run next to its owner’s vehicle to chase away highwaymen and other threats.
He patrolled the stables at night and this close bond with horses led to the breed being used by firefighters in New York in the 19th century.
The dogs ran ahead of the horse-drawn fire engine to clear the path and held back onlookers while the firefighters fought the fire. It is believed that the presence of the Dalmatians helped keep the horses calm while flames raged nearby.
Even today, fire stations in the United States employ a Dalmatian as a mascot or to support fire safety awareness in the community.