Purebred Working Dogs
Filed in Dogs, Getting a New Puppy/Dog
The dogs of this group listed below are devoted to the service of humans and work at jobs such as pulling sleds and carts, protecting property and humans, or looking after the welfare of livestock. They are eager to learn and like being with people. Because of their size and strength, working dogs require training to teach them how to act in the confined spaces of indoor living. Training and exercise give the working dog a sense of having a job to do. Otherwise he'll get bored and you may find him stealing the food off your plate or chewing on the kitchen table leg.
Revered in her native Japan as a national treasure, the Akita is a large boned, powerful dog developed to hunt bears. She is now used as a guard and police dog. Her undercoat is dense while the outer coat is full and coarse, white, brindle, or pinto in color. Loyal to her family, she is usually accepting of children but reserved with strangers. As the protector of home, she'll need a fenced yard.
One of the oldest Arctic sled dogs, the Malamute originated with the Mahlemuts, a native Innuit tribe of western Alaska. These powerful dogs have thick double coats and bushy tails that they curl over their noses when they sleep in the snowy cold. Malamutes combine exceptional survival skills with a fondness for people and children. Unhappy when left alone, they may howl and make your neighbors unhappy too.
Accepted by the AKC in 1996, this tough breed is unequaled in his ability to protect livestock. Possessed of a calm but bold demeanor, he's aggressive only when challenged. This large dog weighs between 100-150 pounds so he'll need some room to roam. His coat is short to medium length with a dense undercoat. He's loyal to the people he knows but territorial and reserved with strangers.
Bernese Mountain Dog
One of the four varieties of Swiss Mountain dogs, the Bernese was used by Swiss weavers to pull small wagons to the marketplace. Brought to Switzerland by Roman soldiers over two centuries ago, this medium-sized dog has a long wavy coat of jet black with brown, tan, and white markings. She's strong and hardy, a faithful companion to one person but cautious with strangers.
A dog of Germany, the Boxer has an ancient kinship to the fighting dogs of Tibet and to a terrier type. This large dog wears a short, fawn-colored coat. He was used for dog fighting and bull baiting, until these activities were mercifully outlawed, and then chosen for police training. Courageous and aggressive when necessary, the Boxer makes a devoted companion as well as a good watchdog.
Bred in England to prevent poaching on the big estates and game preserves, this great guard dog is a cross between the mastiff and bulldog. She's big and shorthaired, either dark brindle or fawn colored. Able to survive in extremes of cold and heat, she can travel long distances for long periods of time. Her quiet nature reflects the serious work of patrolling the property she was asked to protect.
Another dog from Germany, the Doberman was first used as a guard dog, but his great intelligence and trainability led to work as a police and war dog. He's a medium sized dog of about seventy pounds who is alert, muscular, and agile. His coat is short, smooth, and easy to groom. As a watchdog he uses a keen instinct when sizing up strangers, and he is devoted to his family and home.
Also developed in Germany, this is the largest of the three Schnauzer types. She reflects the pattern of dog types who were bred to help humans with their work. Her job was to drive cattle. Then she guarded the great breweries of Germany. Today the Giant Schnauzer serves nobly as a police dog. Not as popular as other breeds, she is an intelligent and reliable dog.
This handsome giant dog comes from Germany, not Denmark as the name suggests. The mastiff breeds are thought to have originated in Asia, and a dog like the Great Dane is described in Chinese writings of 1121 BC. His purpose in Germany was to hunt the savage wild boar, which required a large and powerful dog. He's fast, courageous, and long on stamina.
Traces of this type of dog have been found in fossil deposits of the Bronze Age. For centuries she served the peasant shepherds of the isolated high mountains. After being discovered by the outer world, she guarded large castles and patrolled the jails. She's devoted and intelligent and sports a long and heavy white coat. This huge dog loves to pull a cart or sled and excels as a pack dog in snow country.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
The largest and oldest in lineage of the Swiss mountain dogs, he worked for farmers and village merchants as a draft animal. He's a recent arrival to the United States but is equally rare in his native land. He works long and loyally and is easy to train. Nothing makes this gentle dog happier than hanging around family members, including children. He won't like strangers intruding and barks loudly to warn them off.
