Assistance and Working Dogs – Complete Guide

pastor alemán cuidando a una persona con prótesis en la pierna

Translated by Nick R

You may have heard that dogs like the Golden, Labrador, and even the German Shepherd are good at helping people… And you’re right, they’re very smart and popular for certain jobs.

But haven’t you wondered what exactly they do? Or if out of all the breeds, are these the only ones that can do that? Well… you’ve come to the right place.

Here I’ll explain in detail everything you need to know about working and assistance dogs and what canines are ideal for each activity.

What are working and assistance dogs? 

Working dogs

Working dogs are canines predisposed due to their breed, nature, or personality to perform a specific work activity to support human labor.

Also, to strengthen this ability, these canines go through a rigorous training according to the job to be performed.

Assistance Dog 

The guidelines of The Service Dog Registry in the United States state that the U.S. Department of Justice “defines a service animal through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal specifically trained to provide assistance to a person with a disability.”

Therapy canines also belong to this category; however, the training for therapy canines is not as rigorous and they are not considered as a separate task like assistance dogs.

How is a working dog trained? 

When talking about the training of a working or assistance canine, make factors are taken into consideration: the age at which they can start, issues involved in training, the length of the training, the types of training, and the training methods.

At what age does training begin? 

Dogs can start with basic training between 12 and 16 weeks of age. Of course, it’s imperative to expose the canine to various stimuli as a puppy; these will allow it to have a positive experience with people, objects, and the environment.

However, an article published in 2019 on the web portal “muy interesante” says that “according to a new scientific study, the best age to train your dog is around six years old“.

It is mentioned in the article that this was a study conducted at Michigan State University by psychologist William Chopik. The research involved approximately 1,600 dog owners who were surveyed about their canine’s behavior according to their age.

The results showed that, according to the age and behavior of the pet, dogs between 6 years old were at a good moment for training because “they have left behind their puppy stage, but they are still forming their own personality”, according to Chopik, author of the study.

In addition, during the research analysis, they found that training senior dogs is more complex.

It can be concluded that there is an advantage in training the dog as a puppy because it hasn’t had a socialization process yet. However, a family dog that has been socialized and is to be trained as a working or assistance dog should be trained around the age of 6 years.

Aspects to take into account in the training of working dogs 

There are 4 aspects involved when training a working dog:

The breed’s instinct 

It’s important to identify the abilities and characteristics of each breed to make the best use of those abilities. Instincts go from hunting to survival, which will allow it to feel more prepared when doing the job.

An example of this are breeds with a strong hunting instinct such as the German Braque, the Beagle, and the Labrador retriever, as they have an excellent sense of smell and great energy for this type of activity.

Obedience during the training process 

To get the canine to obey during this process is vital to make use of positive reinforcement, which will give the canine more confidence as it knows it’s doing a good job. In addition, to prevent the dog from being distracted and not paying attention, you should start in a small place.


Everything starts with the proper leadership for the process so that the canine recognizes the trainer as the leader. As mentioned above, the process starts in a controlled space and then moves to a larger area so that the canine can assimilate to the new place.

For this process to work, it is important to alternate the periods of activity and rest, having an ideal balance, so that the canine can learn. In addition, the canine must get used to the factors of obedience and following orders so that the training can work.

Physical conditioning of the dog 

Before starting the training, the dog’s physical condition must be verified so that it won’t suffer any injury to its joints. The dog should also have previously had a daily routine of walks and moderate exercises so that the impact of the training is not so strong.

How long does the training of a working dog last? 

It depends on the type of training the dog requires. It will take less or more time depending on whether it learns basic commands or a very specific work activity. Duration and frequency of training sessions

According to an article by Amy Bender, a dog trainer with more than 10 years of experience, the training time per session must not be more than 15 minutes. If the canine lasts a long time in an activity where it must obey and do very specific exercises, it will get distracted and tired and this will cause him to make mistakes.

In addition, the frequency of the sessions should vary between 1 and 2 times a week for better results. Canines that are trained more times per week take longer to learn because they get overwhelmed without proper rest.

