How Dogs Help People: Knowing That Your Best Friend Has Your Back

How Dogs Help People
Emily Young
Written by Emily Young

Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years now, and most people think that they were initially tamed for one thing and one thing only: hunting. Truth be told, nobody know what the actual reasons behind taming wolves and turning them into dogs were, but we do know that owning a dog comes with a great deal of advantages.

Today, our canine companions have a lot more jobs than ancient man could ever foretell. Police, firefighting, bomb detection, crime fighting, the military, customs, civil services, search and rescue, show business, these are but a few of the fields that employ the skills and services of dogs from around the world.

Understanding how dogs help people is important in order to realize what the benefits of having a dog actually are, and the list is not a short one by any stretch of the imagination.

With the right training, motivation and dedication, any dog can turn from being just an ordinary house pet into a courageous and loving personal hero. That being said, let’s look at a few of the ways in which dogs help us, and see what makes these dogs do what they do.

Civil service

How many times have you cringed when you arbitrarily heard this term? Don’t worry though, dogs don’t really appeal to the imagined standard, they are more helpful and obedient.

When it comes to civil services, dogs can actually fill in a large number of roles. Seeing eye dogs, service dogs, assistance dogs, even temporary pets, and all that for the sake of helping their human counterparts in need.

Service dog

The nice thing about this area is the fact that all breeds can be civil service dogs, from the traditional German shepherds, corgis and Dalmatians to the more unorthodox and slightly controversial Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and bulldogs, there was even a Chihuahua registered as a civil service dog.

So how do these dogs start out?

Believe it or not, these dogs are adopted as puppies by families with this predestined goal. That being said, the families that adopt them know that in a couple of years they will have to return the dog so that the dog can start his or her civil service career.

Needless to say, these families are carefully selected and the dog in question receives a comfortable, loving and healthy upbringing, socializing and getting used to a metric ton of people as well as other animals and environments.

After the dog is returned to the social services, he or she receives special training in order to safely and quickly identify certain queues and signs that help us throughout our day to day lives. Things like traffic lights, road signs, the presence or absence of cars in an area, physical boundaries and even specific buildings and ways in which to recognize them.

Guide dog

The dog needs to be able to guide and assist the human that it is assigned to, and always keep him or her out of harm’s way. A seeing eye dog, for example, must be able to tell when it is safe to cross the road, as well as being able to identify where exactly they are supposed to go.

After that bit of training is done, the dog then goes into the last bit of training, the “etiquette” part.

Guide dogs infographic

As you may of have seen, assistance dogs or seeing eye dogs tend to receive special treatment, being allowed to enter everywhere, and roam around where their heart pleases.

That being said, the service dog has to possess certain knowledge and rules regarding the establishments that he or she will be walking in. This generally means that they will not answer the call of nature inside, nor be aggressive towards other people, damage anything or even make their presence felt while inside said establishment.

After that is all said and done, the dog meets the human that he or she will be helping from then on, they will be supervised by a social security worker for around a week and then they will be left to their own business.

Dog service

It is important to note that these dogs will never, under any imaginable circumstance, bite a human, not even as a manner of playfulness.

Another thing to note about these dogs is the fact that even though they have their owners best interest and safety in mind constantly, these dogs will be lacking in the courage department, and if an altercation arises, either with a pack of dogs or with other humans, they will tend to back off and escort the human to safety through other means.

Our article on how service dogs are trained will be a good read, so why not check it out?

Police dogs

Also known as canine police officers, these dogs are seen as majestic, brave and statuesque by the ones that they are protecting, and horrible, ruthless, merciless and relentless by the ones that they hunt down, and amusingly enough both sides are right.

These dogs are bred, raised and trained in such a way that enables them to become the perfect crime fighting and crime preventing dogs, and they waste no time ceasing that opportunity.

Police dog attacking

Sadly, not all breeds can become police dogs. The dogs have to be strong, agile, motivated, powerful, relentless and vigilant. Size also plays an important role here, dogs that are too small will simply not put up the power or exercise the strength necessary to take down a criminal, and dogs that are too big are often very hard to handle, too dangerous and can make for great targets for criminals due to their size, not to mention the fact that they eat too much.

And so, police forces around the world have settled on breeds that can be classified as being big, but not incredibly big. Breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dogo Argentinos, Amstaffs, Dobermans, etc.

Out of all these breeds, the most prominent police dogs are German Shepherds because of their outstanding level of intelligence as well as physical prowess.

Shepherds as police dogs

So how exactly do you train a dog to become a police officer?

This one is a little bit iffy because it differs from country to country, however the general rule applies, the dog must be strong and above all else loyal, so the dog’s training starts as soon as he or she is born.

As soon as the pup reaches 3 – 6 months of age, he or she is then given to a police officer who will act as the dog’s handler for the remainder of the dog’s life.

