Working Dog Breeds

The breeds in this group were bred and trained to be just what the name says – workers. There are some of the best known and best loved of man’s dog companions in this group. From the earliest days of recorded history, these are the animals who have helped man pull his sleds, guard his sheep, watch his home and family, fight his enemies, and trail criminals. Because they always lived close to man, they became devoted pets as well as hard workers. In America today, the breeds in the Working Group are valued almost entirely for their companionship and used very little for their working abilities.


The Eskimo is a dog that has been helping man for at least two thousand years. You know how he pulls sleds for people who live in the snow-covered lands of the Far North. But did you know that he also carries packs on his back, pulls boats in the summer, and helps in hunting musk oxen, seals, and polar bears? This intelligent, hard working animal has also been highly valued by all the famous explorers of the Arctic.

In his main work of pulling sleds, the Eskimo can find his way over snow through the blackest night, and can sense weak places in ice and avoid them. Eskimo sleds are usually pulled by a team of ten dogs. Even with little food, these dogs can pull a sled as far as thirty miles in a single day. One dog is the leader of the team. He is trained to obey such commands as “Stop,” “Go,” “Left,” “Right,” and “Faster.” No reins are used. The driver guides his team only by words. Puppies start their training in harness when they are six months old, but it takes several years to make a good leader dog.

The full-grown Eskimo dog stands about twenty-five inches high and weighs up to eighty-five pounds. He has a very strong body with a deep chest and muscular legs. His head is broad, with short ears that stand up straight and a medium-sized muzzle. His eyes are small and set deep in his head on a slant. His tail is large and bushy, and he carries it curled over his back. His coat is heavy, long, and rather coarse. He wears a thick undercoat of wool which keeps him warm and dry in zero weather or the heaviest snow. He sleeps outdoors on the coldest nights, curling deep into a hollow of snow and covering his nose with his tail to warm the air he breathes.

The Eskimo can be almost any “dog” color: black, white, gray, tan, and all combinations of these colors. His feet are perfect for the work he does-flat, with thick pads and lots of hair between the toes to keep the ice from cutting them. Like all sled dogs, he has little or no doggy odor.

He usually likes to fight other animals and only shows affection for his own human family. Since lie makes no sound when a stranger comes near, he is not a good watchdog. In fact, the only sound he ever makes is a howl like a wolf’s, and he only makes this sound when he is disturbed. Such an active, outdoor kind of dog needs to live in the country where there is lots of space and snow.


Within the past ten years, the boxer has become the fourth most popular dog in the United States. Perhaps he is so popular because be looks fierce enough to frighten away strangers, and yet is really a gentle, playful and affectionate pet.

Although the boxer originated in Germany during the last hundred years, he gets his English name from his habit of starting a fight by “boxing” with his front paws. His ancestors include the fighting dog of Tibet and a kind of bulldog that was used to hunt boar, deer, and bear. Later, the Germans used him as a police and war dog. Today we know him mainly as a watchdog and war dog. He is especially good with children, and female boxers make excellent Seeing-Eye dogs for the blind.

The boxer is medium-sized, square-bodied, and very muscular. His coat is short and shiny, usually any shade from light yellow to dark red in color, or else a brindle. His ears are cropped and stand erect close to his wrinkled forehead. His muzzle is square, with a black nose. His eyes are always a dark brown with a black rim, and his tail is docked short.

Although rather large for an apartment, the boxer is such a friendly, clean dog that he has become one of the favorites of city children. And of course he is equally popular with families who live in the country.


After the cocker and the beagle, the collie is the most popular dog in the United States today. For centuries, he guarded the flocks of Scottish shepherds and often took care of as many as three thousand sheep at one time. It was only after Queen Victoria of England said how much she admired this breed that it became as popular a pet as it was a worker.

It is believed that the name comes from the old Anglo Saxon word “col,” which means black. As far as is known, most early collies were this color. Today they may be all tan, tan and white, black, white, or black and tan and white.