Total training duration

This depends on different factors such as the breed’s disposition to learn faster, the time distribution in the training sessions and the specific activity to be taught.

The approximate total duration of the training can range from a minimum of 4 to 9 weeks (for very basic commands) and the most extended being from 6 to 18 months approximately (to perfect very specific skills such as smell).


All dogs can be trained with enough training and time. However, it is not the same to train a Chihuahua for hunting as it is to train a Beagle, being a breed with a strong hunting instinct: training the Chihuahua may take longer than for a Beagle.

Besides, as I already mentioned, if you increase both the frequency and the duration of the sessions, it will not be a beneficial training for the canine because it will tire him.

On the other hand, it depends on the activity you want to teach the dog. If they are basic commands, it will take a shorter time of approximately 4 weeks.

But if it is something more specialized like alerting about high sugar levels or pushing a wheelchair, both as tasks in assistance dogs, this is a specific training that requires more time (about 9 months) for the canine to better develop that skill.

If they are specific activities in working dogs such as detection dogs it can take much longer up to 18 months.

Types of training for working dogs 

This section is divided into the types of training that assistance dogs and working dogs require.

However, there is standard training for both types of canines. They range from basic commands to correcting their behavior and developing their senses and physical abilities.

Standard training 

In this phase, there are more exercises for the canine to develop all the basic skills.

Puppy training 

This can be considered initial training since it starts at the youngest stage of the dog. Its main purpose is for the dog to learn its first social skills.

This means that it is based on activities performed at home, interaction with the cage, learning what objects can be chewed and when to play.

In addition, some dogs at this stage are taught obedience exercises, which are stricter than socialization activities.

Training in basic command

This training is done with standard commands such as sit, stand, come, down and stay. These commands will be helpful in advanced processes because they will already have learned a certain position that is required to perform a task.

In addition, this training involves mat exercises that are performed in the workplace itself, working with the perch or pedestal to get on top and those types of skills in more advanced positions that are necessary for their work.

In this process, you add learning obedience and above all, you are going to test your concentration on the exercise you are doing, downplaying distractions in your environment.

Training in advanced commands

This stage of the training is basically to improve and perfect the skills learned during the basic command phase. For successful learning, the canine will do the off-leash activities to test its concentration and polish these skills.

On the other hand, obedience learning is further reinforced to examine it in a remote environment (away from the person who is commanding it), and review the execution time and the reaction to distractions.

Obedience training 

Here the obedience factor is taught in more depth. The purpose of this training is to condition the canine in multiple social situations that it may experience during its life in order to have full control of its actions.

For example, when attending social events where there are other dogs, the dog is conditioned to focus only on its owner and not to be distracted by other people or dogs.

Behavioral training 

This training will help the dog to get rid of bad behaviors.

Examples of such behaviors are jumping, pushing people, other animals and furniture, demanding attention excessively when the person is busy, stealing food, chasing other animals and moving from one place to another regardless of who is in the way.

It’s important that the canine corrects these bad behaviors (some to a greater extent than others) so that it can have a calm interaction with its family, the person to assist, or the person to support at work.

Agility training 

The purpose of this training is to improve and master the canine’s physical skills. This consists of passing different obstacles such as fences at a certain height, going through tunnels, and passing a mesh wall.

The training process is only done through the voice and body language of the handler, there should be no contact with the canine or attract it with snacks. It’s recommended to start this training when the canine is one-year-old to avoid injuries in its joints that are still developing.

The intensity and frequency of training will vary according to the dog’s personality and size. For example, a shy or timid dog will take more time to adapt to the tunnel obstacle as it’s a very narrow place.

On the other hand, while the dog is in the initial stage to improve its agility, the obstacles should be according to its size, so that it will be easier for it to do it and not get frustrated in the process.

Tracking and Tracing Training 

The purpose of this very specific training is to develop the dog’s sense of smell to a high level. The dog uses its nose to follow or track something according to the scent previously presented.

This training is not limited to just those two actions, the canine will also be able to detect specialized things such as bombs or diseases, for example.

