Home Getting A Puppy Working Dog Breeds

Working Dog Breeds

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Working Dog Breeds
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Working dog breeds, as defined by the AKC, is the group of breeds that were bred to perform certain tasks, such as rescue, guarding property, and pulling sleds.

Working Dog Classification in the AKC

Herding dogs were considered working dogs until 1983, when they were put in a group of their own. Although working dogs were originally bred to well, work, breeding for physical confirmation to standards began in the 19th century.

Some of the jobs these dogs have been bred for, in addition to those mentioned above, are service jobs (mobility assistance, guide dogs, and hearing dogs), search and rescue, hunting and tracking. Although dogs bred for the show ring may not actively participate in actual work, they still have the capacity to learn the typical jobs.

General Characteristics of the Working Dog Group

These dogs are, generally, medium to large size dogs. They are very intelligent and keen to learn. Strong and courageous, they are valued for their loyalty and fast reactions.

Working Group Dogs
Working group dogs like the Akita puppy featured here are bred to have determination and stamina which can also make them stubborn on occasion

They tend to be one-person dogs, and so are not recommended for a family looking for a typical, normal “pet” dog. Because of their intelligence, these dogs must be engaged, or they will get bored and turn to undesirable habits, such as spinning, barking at shadows, or destroying furniture. They should have formal obedience training and a good socialization program to keep them happy.

They are very loyal and protective of their masters. These breeds have been very useful to man through the centuries, although dogs bred for the show arena may not make good actual “working” dogs.

They require a lot of room to run, and so are not recommended for urban or apartment living. They make a good companion animal to an older family (children must be able to control the dog, otherwise consider another group of breeds), or a single person.

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They tend to be independent and domineering, making them unsuitable for a first-time dog owner. They also require firm control. Matching the personalities of the potential family or person to the individual dog is very important, as these characteristics are only generalities. Dogs’ personalities are as individual as humans’ personalities, and a good match will ensure a happy family and a happy dog.

Medical Problems Associated with Working Dogs

Working Dog Group
Members of the working dog group like the Greater Swiss Mountain dog can be prone to a number of health conditions due to their larger frames

Because of their size, these dogs are prone to certain medical problems that potential owners should be aware of.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and elbow dysplasia occurs as the dog ages. The top of the leg bone no longer fits tightly into the hip socket, and the joint begins to degenerate.

This can cause osteoarthritis. Other symptoms are pain, inflammation, stiffness and limping. There appears to be a genetic link for the disease, and it is recommended not to breed dogs who develop this problem.

Canine Epilepsy

Canine epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by sudden loss of consciousness, uncontrollable muscle movements, and may fall down. Specific triggers are not known, but this tends to occur during periods of excitability. This is also possibly genetically linked. Canine epilepsy can be treated with medication.

Gastric Torsion

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Gastric torsion is a life-threatening condition, in which the stomach fills with air. Normally, dogs swallow air, but this air is usually released. For an unknown reason, some dogs do not release the air. The stomach can turn on itself, blocking off the blood supply. The stomach begins to die.

Ways to prevent this from happening include keeping an eye on the dog’s weight with regular weigh-ins (rapid weight loss is an early indicator). Feed the dog in a quiet place 2 – 3 times daily providing lots of fresh water after the meal. Waiting at least one hour after feeding before letting the dog exercise is also a good idea.

CVI/Wobbler Syndrome

CVI is a deformation in the vertebrae which results in a small area for the spinal cord. As the dog grows, this area becomes smaller, and pressure on the spinal cord increases. This is a serious condition which can lead to complete paralysis.

Eye Problems

Eye problems can develop, such as cataracts, glaucoma and entropion, when the border of the eyelid turns in against the eyeball. Also, patella luxation can occur among the larger breeds. This is when the kneecap does not sit correctly against the joint and pops out of place. This can be fixed by surgery.

Three Common Breeds of Working Dogs

Working Breeds
One of the most elegant of all the working breeds, the Doberman Pinscher originates from 19th Germany

Three breeds in the working group are the Akita, the Doberman and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. General characteristics of these breeds will be discussed below…

Japanese Akita

The Japanese Akita is a breed which can be traced back to the 17th century. These dogs weigh between 65 – 130 pounds, and stand up to 28” at the shoulder. They were bred for hunting large game and dog fighting. They are prone to hip dysplasia, epilepsy, entropion, gastric torsion, patella luxation, and eye problems such as cataracts.

Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman Pinscher was developed in the 19th century by a tax collector named Louis Dobermann of Thuringen, Germany. He crossed a number of breeds, including the Weimaraner, the Greyhound and the Rottweiler. Their coats are shades of black, brown, blue and fawn with highlights of rust on their heads, body and legs. This breed is also prone to hip/elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion, and CVI.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Developed in Switzerland in ancient times, this dog was the result of crossing a Mastiff and the local Swiss working dogs. At up to 140 pounds, it stands between 23.5” and 28.5” at the shoulder. They were developed for help with herding and guarding property. They can be prone to hip dysplasia, eye problems, and gastric torsion.

Complete List of Working Dogs


Alaskan Malamute

Anatolian Shepherd Dog


Bernese Mountain Dog

Black Russian Terrier



Cane Corso

Canadian Eskimo Dog

Dobermann Pinscher

Dogue De Bordeaux

German Pinscher

Giant Schnauzer

Great Dane

Great Pyrenees

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog





Neapolitan Mastiff


Portuguese Water Dog


Saint Bernard


Siberian Husky

Standard Schnauzer

Tibetan Mastiff

When choosing a dog for your family, make sure that you take into consideration the breed’s characteristics as well as the individual dog’s personality.

If your family is older, and active, you may want to consider one of these breeds as a companion. If this is your first dog, you may want to consider another dog group. Again, these summaries are generalities and it must be stressed that the working dog breeds require time, training, socializing and control.