From the police force to the sheep pasture, from assisting the blind to assisting the elderly, dogs get put to work in countless capacities. A lot of these jobs you’ve probably heard of, but some of the jobs dogs perform are a little more unique. Check out these five cool jobs that dogs do everyday!
- Truffle Sniffing
Truffles are a fungus that grows under ground and are highly prized by chefs and other members of the culinary world. They are also extremely difficult to find, and as a result can cost between $800 and $1200 per pound! So how can a chef who wants to capture that earthy flavor find enough truffles to satisfy their needs? The answer is a dog with a great nose!
And not just any dog. The Lagotto Romagnolo is one of the newest breeds recognized by the AKC, and has been specifically bred to sniff out the rare truffles. The high demand for truffles keeps these dogs in business. And the job itself rewards the pups for doing what they do best – sniffing!
A company in California called the Truffle Dog Company is a booming business dedicated to finding truffles using the talents of dogs, and also teaching others how to train their dogs in truffle detection. The organization does not exclusively use Lagotto Romagnolos, but has proved that dogs as a species work better than the European method of using pigs to detect truffles. And now with this locally sourced method of harvesting, truffles are only a sniff away!
- Baseball Aquatic Retrieving Korps
Pacific Bell Park, the official baseball stadium for the San Francisco Giants is located right next to the bay. When a player hits a home run, the balls often end up right in the water. These hits that sail over the 450-foot wall that blocks the bay have become affectionately known as “Splash Hits.” But without someone to retrieve them, the bay would be littered with baseballs.
That’s where the Baseball Aquatic Retrieving Korps comes in! B.A.R.K. is a team of six Portuguese water dogs that began retrieving baseballs out of San Francisco Bay in the summer of 2000. The idea came from comedian Don Novello who approached the Giants with the idea in 1996. And the idea took off! Baseballs that were retrieved by these dogs were worth a lot of money. After the baseballs are auctioned off, the proceeds were all donated to Pets in Need, a local animal shelter.
Unfortunately, after a few years of dogs swimming for baseballs, the program had to shut down due to safety concerns. Competition from other boaters became too much for the dogs to handle. But we are still holding out hope that they will resurrect this fun addition to America’s favorite pastime!
- Scat Hunters
Yes, these dogs and their handlers are on a mission to sniff out feces – but for a noble cause! The Center for Conservation Biology sends out dog and handler teams into remote areas to track and locate animal scat. The teams live in the wilderness for weeks at a time, collecting as many samples in as wide an area as possible. The samples are then sent back to a lab for testing.
So what exactly can you learn from a bunch of poop? According to the Center for Conservation Biology, a scat sample can provide information on “a wide variety of genetic, physiological, toxicological and dietary indicators…These indicators enable us to ascertain species abundance, distribution, resource use, and physiological health all in relation to the environmental pressure(s) the species is encountering.” In short, the information provided from scat can help to preserve and protect a species, answering any questions a landowner or national park may have about any animals living on the land.
The dogs used for these jobs have all come from rescue organizations. When choosing a dog who will be suited for the job, dogs who are high energy and highly driven are sought out. Dogs who hunt for scat need to be focused on only that single thing. And they also need to love their tennis ball – which is their reward for a job well done!
- Cancer Detection
If you weren’t already convinced of the incredible abilities of working dogs, try this one on for size. Dogs are now being trained to sniff out the presence of cancer in the human body. As if that weren’t enough, these dogs can often detect cancer better than some lab tests! The InSitu Foundation has been working for years to develop a highly scientific training program for dogs to learn cancer detection.
Each dog typically trains for 6 to 8 months, sniffing over 300 samples during that time. These are healthy samples, cancerous samples, or disease control samples. Dogs sniff samples of breath, urine, saliva, and plasma, but never an actual person during their training. When a dog can tell the difference between a cancer cell and a healthy cell, they are rewarded. The goal is to teach the dog how to smell the general scent of cancer in many different sample types.
Early detection of cancer can save lives, and the InSitu Foundation’s goal is to use highly trained dogs to do that. And the dogs love it! With treats, petting, toys, and plenty of love as a reward, who wouldn’t want to go to work every day?
- Cat Rescue
This one is bit more unusual. So unusual that the title of “Cat Rescuer” has only ever been bestowed upon one little Schnauzer mix named Ginny.
Ginny was a rescue dog herself, found abandoned with three puppies in a closet. She and her puppies healed quickly at the shelter they were brought to, and could then be adopted out. A man named Phillip Gonzales arrived at the rescue organization one day looking for a companion dog. He was suffering from depression and was seeking a friend. Though Ginny was not his first choice, they soon formed a bond.
It all started with one fateful walk. During the walk Ginny ran towards a pipe and immediately began to paw at it. Gonzalez realized that inside were five stray kittens. Ginny’s rescue mission had begun.
The little mix breed proved to have a knack for finding lost cats and kittens, and a truly nurturing presence for the felines. Over the course of her life, she and Gonzalez rescued almost 1,000 cats together. Gonzalez took care of many of them in his own home and worked with local shelters to ensure they were adopted. Though Ginny is no longer with us to rescue cats and kittens, perhaps one day another little dog will take up her legacy.
Know any other cool dog jobs we missed? Share them with us!