This dog came to Hungary from the Russian steppes, and his tough job was to protect the sheep and cattle herds from attack by wild animals. His large body and head are covered with long heavy hair that protects him, to some degree, from the formidable jaws of his adversaries. The coat requires careful grooming. A strong and protective dog, he is devoted to his human friends but wary of strangers.
Originally from Tibet, this large and sturdy white dog migrated through Turkey and Arabia to Hungary. She served as companion and protector of the rulers of warring countries of medieval Europe and then worked at herding sheep and cattle. She has a good scent for hunting, and her long outer coat sheds abundantly in summer. Sensitive to praise and blame, she's loyal to family and has a keen desire to protect children.
More specifically called the Old English Mastiff, this giant shorthaired dog has served as a watchdog in England for over two thousand years. An excellent fighting dog, they were pitted against bulls, bears, and other dogs until such cruel betting sports were outlawed. Their primary job has always been guardian of home and family though, and they have the traits of loyalty and protectiveness of a good family dog.
As comfortable in water as on land, the Newfoundland has a worthy reputation as rescuer of humans in danger of drowning. His heavy coat protects him from the cold and icy waters, and his feet are webbed. On boats he helped fishermen control their heavy nets, and on land he pulled carts and carried packs. Intelligent and loyal, he's also known as an instinctively gentle and protective playmate of children.
Portuguese Water Dog
Used by fishermen on the Portuguese coast, this versatile water dog herded schools of fish, brought broken nets back to the boat, and carried messages to shore. A strong, medium-sized dog, she is a swimmer and diver of great stamina and uses her tail as a rudder. Obedient, intelligent, and loyal, she needs to be with people and makes an enthusiastic and energetic family member.
Used to guide and guard cattle on the military expeditions of the ancient Romans, this dog later migrated to southern Germany where she worked as a herding dog and pulled carts. So formidable was this big dog that her human companions tied their money purses around her neck for safe keeping from bandits. In the last century the faithful and affectionate Rottweiler has worked as a police dog.
Named for the St. Bernard pass in the Swiss Alps where he first served as guard dog at a Hospice, this huge dog showed an instinct for finding people lost in snowstorms. Put to work in that capacity, he requires no training from humans to do his job. The young dogs learn the drill by running with older dogs. He also has a built in warning system for avalanches and is renowned for his service to humans.
Centuries ago the Samoyed served as a herder of reindeer, a sled dog, and companion to the nomadic people of Mongolia. The present-day Samoyed is almost identical to her wandering ancestors. Her fluffy snow-white coat and eager eyes are reflective of her happy disposition, and she works long and hard without complaint. She may be the most beautiful dog of all, and she's gentle, friendly and smart too.
The medium-sized Schnauzer is a German breed of long standing. A compact, sturdy, and alert dog, he wears a wiry salt and pepper outer coat and a tan undercoat. Used as a rat catcher and guardian of farmers' carts at market, he's highly intelligent, fearless, and reliable. He has worked as a wartime dispatch carrier and as a police dog. A good companion, he excels at obedience training.
In her native Siberia, this breed has been kept pure for countless centuries. She served as guardian of possessions, companion of children, and sled dog for the native people. In the last century she came to Alaska for sled racing. Naturally gentle and friendly, she's easily trained for almost any kind of work. She's also clean and odor free so makes a good companion and family member for either city or country living.
For more information about any of the working dog breeds described here, visit AKC .
Margaret Cullison is a freelance writer who in past years has provided a home for a variety of dogs, cats, hamsters, rats, lizards, parrots, fish, and snakes. Currently she lives in the East Bay area of Northern California with a Burmese cat named Kona.