Protection training 

Through this training, the canine will be able to act as a protector or guardian when the situation requires it. Not all dogs can develop this activity in the same way, there will be some breeds with more predisposition due to their instinct, such as the Rottweiler.

Some characteristics that the dog must have for this training are courage, confidence, control, distrust of strangers, and acting independently sometimes.

Retrieval training 

There are two learning paths in this training, one is specialized in hunting and the other is focused on retrieving objects.

This training involves a more specific process because it requires preparation according to the environment where the dog has to retrieve or hunt. For example, if the dog has to retrieve an object in the water or in the mountains.

For the hunting activity, the canine is taught certain behaviors. Some of these behaviors are to be gentle with its jaw and not to bite or eat the animal it has caught.

Service or assistance dogs 

An article published in 2019 by the online magazine anythingpawsable on news and information related to working and assistance dogs tells us what are the starting types of training for an assistance dog.

Manners training 

As the name says, this training focuses on the canine’s manners, which is a basis for the initial training as an assistance dog. The exercises that canines learn at this stage are:

  • No jumping
  • No biting
  • Controlling their impulses
  • Not to play hide and seek with objects in the house.
  • Sit politely when greeting people.
  • Ignore food that falls on the floor.
  • Not receive or take food from plates and people
  • Learning to get in and out of a vehicle discreetly and quietly
  • Waiting calmly for the collar to be removed or placed
  • Move out of the way when instructed to do so
  • Wait for the collar to be removed and then walk through the doors into your home.
Public Access Training 

To put it in simple terms, this training is for the dog to learn correctly how to behave in a public environment. At this stage, they practice staying in one place and taking walks with collars of all kinds in environments with a high or low level of distraction and prolonged walks.

Controlling impulses when in public is important, therefore the skills learned in the manners stage will be paramount to strengthening this training. This stage will help the dog to act discreetly in those environments. Some exercises the canine learns in this stage are:

  • Passing under a chair or table
  • Picking up the tail so that no one steps on it.
  • Familiarization with all types of environments, situations, surfaces, and sounds.

Training in specific tasks in assistance or service dogs 

It can be said that this phase is the final one since here the canine will learn in depth the specific tasks to be done. Likewise, to complement this stage, all the skills learned in the previous phases must be consolidated so that when performing an activity, it can be carried out without any problems.

In addition, the learning of these tasks will depend on what the person needs or the type of disability he/she has. Having this factor clear, the dog will be taught the task with the necessary requirements.

According to a publication by LealCan, a dog training organization in Madrid, these are some specific activities for assistance dogs.

  • Signal dogs or dogs for deaf people: “Intended to help disabled people with some kind of hearing impairment; their main role is to recognize different types of sounds and alert their guide”.
  • Guide dog: “intended to help blind people” and its function is focused on “accompanying, driving and assisting visually impaired people”.
  • The medical alert dog: this canine is trained to “warn of a medical alert to those people suffering from different pathologies that may compromise their lives”.

Some of the tasks a service canine can learn are:

  • Helping a person get up from the floor.
  • Turning lights on and off
  • Opening and closing doors
  • Pushing a wheelchair
  • Picking up objects on the floor
  • Sitting up a person who was previously lying down
  • Retrieve a telephone
  • Balance a person who is unstable
  • Waking a person who is having a nightmare
  • Alerting the caregiver that medical equipment is malfunctioning
  • Alerting a person who has a high blood sugar level
  • Alerting the person to the presence of highly dangerous allergens
  • Helping to remove the person’s clothing or blanket covering to help even out the temperature
  • Helping a person with an anxiety attack by means of a deep pressure stimulus
Task Training in Therapy Dogs 

The approach of this training is related to the emotional health and support of a person in connection with A.A.I. Animal Assisted Interventions. This training will allow the dog to enhance the emotional health of the person through interactive activities.

This type of training is not as rigorous since there are no specific activities to be learned. Here the canine must be conditioned to ignore all distractions and accept all stimuli without worries. This is to achieve a high level of confidence in any daily situation.

The dogs are trained to help people with psychic disabilities such as ASD, autism spectrum disorder, and people with psychological disorders. But they also assist elderly people, people in penitentiary centers, and rehabilitation or drug addiction centers.

