Modern Working Dogs

Over the past few blog posts, we’ve talked about the history of working dogs and even the career of one specific WWI hero. Today we’re going to talk about modern working dogs, briefly looking at some of the crucial jobs they do today. Then, in the future, we’ll look at these jobs in more detail.

Military K-9s: Dogs have become a day-to-day part of battalion life for many of the services. They are used for patrol/sentry duty, explosives detection, drug detection, finding fallen soldiers, and signaling enemy approach. They also fulfill an important role as therapy dogs.

Police K-9s: Most modern police dogs are trained for one task such as search-and-rescue, detection of explosives, drugs, arson, or electronics, patrol, and cadaver detection. A very few dogs cross-train; for example search-and-rescue dogs who also do tracking. Detection dogs (drug, arson, electronic, explosives, etc.) are generally trained in just a single odor category, but within this one area, they learn to recognize hundreds of related scents.

Search-and-Rescue (SAR) K-9s: Some of these dogs come from official groups (e.g., law enforcement), but many SAR teams are volunteers who are part of state or national SAR groups. SAR dogs are involved in finding anyone from lost children or hikers, to drowning victims, to victims of natural disasters or terrorist attacks. These dogs include those trained to air scent, as well as dedicated tracking dogs. More on that next week.

Therapy K-9s: Therapy dogs are selected based upon temperament, appearance, and aptitude. Some dogs are trained to be comfort animals for the elderly, the sick, victims of domestic violence, or for stressed-out university students—my own university has dogs brought in for this purpose during exams, and Ann has Kane,  a working therapy dog who visits an AIDS hospice, a domestic violence shelter, and an adult day care facility. Therapy dogs must be tolerant of other animals on-site—other therapy or service animals, pets, etc.—and be willing to endure touches or hugs from total strangers.

Service K-9s: Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for their owners and strangers. Cancer detection dogs in medical facilities can detect traces of cancer in patients long before diagnostic tests are accurate. Diabetes or epilepsy dogs are trained to detect low blood sugar levels or impending epileptic seizures so they can alert the owner or a caretaker to get help if the owner is unable to respond. Hearing assist service dogs are trained to alert owners to doorbells and ringing cell phones. PTSD dogs can recognize moments of stress in their owners and can often avert that reaction by their presence and “covering their 6”.

As you can see, these dogs are dedicated, incredibly smart, well-trained animals, who can make life and death decisions and real-time differences for their owners and the public on a daily basis. Next week, we’re going to start looking more at search-and-rescue teams, just like Meg Jennings and her black lab, Hawk, in our upcoming release LONE WOLF.

Speaking of LONE WOLF, our publishing house, Kensington, is very generously giving away 25 copies before LONE WOLF’s November 29th release. For your chance to enter the October 12 – 19th giveaway, follow the link here: Not a Goodreads member? Sign-up is easy and free! Good luck!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons and Ann Vanderlaan