August 26th is National Dog Day, the day we celebrate our dogs and how much they mean to us – not only our own dogs but all dogs who have made a lasting impact on the world. Each day, countless dogs work hard to keep us safe, sometimes even putting their lives on the line to do so. To celebrate these everyday heroes, let’s take a closer look at a few of the extraordinary things that dogs of every shape, size, and age do to help us humans.
A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than ours, which makes them very attuned to changes in their human’s physical state – so much so that a growing number of dogs are trained to be an early warning system for medical emergencies.
A popular application of this early warning system is detecting the insulin levels of people with diabetes. Thanks to the strength of their nose, they’re able to detect biochemical changes in human bodies that indicate low blood sugar, going as far as being able to warn their owner when they’re at risk of having a seizure due to low blood sugar. Studies have been completed that show that Border Collies are particularly well suited to jobs as medical alert dogs, due to their high drive and stamina to work for extended periods.
Thanks to the support that service dogs provide, people who may otherwise not be able to live independently can do so. What’s amazing about service dogs is the fact that they can be trained in such a wide range of skills.
From guiding those who are visually impaired through everyday obstacles like pathways and traffic, to alerting people with hearing impairments to different sounds such as alarms and doorbells, service dogs are trained in the specific skills that their future owner needs. This training takes an average of one and a half to two years, giving them plenty of time to master any and all skills they need to help their owner navigate life at home and in the community. While any dog can be trained to be a service dog, the most common breeds include Labrador retrievers and Standard Poodles.
The job of a therapy dog is to provide comfort and affection to individuals who have experienced trauma, are grieving, or simply are lonely. Therapy dogs are not service dogs, so they do not have the same rights and privileges, but they are equally as important. These special pups work in places like hospitals, care homes, schools, and even areas that have been struck by a natural disaster, providing relief, comfort, and affection to anyone who needs it.
Studies have shown that interacting with a therapy dog can bring physical benefits such as lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduced anxiety, and an increase in endorphins and oxytocin. The great thing about therapy dogs is that breeds of a certain stature are not more suited than another, as temperament and personality are what matters most.
Military dogs have the important job of assisting members of the armed forces with their operations. In fact, there are currently 2500 dogs in active service with 700 of those deployed overseas! Depending on the team they work with, they will be trained in different sets of skills such as bomb, weapon and drug detection, tracking, and even disarming the enemy.
The training process of these dogs is long and intense, spanning from four to seven months with only about 50% seeing it through to the end. Due to the extensive resources that are put into the specialty training for these dogs, a fully trained military working dog is estimated to be worth over $150,000! This is a tough job and requires a sturdy breed such as German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Labrador Retrievers.
Dogs have exceptional senses of smell and hearing, which makes them remarkably well suited for search and rescue missions. Search and rescue dogs are called in to assist with missions to rescue people from life-threatening situations – often those that are highly time-sensitive.
These skilled dogs can be trained to rescue hikers lost in the woods, buried in debris after an earthquake, or from beneath the snow after an avalanche. There’s even a subset of research and rescue dogs called cadaver dogs, who are brought in to help find human remains. Working and herding dogs tend to do well as research and rescue dogs, which is why Labrador Retrievers, Bloodhounds, Border Collies, and Golden Retrievers are often used.
And then, of course, there are our own dogs whose jobs are simply to provide us with unconditional love and support each day. From puppies that keep us entertained with their never-ending antics to senior dogs that bring their calm presence to our daily comings and goings. The average family dog may not have months or years of specialized training, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have an important job to do every day – being your best friend!
Freshpet hopes you have a wonderful National Dog Day celebrating not only your own canine companion but all the dogs that have impacted our world.