Their training is centered on Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), part of the A.A.I., and in this training, their function is to “promote improvement in physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive functioning and can be individual or in groups”, according to LealCan, a canine training center.

Working dogs 

The canines that are trained for this type of activity have been taught and prepared physically and intellectually to help and support the work of their owners. They have gone through the standard training so that at this stage they complement that knowledge with a specific work activity.

Some specific jobs performed by the dogs are:

  • Detection
  • Search and rescue
  • Herding
  • Hunting
  • Police

Dog Training Methods 

A K9 of Mine article written by canine trainer and lecturer on positive reinforcement method in dogs Meg Marrs shows us there are 7 methods used during the training process.

In addition, this article gives an outside opinion from Erin Jones, who is a certified canine behavior consultant, to know her point of view regarding some methods.

These training methods are dominance or alpha, positive reinforcement, use of the e-collar, use of the clicker, model-rival method, science-based method and relational-based method.

Alpha or dominance method 

The purpose of this method is to subordinate the canine to the trainer (in terms of command) so that it assimilates the hierarchical organization and recognizes who is the leader.

It is developed through the implementation of a “positive punishment”. This means that when the dog behaves incorrectly, it will be corrected accordingly. For example, when the animal is put in a submissive position such as on its back on the floor.

Additionally, the handler should guide the dog when passing through doorways and on walks, always positioning himself in front of the canine. Another common behavior in this method is for the dog to eat after the person has finished eating and is given permission to do so.

Opinion of the canine trainer: she mentions that this is a detrimental method to the animal’s emotional health. She confirms it with a study that mentions that the use of punitive techniques (such as showing dominance over the dog or immobilizing it) brings consequences to his behavior.

This means that the canine can act aggressively and that using this method will generate anxiety and fear. In addition, it disproves the fact that walking first and in front of the dog, for example when passing a door, is not at all dominant and the canine doesn’t even realize that.

Positive reinforcement method 

This method basically “uses rewards to guide your dog towards desired behaviors”. It’s one of the most used methods because the dog enjoys the process and results and strengthens the bond with the trainer.

The procedure is based on the fact that if the canine did the right thing, it will assimilate the action and result of its behavior as something positive thanks to the reinforcement it receives afterward. This will result in greater motivation for the dog.

These reinforcements can be snacks, a toy that they really like or praise and caresses from their owner. The tip for positive reinforcement is to use the dog likes a lot and the action of giving the reward should be accompanied by a voice command (which can be “yes”).

Opinion: Erin says that this method is the best way to use it in the training process. It will help to raise motivation and that will bring excellent results.

On the other hand, food is a very powerful reinforcement because the canine will always want to eat a delicious snack, and what more satisfaction than getting it by accomplishing the task and behaving correctly.

E-collar method 

Also called e-training, this is a method in which an electronic collar is used to cause discomfort and pain to the dog when it behaves incorrectly. The collar can produce an electric shock, vibration or spray citronella (which comes from the aromatic plant of the same name with a strong citrus scent).

The use of this collar can affect the canine’s behavior because first, it indicates only the bad behaviors and the animal will not know when it did something right. Second, not knowing what is right, it will continue to make mistakes.

As the dog will only know that it is doing wrong and that as a result it will get hurt, this will produce fear and prevent it from moving; it will just stay still to avoid feeling pain from its actions.

This type of method will generate a lot of stress for the canine, besides the fear and distrust at the moment of doing a task.

Clicker method 

It is not considered as a type of method but as a complement to the positive reinforcement method.

It consists of making a quick, high-pitched noise, such as a whistle or click to let the dog know when it achieves the correct behavior or accomplishes the task.

In addition, the advantage of using this device is that it allows trainers to act immediately to mark the behavior just done by the dog as positive. It is also an excellent tool for the dog to learn new tricks and more complex activities.

The clicker has a uniform sound so it will make it easier to identify the sound in situations where the correct performance of the canine’s task will be rewarded. Clearly, the dog must first associate the sound with the activity (once the clicker sounds, it will be commanded to do the exercise until it only needs to hear the clicker to do the exercise independently).

