What is a working dog?

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Postby SKoth » June 12th, 2006, 10:54 am

After a discussion on another forum, I'd really like to hear your opinions on what you define as a "working" dog.

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(Sorry if this has been discussed before, I couldn't find it.)
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Postby mnp13 » June 12th, 2006, 11:38 am

I think a "working dog" is any dog that has a job.

Therapy is work, as is security, helper dogs, and protection.

I think "sport" dogs blur the lines but by and large I don't consider "sport" dogs to be working dogs. Sport can test training and indicate a dog's abilities and training but that does not mean the dog "works"
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Postby JCleve86 » June 12th, 2006, 11:49 am

That, and by definition, work is providing a service for someone/something. Weight pull then, is NOT work...unless the wieght the dog is pulling is a plow or some such business. lol I don't really consider bite sport work either, unless the dog IS actually a guard, PP, or police dog (or some other kind of actual applied work utilizing those skills), and even then, the bite "sport" part is just training...not work.

Even though I commonly say, when giving the typical "this is a responsible breeder" speech, that I require "working" titles, referring to weight pull, agility, etc. At the same time, I don't really consider those real "work" for the above reason...it's just a manner of speaking I suppose.

This is where I and most "game" dog people differ, as I don't consider game dogs working dogs...as, by my own definitions, winning a fight (or losing, either way proving themselves game) isn't really providing a service to anyone or anything. Sure, it might require all of the things a true working dog would need (perserverance, ability to think quickly, strength, etc etc etc), but fighting is not benefitting anyone, and therefore it's not work. And while we're at it, I don't consider dogs bred down from game lines kept on chains all day working dogs either...you've got to DO something, provide a service, to be considered working...otherwise your just a dog on a chain whose ancestors once did something praise worthy (but again, not work).
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Postby mnp13 » June 12th, 2006, 11:51 am

I consider weight pull a performance title, not a working title. Agility, OB, fly ball, dock diving, etc are all performance as well. They prove athletic ability and trainability.
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Postby JCleve86 » June 12th, 2006, 11:54 am

mnp13 wrote:I consider weight pull a performance title, not a working title. Agility, OB, fly ball, dock diving, etc are all performance as well. They prove athletic ability and trainability.


Agreed.
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Postby dogcrazyjen » June 12th, 2006, 12:10 pm

I don't think I would consider all therapy dogs working dogs either. Those who are seeing eye dogs and hearing dogs- yes, but those who just visit a nursing home or school once a week- no.

How about hunting dogs? Those who actually hunt are working dogs, and those who just compete but do not do live hunts are not?

Terrier trials, are they now all performance titles, since terrier hunting is not done?

Same with sighthounds?

So to be a working dog depends on the value of the job to humans, not on the dog or the job itself?
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Postby JCleve86 » June 12th, 2006, 12:16 pm

dogcrazyjen wrote:So to be a working dog depends on the value of the job to humans, not on the dog or the job itself?


Pretty much, yeah. :|

I think to the dog it might not make a difference, but work is to benefit someone...compared to people, a "canned hunt" does not a hunter make...nor do set up trials, etc. Unless the dog is providing a useable service he's not "working" by definition. (ACTUAL hunting I would consider working, BTW).

I would consider therapy dogs workings dogs as they are providing a service...they are comforting old folks, kids stuck in hospitals, etc. etc. etc. It might not be as intense as say a police dog's work, but by definition, it's still working IMO.
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Postby mnp13 » June 12th, 2006, 12:47 pm

dogcrazyjen wrote:I don't think I would consider all therapy dogs working dogs either. Those who are seeing eye dogs and hearing dogs- yes, but those who just visit a nursing home or school once a week- no.


Why not?

dogcrazyjen wrote:How about hunting dogs? Those who actually hunt are working dogs, and those who just compete but do not do live hunts are not?

Canned hunts, hunting trials, no. Live hunts, yes.

dogcrazyjen wrote:Terrier trials, are they now all performance titles, since terrier hunting is not done?

Terrier hunting is not done? There are plenty of working terriers out there. Megan's dog JJ hunts rats and squrrils. That is work - he keeps the area free of vermin. People use terriers to go to ground after animals, and there are more than a few terrier clubs that will kick you out if you join the AKC because the show ring is destroying working lines.

dogcrazyjen wrote:Same with sighthounds?

racing is performance, hunting rabbits is work.

dogcrazyjen wrote:So to be a working dog depends on the value of the job to humans, not on the dog or the job itself?