From that point on, the dog’s entire life is summed up in 2 words, training and service.

Training is constant, diverse, complicated and only executed by the dog’s handler. That’s right, every single thing is taught by the handler. The dog and the handler’s lives are intertwined, and the dog will never leave the handler’s side.

K9 Training

When it comes to active duty, these dogs rock the police world. They assist officers with a lot of tasks, on patrol and even apprehending criminals, not to mention the fact that these guys can track down a criminal and pin him down faster than a human could ever imagine.

Even though these dogs are part of a police force, it does not mean that the dogs themselves have restricted roles. They can fulfill a wide variety of tasks, and they are often called to do a multitude of different tasks, from sniffing luggage to hunting down escaped convicts, to catching criminals on the spot, these dogs can and eventually will do them all.

These dogs are treated by other police officers as their equals, and just like human police officers, the dogs receive vacation days, ranks, promotions, demotions, medals, merits and even the right to retirement.

That’s right, these dogs will not serve the force until the end of their days, but rather until they grow very old at which point it can either remain with the handler as a house pet, be put up for adoption or simply sent out to a family that needs a skilled dog.
If you haven’t heard of secret service dogs, find out more in our article on the topic.

Handler and a dog

There is a flip side to this coin though, and a rather serious one. These dogs are more or less constantly surrounded by humans and always in a stressful environment. With a metric ton of training as well as hardcore situations constantly stressing the line, these dogs end up lacking social skills with other dogs. Sure, they can hit it off extremely easy with humans, however other dogs will prove to be a great challenge for them.

This issue often arises at the age of retirement, when the dog is old and already has a lifetime of police work under his or her belt, and might not have the patience or willingness to learn how to socialize with other dogs.

Another thing worth mentioning here is the fact that these dogs spend the vast majority of their time doing police work, and an abrupt stop can take its toll on them. Just like in us humans, a sudden retirement will leave us more or less unfulfilled and grouchy, moody, with a constant desire to get back in the saddle. This issue does cause some temper spikes, although the fear of biting is out of the question (if you are the master).

For more of these dog breeds that help the police force, check out our article on the topic to have more insight.

The military dogs

By far the meanest, the most rugged and at the same time the most devoted ones end up in the military.

It’s true for both man and dog, and the military takes no favorites here either.

Puppy in military

Dogs have played a crucial role in warfare ever since World War 1, when they acted as mail couriers and messengers between trenches.

This is also why it has become a custom to cut the tails and the tips of the ears of certain dog breeds.

Historically, the Doberman, the Boxer and the German Shepherd have been the all-time stars and favorites of combat theaters all over the world, however recently Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Bulldogs, Dogo Argentinos, and Amstaffs have joined their ranks.

Today dogs are actual soldiers mostly used mostly for special operations and these fearless canines have seen action and even made history in the Middle East.

Labrador in combat assiting

Training a military dog is not exactly easy, and these dogs are in it from dawn to dusk. They are selected from birth and are trained throughout their puppy years in military bases and installations side by side with human soldiers. Here’s a piece on these military canines to help you grasp how astounding these dogs are.

They have next to no contact with civilians and are accustomed to life in a barracks from an early age. Their training is varied, and by the time they reach adulthood they are not only some of the most disciplined dogs that you will ever see, but also incredibly smart and capable.

They are deployed into action as soon as they reach adulthood, and are handled by specially trained handlers in order to keep them relatively safe on the battlefield.

Make no mistake about it, these dogs are not bad dogs, they are not dangerous, they are not particularly aggressive, however they are bred and trained to think and act like a soldier, braving the front lines, staring danger right in the face and defying it at every turn.

Military dog sniffing

After a lifetime of military service, these dogs earn a respectful and honorable retirement, and just like police dogs they are either given to the handler alongside which the dog has fought, or to families or people that are in need of such a disciplined dog.

Out of all the areas of service that dogs activate in, the military one is by far the most demanding, not just physical but also psychological.

Dogs can suffer the effects of P.T.S.D. and can react rather hastily to loud noises or small explosions just like a human.

Luckily enough dogs don’t usually suffer the full extent of this ailment, and can recover over the course of a couple of years.

Military dog certificate

Dogs are a lot more than just pets, they are the eyes that you need when yours give up on you, they are the ones that keep the streets safe, the ones that are defending you abroad and saving you in case you get trapped under fallen buildings. Over time dogs have proven why they are man’s best friend, and as time goes on they will find new ways in which to do so.

About the author
Emily Young
Emily Young

Emily is originally from China where she graduated from The University of Hong Kong with high distinction learning about fashion and design. During university she opened her own magazine about Dog Fashion as dogs were always in her heart. She was surprised, when she moved to a beautiful British Columbia 10 years ago, to see many great Boutiques with dog's designer clothing and desire of pet owners to make their babies look nice.