Then it needs to associate the sound with the reward (the same process as with the exercise. In this way, it will go through the whole process to obtain a reward.

Model-rival method 

This is based on observational learning, in other words, it is seeing the activity and copying it, like the function of a mirror when reflecting. The process begins with one dog observing another dog doing the task and then seeing that it will obtain a reward at the end of the task.

This system takes advantage of the socialization nature of canines. However, it is only advantageous with simple activities, not for complex activities because they require specific guidance from the handler for the dog to learn.

Science-based method 

This method focuses on the empirical experience obtained from multiple studies and tests with canines. One such study was conducted at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary by researchers Claudia Fugazza and Dr. Ádam Miklósi. They used Shaping (modeling/training) and the Do as I do (DAID, social approach where the dog imitates the actions of the human being) methods. The results were positive for ideal learning in assistance dogs.

The aim is to understand the canine’s behavior under certain conditions in order to test the effect of such exercise; when receiving a reward or when receiving a punishment.

It is not possible to determine a specific process for this methodology because science is always advancing. Also, for some trainers, this process is more like an attitude towards something in particular or a mindset adopted depending on the situation.

An advantage of this method is that the canine owner will be able to better identify the behaviors the dog exhibits in certain situations.

Relationship-based method 

The approach in this method is at an individual level in dogs and humans. Everything is developed based on the relationship that the canine has with its owner. In this case, the owner doesn’t know how to adapt the dog to specific training.

Through this relationship, the owner seeks to satisfy the needs of both the dog and the handler, helps to foster communication, and strengthens the bond between both. This is done through daily activities that are normally performed with the canine, such as a walk following its master or picking up an object and bringing it back.

It is a method where you must pay more attention to the dog’s behavior when it does an action. And from doing that action you can determine what task you can teach it according to the environment and the stimuli it receives from it.

What is the importance of working dogs in society? 

Carola Melguizo, “journalist and creator of the project <<The dog’s guide>>”, tells us through her article published in the news web portal THEOBJECTIVE the importance of these canines in society.

The whole set that constitutes a canine, its instinct, personality, physical characteristics, and others, is what allows them to be a key piece at the moment of supporting the work activity

Throughout their evolution, the strong relationship of dogs with humankind has had an impact on human activities.

The sensorial and physical abilities of dogs allow them to do tasks that humans can hardly do. Their help makes work more effective, while without their support, it would take humans a long time and even cost a lot of money to carry out such activities.

Let’s look at an example with cancer detection dogs (a process that is still under development). With proper training, the dog is able to warn a person of a serious health condition, just with its incredible sense of smell.

On the other hand, human activity would take longer to make such a diagnosis, because it requires the presence of symptoms, the time it takes to run an examination and the wait for the results.

And just as there are dogs that detect diseases, there is a vast variety of canines that support and facilitate human jobs and assistance tasks.

What is your purpose for owning a working dog? 

These canines will be trained according to the person’s need or requirement. There are three purposes to acquire a dog of this type: to work, to assist a person or for a specialized accompaniment.

Working dog 

If the person is looking for support to perform a specific task in his job, which is very difficult for him to perform, the working dog is the one required for these activities.

These canines have the ability to learn and execute specific tasks and perform an excellent job. For example, dogs in charge of herding sheep and taking them to their pen or dogs in charge of tracking a prey in hunting activities.

Assistance dog 

If a person has some type of physical disability, e.g. vision, hearing, mobility impairment, either on a small or large scale, the role played by assistance dogs is ideal for this type of population.

These dogs are trained according to the person’s needs to assist them in all daily activities to perfection, either with partial or total support depending on the situation.

Therapy dog 

If the person has mental or emotional health problems or disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, autism, among others, therapy dogs provide excellent support for them.

The job of these dogs is basically to help stabilize and improve a person’s mental and emotional health.

In addition, if you belong to another population that doesn’t suffer from these disorders such as the elderly, some children and people in a state of rehabilitation, these dogs prove to be helpful in improving your adaptability.