Yes. Work is defined by humans, not dogs.
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Postby SKoth » June 12th, 2006, 1:31 pm

So I guess it all depends on how we define "work" then.

For the sake of this discussion The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines work as:
1 : activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something: a : sustained physical or mental effort to overcome obstacles and achieve an objective or result b : the labor, task, or duty that is one's accustomed means of livelihood c : a specific task, duty, function, or assignment often being a part or phase of some larger activity


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Postby SKoth » June 12th, 2006, 1:35 pm

dogcrazyjen wrote:
So to be a working dog depends on the value of the job to humans, not on the dog or the job itself?


That's a key point to me. What would the difference be to a border collie if he were herding on the farm or herding under a judge? Would the activity change for him or change his state of mind?

In my mind working for dogs cannot be determined by whether or not we consider the work to be for a job or a trial unless it's a distinctly different preformance for the dog.

Interesting discussion.

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Postby SisMorphine » June 12th, 2006, 1:46 pm

mnp13 wrote:
dogcrazyjen wrote:Same with sighthounds?

racing is performance, hunting rabbits is work.

I would disagree. A racing Greyhound lives the life of a working dog. They eat, sleep, and breath racing. They don't have cushy homes to go to once the race is done, they go back to the kennel to eat, sleep, and train for more racing. Nothing else. Just racing. So I would say that is work because they have no life outside of racing (until after they're retired).

Coyote hounds (usually Greyhounds or Lurchers) also have a job. Theirs is more "natural" seeming as they are actually hunting in packs. Again, they eat, sleep, breath, and train for coyote hunting, nothing else.

Both of these sighthounds have jobs. I would say the difference between them would be the difference between a hard labor job and an office job. Both are still work, just on different levels.

I think the distinction needs to be made when a dog is doing an activity "on the side" instead of making it it's whole life.
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Postby mnp13 » June 12th, 2006, 1:58 pm

A collie in a ring herding penned animals is participating in sport in my opinion. A collie in a 100 acre field herding animals is work. Maybe it has to do with the underlying properties of the activity... I'm not sure

According to the definition, 1.a could apply to a dog trying to get treats out of one of those puzzle balls. It takes effort, coordination, patience and eventually gives a reward.

I see what you are saying about racing. It is literally the dog's job. His paycheck is a bowl of food. He gets "fired" by being put down or removed from the kennel.
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Postby dogcrazyjen » June 12th, 2006, 2:42 pm

To me, by the definition

I think "sport" dogs blur the lines but by and large I don't consider "sport" dogs to be working dogs. Sport can test training and indicate a dog's abilities and training but that does not mean the dog "works"


therapy visits take no particular talent, work, or even much training depending on the dog. The dog is not working for a living, it visits people because the owners want to do therapy. If it stopped doing therapy, the dog's life would not really change, and neither would the peoples, in a larger sense. Therapy is not work which must get done or replaced with an alternative. It is extra. It betters the lives of people, yes, but flyball betters my life but is not considered work.

A seeing eye dog is doing a service which must be done. If the dog does not do it, a replacement must be found.

Steeple chasing, is that a sport or work? No one needs that fox, it is often released at the end, or was when it was legal. It is a sport though, with a winner and prizes. But it is live hunting. How about non competition fox hunting?

So a BC who herds on weekends and goes to trials is not a working dog but a BC which twice a day gets the sheep moved is a working dog. Is the working BC not working when at a trial? How about if the weekend dog is the basis of a working breed line, is it then working, since its perfomance dictates its importance?

A terrier who catches mice in a barn is a working dog, but one who only trains to catch rodents for terrier trials is not? So I have a working cat?

I am just trying to find the line, the definition for what we consider working.

I personally feel a working dog is one who is trained to do a task well and consistantly. Flyball, PP, herding, therapy guarding, tracking are all jobs, the dog is unaware of the jobs relative importance to humans. I think therapy is work, too, but under the definition given above, it does not fit. The word 'job' has too many connotations.
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Postby SisMorphine » June 12th, 2006, 2:56 pm

I just want to throw an example out there:

My second grade teacher had an airplane. She liked to fly it on the weekends and during vacations. To her this was a hobby. It was something fun to do on the side.

My friend is a flight instructor. He gets up each day and goes to work to teach people how to fly planes. This is his life.

Both fly planes, but only one can say that they are working when they do so.

