Working dog breeds are one of the seven dog types recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). These are dog breeds that were originally bred to assist humans with herding other animals, and for protection. Today, the scope of work carried out by these dogs today is much larger.
Working dog breeds are involved in detection and protection services. These breeds aid people with disabilities or mental illnesses as therapy dogs, and they can even pull sleds with heavy loads or assist search and rescue efforts.
They are generally intelligent, well-behaved, and require regular mental stimulation to stay alert and focused. These dogs make good companions, when trained well, can be good with a family, and are instinctively protective.
Dogs in the working group that aren’t stimulated enough can become destructive and lethargic, as it is in the dog’s nature to stay busy with work or activities.
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There are 31 types of working dogs recognized by the AKC, with a variety of appearances and temperaments among the breeds.
Working dog breeds come with different coats, short-haired to long-haired, with smooth or wiry hair depending on the breed and where the dog originates.
All of these breeds are medium to large dogs because of the nature of their work.
Large Working Dog Breeds
Most working dog breeds fall into the category of large dogs, and these breeds grow 22–32 inches tall and weigh anywhere from 70 to 200 pounds. Well-known examples of large working dog breeds include the Rottweiler, Great Dane, and the Bernese mountain dog.
Cane corsos are large working dogs that are 23.5–27.5 inches tall (at the withers) and weigh over 100 pounds, relative to their height. These dogs have a smooth coat with short hair that is black, gray, red, or a mix of these colors.
A cane corso brings an energetic, smart, and confident personality to the home while staying loyal and assertive at all times.
These dogs are easy to train, if started when young, and training should include early socialization with humans and other dogs.
Cane corsos need obedience training and respond better to rewards and love rather than punishment methods.
Give this breed plenty of exercise, such as a brisk mile-long walk or run, twice per day.
Rottweilers grow to 22–27 inches tall, based on their gender, and can weigh anywhere between 80–135 pounds. They have short hair and a smooth coat that is black with patches of mahogany, rust, or tan colors.
This breed has an aloof and playful nature which makes it a lovable family dog. They are energetic, strong, calm, and confident, but may become aggressive if they feel the need to protect their family.
Rottweilers are highly trainable as long as they are trained daily by someone with a firm attitude and given consistent mental stimulation. Mostly, this breed is eager to please, but some dogs are stubborn during training.
Take these dogs for daily swims, walks, or runs, because these dogs love to participate in activities with humans.
Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese mountain dog grows 23–27.5 inches tall and weighs between 70–115 pounds. This breed has a thick double coat and medium-length, black and white hair with patches of rust or tan.
Bernese mountain dogs are harmless family dogs, as they are affectionate, placid, sweet, and gentle with children.
They are also eager to please, intelligent, and easy to train, although they don’t respond well to harsh, corrective training methods.
Because these dogs are quite energetic, they need half an hour of moderate exercise every day with activities such as hikes and long walks.
Boerboels grow 22–27 inches high and weigh between 150–200 pounds. This large working dog has smooth, short hair, which is usually brown, brindle, cream, red, reddish-brown, or tawny-colored.
These dogs are boisterous, and not suited for beginner owners because they are large, energetic, and can be loud or dominant.
A boerboel is highly protective of its owners, confident, and needs constant mental stimulation.
This breed is easy to train as long as they are trained and socialized from young. While boerboels may seem calm as puppies, they need active training and plenty of time with their family.
Give this dog daily exercise by walking it with a leash or playing with it in a closed yard.
Keep boerboels away from places with lots of other dogs, as they are aggressive towards dogs, and keep these dogs on a leash at all times when out of the yard.
A gentle giant, the Great Dane grows up to 28–32 inches tall, while weighing 110–175 pounds.
These dogs have smooth, short hair that can be a range of different colors including black and white, fawn, brindle, blue, harlequin, mantle, merle, or a mix of these colors.
This breed is highly energetic and needs lots of stimulation to stay alert, but Great Danes are also sweet, friendly, good with kids, and will become courageous and protective when needed.
Train a Great Dane from a young age with plenty of socialization with humans and other dogs to nurture a well-adjusted adult dog. These dogs need firm and consistent obedience training from an active owner.
While these dogs may seem idle, they need two or three brisk walks or a hike with their owner, each day.