The collie is one of the most beautiful of dogs. Children like him particularly and he, in turn, is their devoted playmate and guardian. His expression is bright and intelligent, especially when he perks up his sharp, small ears. He has a straight, pointed nose, twinkling eyes that seem to smile, and a great bushy brush of a tail. His coat is thick and long, forming a proud frill on his chest. The large-sized collies which we know best weigh about sixty pounds and are about twenty-four inches high. The original Scottish collies were smaller.

In addition to his special ability to herd and guard sheep, the collie uses his quick intelligence in many other ways. There is a famous true story about a smart collie: A shepherd once took his young daughter for a hike in the Scottish hills. When he came to a steep cliff that he wanted to climb, he left the child at its foot, intending to pick her up when he came down from the top of the cliff. But before he got back, a heavy fog had suddenly covered the land, and the shepherd was unable to find the place where he had left his little girl.

The poor father searched for three days but could not find her. Each night when he came home, tired from his search, his wife told him the collie had refused to eat his food. Instead of gobbling it down as he usually did, the dog would snatch it up in his mouth and run away. The shepherd decided to follow his collie to see where he took the food. The dog led him to a cave near the foot of the steep cliff. And there the father found his child eating the bread which the collie had brought to her!

German Shepherd

If you have ever seen a patient German shepherd dog guiding a blind person through traffic, you will appreciate his intelligence and know how well trained he can be.

The German shepherd was bred from farm dogs who were used to herd sheep in Germany many years ago. They became famous in our country after World War I, when they were used as messengers and guards. Sometimes they are wrongly called “police dogs” because they also helped the German police. Now they are almost as popular in the United States for their work as Army and Seeing-Eye dogs as they are for pets. They make fine watchdogs because they do not trust strangers. But they are most affectionate and gentle with their “own” family.

The German shepherd is medium-sized, yet strong. He has a graceful, steady walk. His head has clean lines, with rather large ears that stand up very straight when he is at attention. He wears a double coat of coarse, smooth hair that can be any color from all black to light gray. His bushy tail hangs close to his body, and his slanted eyes are usually dark.

Here’s a story that shows both how devoted this breed can be and how intelligent: Early one June, a seven-yearold German shepherd was sent from Seattle, Washington, to some new owners who lived in Indiana. But apparently the dog missed his former master so much that he refused to stay in his new home. In September, three months later, he showed up in his old home in Seattle. He had found his way back to his loved ones over two thousand miles of country!

Great Dane

The great Dane is often called the “king of dogs,” because of both his size and his proud looks. Ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Chinese pictures of his ancestors have been found. There is even an engraving on an English coin some two thousand years old which shows a man riding on a huge dog that looks very much like a great Dane!

In more modern times, this breed was owned and trained by German princes for hunting wild boars, wolves, and bears. Then, the French called this dog a “Grand Danois,” which means great Dane. This seems to be the only reason to connect this breed with the country of Denmark, as far as is yet known definitely. Later, in England, the great Dane became a favorite “carriage dog” who trotted ahead of the fancy carriages owned by royalty and other wealthy people.

Today, the great Dane is popular as a country pet and watchdog. He still has his hunting speed and intelligence, but he needs to be carefully trained if he is to be a reliable companion. Otherwise he might be dangerous to own.

In spite of his enormous size, the great Dane is so wellbuilt that he does not look clumsy. His head is narrow, with a squarish muzzle. He carries his long tail close to his body and moves gracefully on his powerful legs. His ears are medium-sized, usually erect, and his eyes are dark. His coat is short and very sleek. It can be of many different colors: all shades of golden yellow, black, brindle, or harlequin. This means a white body with large, black patches. Because the great Dane is so big, he should live where there is plenty of room for him to run.

Saint Bernard

One of the most famous dogs in literature or painting is the Saint Bernard. This breed was raised by monks in the Swiss Alps for hundreds of years, for the main purpose of finding people lost in the snow of those mountains. They were trained to go to a rescue in a pack of four. When they found the lost person, two of the dogs lay down, one on each side of him, to keep him warm. They licked his face to bring him back to consciousness. Around their necks they carried small barrels containing medicinal spirits which the person drank to give him strength. The other two dogs ran back to the monks to get help. They then led the monks to where the lost person lay with the other dogs guarding him, and thus he could be carried to safety. It is said that Saint Bernards have saved 2500 lives in this way. Today, the dogs no longer wear the barrels or go out alone. They go out with a monk to search for a lost person, and then to help the monk find his way back to the monastery. They have such keen noses that they can even locate a person who is buried under snow.