I would think the same would be with a dog. If you have, say, a terrier who does trials a few times a year, I would say that's a hobby, something fun. But if you have a terrier who stays out in the barn all day everyday catching mice, that's the dog's job.
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Postby SKoth » June 12th, 2006, 3:07 pm

I was just thinking to myself....

What about the dogs who have working drive or working ethic as working dogs. There are a lot of dogs out there that would work their ass off if given the oppurtunity. BC's that don't get to herd, Pointers that don't get to Point, Terriers that don't get to ground....

I think that I might refer to some of these dogs as "working" dogs that need to work! Maybe it would be more correct to say working bred dogs instead?

Just a thought for discussion.
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Postby mnp13 » June 12th, 2006, 3:07 pm

Therapy is absolutely work.

It is scientifically proven that people who interact with animals are healthier and live longer. I can say from personal experience that the visits I do with Ruby are vital to the patients she visits.

She also is involved with dog safety education.

And seeing eye dogs can be replaced by a cane.

and yes, if your cat has a job - catching mice in the barn - yes, it is a working cat.

Flyball, frisbee, dock diving, etc take work to learn, but they are a sport. They have no direct application in live. Steeple chase and some trials blur the lines between work and sport.
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Postby dogcrazyjen » June 12th, 2006, 4:13 pm

Flyball, frisbee, dock diving, etc take work to learn, but they are a sport. They have no direct application in live.


Agreed.


It is scientifically proven that people who interact with animals are healthier and live longer. I can say from personal experience that the visits I do with Ruby are vital to the patients she visits.


Disagree.


I visit the nursing home, and it is extra for the residents. I do agility and flyball and it is extra for me. It is scientifically proven that the exercise and mental stimulation that such sports provide increase the well being of the people doing it, so my dogs are working to better my life. I will live longer and better with exercise. But I will function without it. The residents in the nursing home I visit would function without our visits. Many nursing homes do not allow animals, and those residents are functioning without.

I have had disabled kids watching at disc tourneys and were able to interact with Jack, I have also done shows with 10,000 people attending, so is entertaining those people 'work'? It bettered their lives, if just for an hour.

If a working seeing eye dog is replaced by a cane, it still has been replaced with something, meaning the job (helping the person to get around) was a necessary one. The person cannot get along without an aid of some sort.

I also visit schools, I would not consider that 'working' either. It is our choice to do so. If I did not visit schools, then the kids would get along without. It is an extra, like field trips. Benificial but not necessary.

Herding sheep, guarding, seeing eye dogs, are all doing tasks which would have to otherwise be replaced by other means; canine, human or technological.

Therapy, sports, non-professional PP work, are all optional these days. None MUST be replaced with another means.

I am not trying to dismiss therapy, I do it too and love it. It IS important. But your version of work seems inconsistant to me. Therapy at best is like steeple chase in it has blurry lines. Just owning a dog is shown to have the same benifits you site for therapy dogs, so in essence every dog is a working dog.
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Postby mnp13 » June 12th, 2006, 4:46 pm

But pet threapy time in structured hospital environments would have to be replaced with something.

I will say with 100% certianty that Ruby's visits to my grandfather were essential. He had something to focus on, and talked about her for a week after every visit. My mom said he talked about Ruby's vists, not Michelle's visits.

It was because of her that I had my last lucid converstion with my Grandfather before he died.

My friend who does weekly hospital visits has had patients cry because they are being discharged and won't see her dog again.

It's like many things, you get along just fine, then you experience something new and you wonder how you ever lived without it. I had a full life before I got Ruby, now I can't imagine not having her. Same with Riggs. Same with my cats. My lizard, not so much.

Flyball may provide a few hours enjoyment, but it's not life altering. (99.999% of the time, I'm sure there is one example out there) Pet therapy work can be.
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Postby Maryellen » June 12th, 2006, 5:26 pm

the 2nd graders where rufus and i go have improved their reading by 40% per the woman who runs the program. its been in effect for a year, so in my eyes the therapy dogs that go there are working.. the children are responding to the dogs therapy.

not all dogs can do therapy work, the dog must be 100% sound in all aspects with people, items, other dogs, cats, animals to do therapy work. if a dog reacts to another animal that dog is not allowed to visit there anymore, or has to come alone.. therapy is a form of working.
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Postby Chris Fraize » June 12th, 2006, 9:44 pm

Didn't we just have this conversation in another thread?

A service dog is a dog that has a civil service or practical job. But a dog doing anything structured is a working dog.

I swear we had this conversation just a few months ago!

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