Guide dog

A typical day for the average dog might mean a belly scratch in the morning followed by a stroll around the park. Around noon, it's time to plop on the couch and nap a couple hours away. A little staring out the window, a few minutes of barking at the neighbor's dog—and its been a great day all around.

But for the countless working animals of the world, napping the day away is the last thing on their minds. These inspiring pups take work ethic to a whole new level.

Dogs may be man's best friend, but guide dogs offer much more than just companionship. For men and women who are blind or visually impaired, venturing out into the world can be a challenging and sometimes frightening experience. By helping their owner get to and fro, guide dogs are helping their owner to be more independent and confident.

German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers are commonly bred as guide dogs. Light training begins as a puppy and becomes more intense as the dog ages. Guide dogs must learn obedience, resistance to distraction and agility. A guide dog's main responsibility is to help its owner move about safely by avoiding obstacles like curbs, traffic and people.
Police dog

Just like the men and women in blue, the duty of a police dog is to protect and serve the public. The finely tuned members of a K-9 unit are specially trained to perform different jobs. Some dogs are trained to go on patrol and help officers chase and hold suspects, while others are used to sniff out illegal substances or explosives.

These canine troopers don't go unrewarded—many dogs are credited with saving the lives of police officers and are honored for their service.
Search and rescue dog

Because of their keen sense of smell, dogs are often the backbone of a search and rescue mission after disasters like earthquakes, mudslides, train derailments and building collapses.

Hundreds of these dogs were used during the 9/11 search and rescue efforts at the World Trade Center and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. These four-legged heroes have noses so powerful, they can sniff out people buried under wreckage or even detect victims underwater.
Therapy cat

Therapy dogs and cats offer a vital benefit to all they come in contact with: friendship. These cuddly creatures often provide comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes, mental institutions and disaster areas. Studies show that having a furry friend around can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels and overall feelings of loneliness. If scientific evidence isn't enough, the smiles of the people these animals touch is proof of a job well done.
Therapy horse

For children with physical or cognitive disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and spinal bifida, bonding with a horse can be a life-changing experience.

Children who cannot walk can feel the rhythm in the horse's gait, and those with sensory disabilities can learn the power of trust while propped high atop the animal. Therapy horses can give their riders confidence, exercise and a whole lot of joy.
Herding dog

Your pooch may be known to chase a squirrel or two around the backyard—but the instincts to round up hundreds of cattle, sheep, goats and other livestock can only be left to the pros. Herding dogs use their incredible speed, endurance and intelligence to keep their herds in line.

If you want to see a herding dog in action, your best bet is to look Down Under—herders in Australia and New Zealand frequently rely on these top dogs.
Sled dog

Sled dogs live for one word—mush! With a true love for adventure, these dogs are always ready to charge ahead. The Alaskan husky has phenomenal speed and endurance for its size—and working as a team, these animals have incredible strength.

During the famous Iditarod, sleds with teams of 12 to 16 dogs run over 1,150 miles of Alaskan mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forests and desolate tundra. The dogs cover about 100 miles a day—proudly forging through darkness, freezing winds and temperatures well below zero.