The bond between humans and dogs is a special one, with roots that go back over 20,000 years. Our canine friends have played many roles throughout history, from herders to companions, watchdogs to sled dogs. However, the impact of dogs on our lives goes far beyond these common jobs. In this article, we will explore 15 unusual dog jobs throughout history that have had a significant impact on our society.
1. Gold Transport
During the Gold Rush, miners faced numerous challenges in Alaska and the Yukon. The terrain was extremely rugged, and it was not easy to transport gold back to town. Sled dogs were indispensable in this regard, helping the miners to transport their valuable cargo. The use of sled dogs during the Gold Rush also gave birth to dogsledding as a sport. Today, enthusiasts still take part in dog sled races all over the world, including the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
2. World Explorer
Dogsledding was also a popular mode of transportation for early explorers. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen relied on sled dogs during his historic South Pole expedition in 1911. His team consisted of four sleds, 52 dogs, and four fellow explorers. While many other adventurers claimed to have been the first to discover the North Pole, it was Amundsen who established a reliable record of the discovery. And thus, sled dogs were his trusted companions that made it possible.
Dogs have been used as bodyguards for centuries, and many breeds have been specially bred for this job. The German Shepherd and Doberman Pinscher are both well-known for their fearlessness and loyalty, making them the perfect choice for protection. Interestingly, the Doberman Pinscher was originally bred as a protection dog for tax collectors in Germany.
4. Wine Inspector
Dogs have a remarkable sense of smell, with many times more nasal receptors than humans. Their superior sense of smell has led to ingenious uses, such as training dogs to act as wine inspectors. The TN Coopers production facilities’ Natinga Project has trained dogs to detect 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), a fungus that can ruin wine. The dogs can pick up even minute traces of TCA, which allows the company to catch and prevent wines from developing cork taint.
5. Pest Detection Hound
Bed bugs are one of the most difficult pests to control, as they reproduce quickly and are hard to see. Researchers have investigated how dogs can help detect and control bed bugs. The findings showed that dogs could detect a single bed bug with a 97.5% positive rate. This could be a promising way to improve pest control and reduce their harmful impact on human health.
6. Rescue Dog
Search and rescue dogs have played a vital role in many disasters, from earthquakes to avalanches. These highly trained dogs use their sense of smell and agility to locate lost or trapped people. Search and rescue dogs are also used to locate missing or lost hikers and campers, as well as victims of natural disasters.
7. Serum Delivery
One of the most heroic dog stories in history is that of Balto, who led a team of sled dogs to deliver lifesaving serum during a diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska. The small town had only one doctor to deal with the onslaught of cases, and the only cure at the time was a serum. Balto and his team ran the final 53-mile stretch to deliver the serum and save the town’s residents. Today’s 1,049-mile Iditarod race path follows the route that Balto and his team took from Anchorage to Nome.
8. Firehouse Dog
The role of the firehouse dog followed that of the horse-drawn carriage. These dogs guarded the carriage and ran alongside it, alerting bystanders that a firefighting brigade was going out on a call. They also protected the firefighters’ gear and the wagons while they worked and helped the horses pull the wagons. Today, Dalmatians are still known as vocal animals, though their role in firehouses may be more nostalgic than practical.
9. Disease Detector
Research has shown that dogs can detect certain diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and even COVID-19. Their high sensitivity to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) makes them ideal candidates for early disease detection. Daisy, one of the Medical Detection Dogs that detect cancer, was awarded the Blue Cross Medal for detecting over 550 cases. As dogs continue to prove their ability to detect diseases, their role in health care is likely to grow.
Some dog breeds, like Labrador Retrievers, love water and are excellent swimmers. It makes perfect sense to deploy these talented pups as lifeguards. In Italy, there are over 350 trained rescue dogs for water rescues. Their strength and endurance allow them to reach individuals faster and to work effectively in teams.
11. Mail Delivery
Dogs have helped the post office fulfill its motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” In Alaska, sled dogs have helped to deliver mail across the rugged terrain. They have even made deliveries to Native Alaskan villages that are not accessible by road.
12. Sheep Herding
Border Collies are famous for their herding abilities, and shepherds around the world have used them for centuries. They use a combination of barks, nips, and stares to get the flock moving. These intelligent dogs are capable of handling even the largest flocks with ease.
13. Truffle Hunting
Truffles are a highly prized delicacy, and their earthy scent is difficult to detect. However, dogs have a keen sense of smell and have been used for centuries to find them. Today, specially trained dogs are used to locate truffles, which can fetch high prices on the market.
14. Therapy Dog
Therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. These dogs have a calming effect on patients, reducing their stress and anxiety levels. Therapy dogs have also been deployed to help traumatized survivors of natural disasters and other traumatic events.
Last but not least, dogs have also played an important role in entertainment. From performing in circuses to starring in movies and on television, dogs have delighted audiences for centuries. One of the most beloved fictional dogs is Lassie, who starred in several movies and a long-running television series. Other dogs that have become famous in entertainment include Rin Tin Tin, Scooby-Doo, and Beethoven.
The relationship between dogs and humans has been a long and fruitful one. Over the centuries, dogs have served in many unusual roles, from gold transport to pest detection and beyond. Their loyalty, bravery, and superior senses have made them indispensable in many fields. While these 15 roles are just a small sample of the many jobs dogs have held throughout history, they demonstrate the incredible versatility and value of dogs to human society.