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working dogsWorking group dogs, such as the Great Dane, Leonberger, Dobermann and St.Bernard, were originally bred for their bravery or their brawn.

They can be broadly divided into guarding or protecting breeds, sledding breeds, carting or draft breeds and rescue breeds. These dogs have a long and close association with man and have provided invaluable help to their owners.

Generally large, physically robust dogs, with a high level of intelligence, these capable animals make solid companions, however their considerable dimensions and strength make many working dog breeds unsuitable as pets for average families.

Guarding Dog BreedsGuard dogs have existed for centuries, guarding being one of a dog's most natural instincts . One of the earliest duties of the domestic dog was guarding the property of its owners, whether that property be land, livestock or a home. Livestock guardian dogs are often large enough and strong enough to attack and drive away predators such as wolves. It is only within the last hundred years or so that particular attention has been paid to evolving certain breeds, such as the Rottweiler, Boxer and Dobermann - once herding breeds specifically for the purpose of guarding and protection.

There is a difference between a guard dog and a watch dog. A watchdog simply watches the home and alerts others to the intruder by barking. Watchdogs typically are smaller, more excitable breeds.

A guard dog not only watches and alerts but also threatens and deters the intruder. Most guard dogs will instinctively protect both their human family and the area they consider as their territory. The intimidating appearance and low voice of these breeds is often enough of a deterrent to any would-be intruder however. The trainability of a guardian dog should be on the top list of desirable qualities to ensure that the dog's natural protectiveness and territoriality remains within permitted boundaries.

Carting DogsMany breeds, such as the Newfoundland, Greater Swiss and Bernese Mountain Dog were bred as draft dogs, to assist people by pulling carts or wagons. Even today, in many countries, these draft dogs are referred to as "the poor man's horse." and are used to haul milk and other produce from farms to market and to make deliveries around towns.

Modern means of transportation may have largely replaced dog power, but the natural instinct and ability remains in these hardworking, powerful breeds, ready to be awakened with the command to pull.

Like all working breeds, these dogs are happiest when gainfully employed and assisting their master. Once old enough and trained, there are countless useful, fun and competitive carting activities that can be enjoyed.

Large breed puppies such as these do however need very careful management, both in terms of diet and exercise for the at least their first year in order to allow their fast growing bones, ligaments and muscles to properly develop.

Puppies can be introduce the basics, such as wearing a a harness and hitching up, but actually pulling the cart - or indeed any weight - should only be introduced only to mature, physically fit dogs which should ideally be at least 15 months old.

When considering bringing a dog from the Working Group into the family as a family pet, it is important that you consider the size of dogs in this group. They also require adequate exercise, and a job to do. Structured training and socialization from a very young age is critical.

Sledding DogsSledding dog breeds are characterized by their endurance, strength, and intelligence. Usually medium to larger dogs, with a very muscular build, these animals were traditionally selected and bred for function rather than looks. 

Sled dogs have developed thick, double layer coats enable them to withstand very low temperatures, however, in less harsh environments such thick coats require regular grooming especially at the beginning of summer when they lose a lot of their undercoat.

Traditional sled dog breeds include the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute, the Canadian Eskimo dog and the Greenland dog. These dogs helped mankind to haul supplies before modern modes of transport were available. More recently dog-sled racing has become a popular pass-time.

Like the sled dog breeds themselves, the sport of sled dog racing has seen some interesting adaptions to modern times and different climates, where in the absence of snow, racing is done on dirt tracks with wheeled buggies rather than sleds.

Most sled dogs are quiet and rarely bark. However, they do howl like wolves which can be a beautiful, eerie sound on a cold winter night.

Search and Rescue DogsIn common with other working dogs, those breeds that have become known as rescue breeds, such as the famous alpine hero, the St Bernard, and the powerful water rescue dogs, the Newfoundland and Leonberger, would originally have been used for other purposes, such as guarding or pulling heavy loads. 

At the turn of the 18th century, the monks of St. Bernard pass were regularly training St. Bernards, originally used as guard dogs, to rescue travelers who were lost in the pass. 

The Newfoundland is another lifesaver, originally bred to work alongside fishermen and haul nets from the water, it has in more recent times excelled at water rescue, aided by it's webbed feet, powerful build, stamina and thick oily insulating coat.

The Leonberger, remaining true to it's Newfoundland roots is another capable water rescue dog.

Like all large, powerful dogs, early socialisation, careful management and sensible patient training from an early age is a must.