Category Archives: service dogs

Inspirational Dogs With Jobs


By Julia Williams

It’s estimated that around 77 million dogs are kept as pets in the U.S. today, but there are no similar figures for working dogs. I’m guessing this is because the list of canine careers is impressively long, and there is no central reporting agency to keep track of all the amazing canines that are willing to work for praise, toys, treats and love instead of a paycheck. In my last article I talked about police dogs, detection dogs and military working dogs. Today I’ll cover a few more dogs that have important jobs.

Search & Rescue (SAR)

These hard-working heroes of disaster relief are called upon to help in the aftermath of avalanches, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, bombs and other catastrophes. With their keen sense of smell and the ability to navigate through debris, confined spaces and unstable terrain, “Disaster Dogs” save countless lives every year. SAR dogs are also trained and used to help to locate missing persons and prison escapees.

Of the three types of SAR dogs, Air Scenting is the most common. This SAR dog is trained to pick up traces of human scent that drift in the wind. Air Scenting dogs are always worked off lead and are more successful in isolated areas. This is because they normally don’t discriminate scents, and if other people are nearby there is a possibility of false alarms.

A Tracking Dog is trained to follow the physical path of a certain person, without relying on air scenting. Tracking Dogs are nearly always worked on a lead about 30 feet in front of their handler, and are trained to follow each footstep.

A Trailing Dog uses a combination of tracking and air-scenting. They’re trained to follow minute particles of heavier-than-air skin cells that are cast off by a person and land close to the ground or on foliage. Because of this, Trailing Dogs frequently travel with their nose to the ground.

Bloodhounds are renowned for their prowess as search dogs, and have long been used by U.S. law enforcement to track criminals. They’re extremely athletic and can follow even the faintest of scent trails. Newfoundland and St. Bernard dogs are often used to find people lost in challenging environments like mountains and thick forests, or buried in an avalanche. Other breeds used for search and rescue work include the Black and Tan Hound, Doberman, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois.

Cadaver Dogs

This specialized search dog is trained to locate dead bodies, either above ground or buried, as well as underwater. Also known as Human Remains Detection Dogs, these hard working canines are vital to police investigations because without a body, it can be difficult to prove that a crime took place. Cadaver Dogs are also used to locate deceased victims of explosions, fires, avalanches and other disasters.

According to Cincinnati search and rescue handler/trainer Gina Flannery, Labrador Retrievers are “the best cadaver dogs in the world. They love things that smell bad.”

Therapy Dogs

Research has proven that animals can dramatically improve the quality of life for the elderly, they can help sick patients recover faster, and can bring a renewed zest for life to the lonely or depressed. Therapy Dogs are trained to provide affection, comfort and joy to people in nursing homes, retirement homes, hospitals, schools and even some prison facilities.

In addition to standard canine training, Therapy Dogs receive specialized training to learn how to behave around people with difficult medical conditions. However, they aren’t classified as Service Dogs because they’re not trained to stay with people and do not directly assist them with tasks.

Therapy Dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic is temperament –a good Therapy Dog enjoys human contact and is patient, gentle, confident and comfortable in a variety of situations.

Service Dogs

These working dogs are specially trained to help disabled individuals with daily tasks. Service Dogs can dramatically improve the quality of life for their human companion. In some cases, they can even mean the difference between life and death. Some of the different types of Service Dogs available are guide dogs for the blind or visually impaired, hearing dogs for the deaf, seizure and diabetes-alert dogs and psychiatric service dogs. The breeds most commonly used are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.

CANIDAE sponsors many of these hard working dogs with jobs, including Avalanche Rescue Dogs, Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs. You can read more about these Special Achievers on their website.

Although my “pet of choice” is a cat, I greatly admire these remarkable dogs that contribute to our society in so many ways. Life without these hard working dogs just wouldn’t be the same – for any of us.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Surf Dog Ricochet: Changing Lives, One Wave at a Time


By Julia Williams

Some of you have undoubtedly heard about Surf Dog Ricochet, and you may have watched the incredibly moving YouTube video about her, “From Service Dog to SURFice dog: Turning disappointment into a joyful new direction.” If you have, then you know what an amazing canine Ricochet is. If you haven’t seen the Surf Dog Ricochet video, then I hope this article inspires you to do so— because the story of how this beautiful young golden retriever found her true calling and is changing countless lives as a result, is one that every pet lover should see.

Two-year-old Ricochet’s original path in life was to be part of the Puppy Prodigies Neo-Natal & Early Learning Program, as a service dog for a disabled person as well as a service dog breeder. Ricochet’s training began when she was just a few days old, before her eyes were even open. She learned quickly and showed great promise for becoming a service dog. But as she grew, so did her interest in chasing birds. Because this could be unsafe for a person with a disability, Ricochet had to be released from the service dog program.

Her people were terribly disappointed, but rather than dwell on what she couldn’t do, they chose to focus on what she could do, which was surf. You see, at 8 weeks of age, in addition to her service dog training, Ricochet had begun learning to surf on a boogie board in a kiddie pool. Although her surf dog training was begun just for fun, Ricochet displayed a remarkable natural talent for it. Moreover, she really seemed to love it.

Ricochet’s surf training progressed and before long she was “hanging 20” in the ocean, competing in (and eventually winning) Surf Dog Competitions. So Puppy Prodigies created a brand new job for Ricochet, as a ‘Surfin’ for Paws-abilities’ SURFice dog who would raise awareness and funds for charitable causes. And the rest is history, as the saying goes. In just seven short months, Ricochet has raised more than $20,000 for charitable causes!

Her first fundraising endeavor was last August, for 15 year old quadriplegic surfer Patrick Ivison. Surf Dog Ricochet raised $10,000 to help pay his medical bills, and one of her sponsors awarded Patrick a grant to fund three more years of physical therapy. Then in December, Ricochet began a new fundraiser: a Surfin’ Santa Paws toy drive. About the same time, the inspirational SURFice Dog video went viral, which spurred an influx of donations from all over the world. As a result, Ricochet was able to provide toys for 650 children in hospitals and domestic violence shelters.

Continued donations from the video have allowed Ricochet to fund therapies for six year old Ian McFarland, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident that claimed the lives of his parents. Additionally, most of the surfing competitions Ricochet enters are fundraisers for animal charities. So besides having fun and competing, the “Little SurFUR Girl” (as she is sometimes called) is also making a difference in the lives of her four-legged cousins. When she’s not surfing or fundraising, Ricochet is involved in goal assisted therapy work with children through Pawsitive Teams.

I’m a firm believer in the old adages, “Everything happens for a reason,” and “When one door closes, another one opens.” I’ve seen enough examples firsthand that I don’t doubt this is exactly how the universe works. And now, the story of Surf Dog Ricochet is yet another fine illustration of these principles. Instead of greatly changing one disabled individual’s life by becoming their assistance dog, Surf Dog Ricochet is changing the lives of thousands… and potentially millions.

If you’d like to know more about Surf Dog Ricochet, you can visit her website, become her fan on Facebook, and even follow her on Twitter. And if you want to try teaching your own canine companion to hang 20, Ricochet offers some great beginner doggie surf training tips here.

There are two lines in the inspirational YouTube video on Surf Dog Ricochet that I just love: “When I let go of who I wanted her to be and just let her ‘be’ she completely flourished. And I reveled in knowing she is perfect, just the way she is.” She sure is. The video features the Taylor Hicks song, Do I Make You Proud. I just want to end this by saying “Yes Ricochet, you do!”

Photo courtesy of Diane Edmonds

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.