Types of working and assistance dogs 

There are certain breeds and types of dog personalities with better skills for each requirement. Likewise, they are trained according to the support activity they must perform, whether as a working, assistance or therapy dog. Some breeds learn easily due to their high level of intelligence; if you want to know more I invite you to read the 15 most intelligent dog breeds.

They provide security, protection, and defense for their leader. 
Characteristics: they must be strong, robust, and very active canines, having developed their hunting and guardian instincts.
Golden retriever
Belgian Shepherd Malinois
Dutch Shepherd
Labrador retriever
They help detect explosives, mines, tobacco, and narcotics. 
Characteristics: apart from having good physical conditioning, these dogs have a highly developed olfactory faculty (achieved with proper training).
Cocker spaniel
Basset hound
Springer spaniel inglés
Golden retriever
Labrador retriever
They help with corpse finding
Characteristics: same as in detention
Belgium Sheperd
They rescue in avalanches, earthquakes, and aquatic environments. They possess a high tracking ability through their sense of smell. Characteristics: they must have a high level of endurance, agility, be very energetic, have the proper physical conditioning and a more developed sense of smell.Coonhound
Saint Bernard
German Shepherd
Belgian Shepherd
Golden retriever
Labrador retriever
Shepherds guard, care for, guide, and control herds and cattle. Characteristics: it is a skill that can be perfected with training, but some breeds have already had the herding action instinctively since ancient times. They should be dogs that show leadership, agility, and intellect to solve any mishap.Border collie
Australian Cattle Shepherd
Bearded Collie
Berger Picard
Croatian Shepherd
English shepherd
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Small hunts: chases and captures animals such as rabbits, hares, partridges, pigeons, and ducks. 
Characteristics: they must clearly possess hunting instinct, be persistent, be very energetic. They have the courage to face some prey, have an adequate physique to withstand extreme weather conditions; not only have a developed sense of smell but also have a very sharp sight to visualize their prey. In addition, it must be a very obedient canine to comply with the hunter’s orders at any time. 
Big game hunting: they chase animals such as wild boars, deer, mountain goats, and fallow deer. For this hunt they hunt in packs.
Small Hunts
German Braco
Cocker spaniel

Big Hunts
Jagd terrier
Rhodesian Crested
Scottish Hound
Tracking and sniffing to obtain subway mushrooms like truffles. This is an edible mushroom with great gastronomic value. 
Characteristics: the same as those of a detection canine: a highly developed sense of smell and adequate physical condition to withstand the search journies.
Labrador retriever
Lagotto romagnolo
They detect intruders, alert and protect the owner and protect the area where they are located. 
Characteristics: these dogs must have a strong protective instinct. They must be agile to respond quickly to a counterattack and have physical resistance. Their behavior should be aloof and distrustful of strangers.
Doberman pinscher
Chow chow
DobermanBrazilian Mastiff
German Shepherd
They help to move sleds in snowy environments. 
Characteristics: these dogs must be robust, strong, and resistant to withstand extreme cold weather such as snow. In addition, their physical qualities include a very dense coat to counteract the impact of the temperature.
Alaskan Malamute
Greenland Dog
Siberian Husky
Alaskan Husky
Canadian Eskimo Dog

Types of assistance dogs

Their role is to assist the person either fully or partially in all common daily activities. In this way, they facilitate the development of these activities. People with visual, hearing, and physical disabilities belong to this group. Canines take the role of a guide dog, hearing dog, or assistance dog in general. 
Characteristics: these canines should be docile, calm and friendly. They should not be abruptly alerted by sudden sounds and signals so as not to cause confusion to their owner.  They should be in good physical condition to carry out activities of strength and have a great reaction capacity to detect any danger to the owner. 
Golden retriever
Labrador retriever
German Shepherd
Their function is to be 24/7 with their owner to detect a dangerous change in their health with a 15 to 20 minute lead time. These canines are trained to detect and alert changes involved in diseases such as diabetes, epilepsy and dangerous allergens that can produce severe allergies. 
Characteristics: have a great capacity of reaction to detect the change in their owner’s body. Possess a very specialized development of the sense of smell and be friendly and sociable canines so that the owner enjoys the company all the time.
Golden retriever
Labrador retriever
Portuguese Water Dog
Jack Russell