Great Danes should be exercised before (rather than directly after) their meal times to avoid bloating, and should only join hikes and runs when they are two years old or older, to prevent hurting their young, fragile joints.
Medium Working Dog Breeds
Working dog breeds that fall into the medium-size category grow to be 17–23.5 inches tall and weigh 25–65 pounds. Well-known medium working dog breeds include the Siberian husky, schnauzer, and the German pinscher.
The Samoyed is a medium breed reaching 19–23.5 inches tall and weighing 35–65 pounds.
These dogs have a double coat with long hair, which shelters the dogs from the cold. Coat colors include biscuit, cream, white, and white and biscuit.
Samoyeds are highly energetic and vocal dogs that have smart and mischievous personalities. The breed is a social dog that needs plenty of love and attention as well as mental stimulation to stay agile and functional.
These dogs are easy to train, and do best with a firm, but loving, training style from an owner who creates a strong emotional bond with them.
Samoyeds need daily exercise, which can be long walks on a leash or play sessions in a yard. Keep these dogs in an enclosed area because they love to roam and can become destructive if left alone for too long.
The Siberian husky is a friendly, medium breed ranging 20–23.5 inches tall and weighing 35–60 pounds.
These dogs have a double coat with medium-length fur that comes in a range of colors, including plain black, plain white, and white with patches of black, agouti, brown, gray, red, sable, or tan.
Siberian huskies are highly vocal and energetic dogs that need lots of social interaction and stimulation. As this breed is dignified, friendly, protective, and powerful, it will fit in well with families.
Start training a Siberian husky, at a young age, with obedience training that is fun for the dog and the handler.
While huskies are moderately easy to train, harness training needs hours of dedication from experienced owners.
Provide plenty of exercise for these dogs, because they are active, athletic, and enjoy running or participating in dog playgroups.
This breed is prone to chasing smaller animals, and should be kept on a leash if not in an enclosed yard.
Standard schnauzers are high-spirited working dogs that grow to 17.5–19.5 inches tall and weigh 30–50 pounds.
This breed has a double wiry coat with medium-length fur that is either black or salt-and-pepper colored.
The standard schnauzer is a fairly energetic dog breed that needs plenty of mental stimulation to stay alert.
Train these dogs with care, as over-training this breed is easy and detrimental. These dogs only need to see an example a few times before they understand what is expected of them. The breed is a social and intelligent dog that is highly trainable.
Standard schnauzers are energetic and enjoy long hikes, play sessions with humans and other dogs, and agility exercises with their families, daily.
Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese water dog is a highly intelligent working dog breed that grows to 17–23 inches tall and weighs 35–60 pounds. This athletic dog has curly, wavy long fur that is black, brown, or white.
This breed is energetic, playful, protective, and good with humans, children, and other dogs. Keep Portuguese water dogs mentally stimulated and train them with obedience training methods. These dogs are eager to please, making them easy to train with positive training methods.
Vigorous exercises such as long daily walks, play sessions, and plenty of water activities keep Portuguese water dogs active and healthy.
German pinschers are high-energy working dogs that grow to 17–20 inches tall and weigh 25–45 pounds. The breed has a smooth, short-haired coat that is black, blue, red, or fawn-colored.
These dogs are highly intelligent, elegant, confident, and are often excited to do anything with their owner.
Training a German pinscher is easy, although due to the high level of intelligence these dogs have, they can easily manipulate inexperienced trainers.
Train this breed with firm obedience training that is also fun for the dog to prevent them from getting bored.
These agile, athletic dogs need daily exercise, and because German pinschers are good performance dogs, they are usually interested in any type of exercise with their owner.
Working Dog Mixes
Working dog mixes are common and offer different personality traits that come from their mixed heritage.
These mixes come in a variety of sizes, colors, and coats based on their parents’ traits. These mixes usually take on characteristics from both their parents and result in unique behaviors and attitudes.
Should You Get a Working Dog Breed?
Working dog breeds are good for owners who spend plenty of time with their dogs every day to keep them active and mentally stimulated. These breeds thrive when they are doing the jobs they have been bred for.
While working dog breeds are often good with children, keeping them in a small, family home is difficult as they are large pets that require lots of space.