The Saint Bernard weighs as much as two hundred pounds. His coat lies close to his body. Its main color is white, with patches of red, or brindle, or orange. His tail is slightly bushy. His head is noble, with its wide skull, wrinkled forehead, short muzzle, and deep-set, brown eyes. In spite of his size, he is a kind dog when he is treated kindly. He can become vicious, however, if anyone is cruel to him. Once he becomes attached to a person, he remains faithful and affectionate. He makes a fine watchdog for a country home.


Although the Newfoundland is an ancient breed, it only became truly popular in England and America after Sir Edwin Landseer painted his famous picture of this sad-eyed dog. But this breed was popular in its own country, Newfoundland, long before its picture was ever painted. There, the Newfoundland was used by fishermen to retrieve game, to help haul in the heavy nets full of fish, to pull carts, and to carry burdens. He and the Saint Bernard are the only dogs considered to be the equals of the Eskimo dog in the ability to find their way over ice and snow. But the Newfoundland’s greatest claim to fame comes from his remarkable swimming ability. When wrecks occurred off the coast, he would carry lifelines out to the ship, save passengers from the icy waters, and even rescue valuable articles from the sea! He was so highly valued for this work that the government of Newfoundland put his picture on a postage stamp. This is the only dog ever to have been given such an honor.

The Newfoundland is large and muscular, yet quick. His coat is flat and oily, and he has webbed feet that help him swim so well. His tail is covered with long hair, and his eyes are dark brown. His head is broad, with a rather square muzzle and small ears. His best color is a solid black, but he can also be black and white with a touch of bronze.

He is hardy, easy to raise, and wonderful with children. He should live where he can get plenty of outdoor exercise, however, and he should be fed plenty of the fish he loves so much! Besides being a loyal companion and an exceptional lifesaver, the Newfoundland is so intelligent that it is said he can be trained to do almost anything within reason.

In England many years ago, a man and his friend were on a trip. With them was his Newfoundland dog. The man boasted that his pet could find and bring back to him anything he might leave behind. To prove this, he scratched a mark on a coin and hid it under a heavy stone at the side of the road. About three miles farther on, the man ordered his dog to go back and fetch the marked coin. The men rode on to their home. To their disappointment, the dog did not return that night.

Early the next morning, however, the dog awoke his master. In his mouth was a pair of pants. In the pocket of the pants was a watch and the marked coin! The man advertised the watch, and when its owner appeared to claim it, the mystery was solved. This is what had happened: When the dog returned to the stone under which the coin had been placed, he could not move it. So he sat down beside the stone and howled. A man riding past stopped to see what the matter was. He got off his horse and moved the stone. Seeing the coin there, he put it in his pocket and rode away. The dog followed him for twenty miles, went into his hotel room, and hid under the bed. When the man undressed and went to sleep, the dog quietly took the pair of pants with the coin in the pocket and trotted back to his master with them!

Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman pinscher is a fairly new breed which was developed in Germany around 1870. It is named after a Mr. Doberman who originally raised these dogs to be watchdogs and house pets. The Doberman also proved to be an excellent hunter, and his keen nose was valuable in police work. Because he has naturally high spirits, he must be carefully trained when he is a puppy, so he will not grow up to be stubborn or wild.

The Doberman pinscher is of medium size and very handsome. His body is strong, sleek, and powerful. His head is clean-cut, flat on top, with small, trimmed ears that stand erect. His tail is clipped short. He wears a smooth, hard coat that glistens. It is usually black or brown, with clear red markings on his legs, paws, chest, muzzle, and over each eye. He makes a fine pet for city or country, but he should be owned by one who has the patience and understanding to train him properly.