A pooch may make the perfect pet but some dogs are more capable than others. Of course, humans have always known that our canine friends can do so much more than fetch and sit on demand. From working sheepdogs and guide dogs for the blind to police work and more, their intelligence, dedication and loyalty seem to know no limits. Take a look at these four examples that show dogs can be heroes too.

Sniffer dogs

Did you know that a dog has about 300 million olfactory receptors in its nose, compared to only 6 million in the average human nose? Add to that the fact that the bit of the dog’s brain dedicated to analysing smell is about 40 times greater than ours, and you begin to get an idea of one of their awesome superpowers.

Dogs are now routinely ‘employed’ to sniff out dry rot fungal infestations in old buildings – take a look at Sprocker Pip bio on this building surveyors’ team page. Recently, COVID-19 sniffer dogs have started work at Helsinki Airport and are reportedly able to detect the presence of coronavirus within 10 seconds. Studies have also shown that dogs can use their fantastic sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with 97% accuracy.

Fetch, boy!

Whoever came up with the idea of turning a dog’s favourite game into something more purposeful surely deserves a medal. Since 2016, ‘ball pups’ have been used at the Brazil Open tennis tournament in place of human ball boys/girls. Specially recruited rescue dogs are trained for months in the important job of not only chasing down and picking up lost tennis balls in mid-game, but returning and releasing them as well. Needless to say, the pups are a firm favourite with the crowd.

The idea behind the initiative is to show that abandoned dogs can be adopted and trained, and to promote the adoption of shelter dogs. The original four-legged tennis ball retrievers all found new homes, and one of them was even renamed Serena - after the famous tennis player. 

Sea dogs

Lila the labrador loves swimming in the sea. Nothing unusual about that you might think, until you realise that Lila is a deep sea diving dog who hunts for lobster on the ocean floor! It took two years of training until she learnt to dive down to 15 feet, hold her breath and pick up a lobster. If you’re interested in giving it a go with your dog, here are some tips

Lila’s owner went on to co-found 4Ocean, a ‘purpose driven business’ that sells recycled bracelets made from plastic waste removed from the sea. The labrador is a full member of the team, retrieving bits of plastic from the water for recycling. To date, the clean-up operation has removed more than £7 million pounds’ worth of trash from the ocean floor. 

There are many other examples of dogs who ‘work’ in and around the sea. The Italian School for Rescue Dogs has been training dogs - mainly Newfoundland dogs - to save people from drowning for many decades. Today, there are several hundred trained rescue dogs serving as lifeguards and with the Italian Coast Guard, helping to keep the waters safe.

Safety first

Piper, a Border Collie, had a very important job at his local airport in Traverse City, Michigan. No, he wasn’t tasked with sniffing out drugs or explosives, as you might have expected. What he did all day long was much more to his breed’s liking. Piper was in charge of keeping the runway clear of stray birds, foxes and other wildlife. As the furry face of the Cherry Capital Airport K-9 Team, he became an internet sensation when he started his duties back in 2014.

Take a look at Piper in action here, complete with protective goggles and noise-cancelling headphones, taking his job of keeping the airport safe for both planes and passengers very seriously indeed. He was such a celebrity, he even had his own website and social media account. And although Piper passed away in 2018, the memory of this very special Border Collie will live on in the hearts of all who knew him.