Types of therapy dogs

Their job is to be of great support in stabilizing and improving the physical, emotional, and mental health of the person. This allows the interaction with the individual to facilitate the purpose of the therapy and adapt the person to a more pleasant environment. This process is part of AAT (animal-assisted therapy), which focuses on the person-animal relationship. These canines help people with mental disorders and illnesses. Some of these are Alzheimer’s, Autism, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, stress (at high levels), depression, and bipolar disorder. In addition, they are of support for the elderly, people in rehabilitation and penitentiary centers, and children with problems of adaptability to the environment. 
Characteristics: they are serene, calm canines, with a reliable and safe behavior. They are easy to handle and have a predictable behavior. In addition, they enjoy very much the interaction with people, so they do not have irritability behaviors due to constant physical contact. They are in good physical and mental condition.
Labrador retriever
Golden retriever
Pastor alemán
King charles spaniel

What cares does a working and assistance dog require? 

These dogs’ activities are totally different from the ones of a companion canine. Although all dogs require the same basic care, these dogs require more attention in certain additional aspects.

The care varies according to the stage the dogs are in. Thus, dogs in training phase will need certain care related to their physical condition. While dogs in the working phase will need care related to their behavior, and resting, among others.

Care in the training phase 

For all dogs, basic care must always be considered in order to keep them healthy.

  • To have a balanced diet according to their lifestyle.
  • Maintain hydration
  • Complete vaccination schedule annually
  • Deworming to prevent fleas and ticks.

In this training phase, the dog is going to be in different scenarios depending on the work it is going to perform. The condition of its body should be taken into account if it trains in an environment such as a forest or the sea to avoid possible injuries in its paws or other parts.

In addition, during the sessions, it is important to respect the session time and not to saturate the dog with more exercises than usual.

Demanding too much won’t give good results in the learning process and above all, the canine won’t be willing to do any more tasks due to tiredness. Therefore, remember to provide the dog with adequate rest after the sessions and you can accompany it with games so that it can free itself for a while.

Care in the working and service stage 

Just like dogs in the training stage, they also require the same basic care at this stage:

  • Yearly complete vaccination schedule.
  • Prevention of fleas and ticks by deworming.
  • Drinking, feeding, and hydration according to their lifestyle or according to the wear and tear caused by their work.

When they are already performing a work activity, these canines require a large space to rest so that they don’t feel like reducing the place of mobility compared to work.

The training and exercise routine must be kept up to maintain their physical condition and keep them fit for work.

In addition, some working breeds such as the Border Collie have a double coat, so it is necessary to comb it a couple of times a week and maintain regular grooming.

On the other hand, dogs with a predisposition to developing a health problem due to their breed should receive attention, such as the German Shepherd and its predisposition to suffer from hip dysplasia. Therefore, one should check whether any work activity is affecting the dog’s physical health.

Although these dogs like to do their work because they enjoy making use of their physical and sensory abilities, it doesn’t mean that they need to be in this mode at all times. A few moments of resting, socializing, and playing with the canine are important so that it doesn’t “lose” familiarity and become a stranger.

In this case, for service dogs it is necessary to maintain physical contact and interaction; this will increase their attention to the person they are assisting and will help to strengthen the bond.

Due to work, these canines become more active than usual. To maintain this type of routine you should provide some type of stimulation or exercise when the break is very long because they will want to keep busy.

Some behaviors that may occur when there is a prolonged rest without a productive activity are excessive barking, chewing, digging, or attempts to escape.


As you can see there are many canines that support human labor and it is not an easy thing to do. You must take into account what type of dog goes best with the work and, above all, comply with all the care to avoid future health problems.

On the other hand, it is recommended that if you are not an expert in training and you need the canine to do specific tasks, you better request a dog in a center specialized in training for working, assistance or therapy dogs.

However, if you don’t need a dog to learn complex activities, you can use the relationship-based method, where no previous experience is required but full attention to your interaction with your furry one.