10 Surprising and Sometimes Confusing Jobs Our Dogs Were Originally Bred To Do
Written by FOTP Team
Dogs make for great friends, excellent hiking companions, toasty lap warmers, lightning-fast ball fetchers, impressive food-scarfers, efficient dog toy destroyers, honed stick finders, and so much more.
But most dogs were bred to take on more important work than the, frankly, pretty low-effort tasks we assign to them today. Dogs were once the champions of capitalism: cheap, efficient labor that just worked for treats. What happened?
1. Samoyeds aren’t just known for their delightful smiles. They were originally bred to herd and haul in Siberia.
Long before they became living clouds that swarmed our Instagram feeds, Samoyeds were bred in Siberia to herd reindeer and pull sleds. Nowadays Samoyeds have lost most of their aggression, so they make better companions (especially for kids!) than laborers or guard dogs.
2. Ever wonder why Dachshunds have such loud barks? It’s so they could be heard deep within badger burrows.
When German breeders first started breeding Dachshunds in the 18th century, they called them “Dachs Krieger” which translates to “badger warrior.” With branding that good, I’m not sure why we decided that it’d be better for Dachshunds to be lap dogs instead of badger warriors, but here we are.
3. Poodles were originally bred to wade through bogs, which is probably where their iconic hairstyle comes from.
Most European countries had their own signature water dog in the 18th century, and Germany (yes, Germany, not France) was no exception. The name Poodle even comes from the Low German term “puddeln,” which means “to splash.” They were bred to find fallen fouls (say that five times fast) that had been shot down over bogs. That’s wet, dirty work — so they were trimmed in a very specific way to keep their legs dry while keeping key parts of their body warm in those chilly bog waters.
4. Jack Russel Terriers may look like little cuties to you, but try telling that to a fox living in the 1850s.
Jack Russel Terriers were originally bred to hunt foxes, mostly because British fox hunters needed little white dogs that they could tell apart from the very foxes they were out hunting. And actually, the breed hasn’t been called the Jack Russel Terrier since the Kennel Club officially changed its name to the Parson Russell Terrier in 1999. Time to update your contacts apps!
5. From Croatian hunting dogs, to royal escorts, to tireless firefighters, Dalmatians have been put to work since 1375.
These days, Dalmatians are synonymous with fire stations, but back in the Dalmatia region of Croatia in the 14th century, they were bred to hunt, fight in wars, and defend Croatia’s borders. Truly an incredible animal. Eventually, we figured out that Dalmatians and horses get along really well, so we started breeding them as coach dogs, which naturally evolved into working dogs for firehouses, which once relied on horse-drawn wagons to put out fires.
6. Yorkies may be small, but they’re just big enough to give cotton mill mice and rats a run for their money.
In the 19th century, every cotton mill and mine in England would have been lousy with little Yorkies stalking about chasing after rats and mice. The lineage of the breed isn’t terribly well-documented, since the factory workers breeding them didn’t keep rigorous notes, but we do know that they came from two dogs named Old Crab and Kitty, which is pretty fun.
7. Corgis have become the symbol of ineffectual lap dogs, but at one point we counted on them for nipping at the heels of cattle to keep them in line.
With their luxurious, soft coats, squat statures, and happy-go-lucky attitudes, it’s hard to imagine Corgis darting around the thrashing hooves of cattle out in the muddy fields of Wales all day, but that’s precisely why they were bred. In the early 19th century, farmers in the UK made the change from cattle farms to sheep farms, and Corgis weren’t having it. From that moment on, they became the useless little lap dogs we know and love today.
8. After the Shiba Inu’s original job of flushing small rodents out of bushes became obsolete, they found a new calling as viral meme stars.
Long before becoming the face of modern meme culture, the Shiba Inu could be found prowling the mountain trails of the Chubu region of Japan, flushing birds, rabbits, and other small game out of their burrows. The breed very nearly died out during World War II but has since made an amazing comeback thanks to just three surviving bloodlines. Now they’re best known as rare puppers and meme coins.
9. Cocker Spaniels used to have one of the coolest dog jobs ever. They worked with a partner to hunt small animals, and that partner was A MOTHER-FLIPPING FALCON!
Cocker Spaniels originally come from Spain (hence the name “Spaniel”) and were used for a form of hunting called hawking, where a hunter worked with a falcon or hawk to take down birds and small game flushed out of their nests. How Hollywood hasn’t made a buddy cop movie about a ruthless falcon and its hapless Cocker Spaniel sidekick is beyond me.
10. The Japanese Chin was bred for one very specific purpose: to be party favors.
Nobody quite knows how the Japanese Chin ended up in Japan (they most likely came from China or Korea) but their original purpose seems to have been just to be given away as gifts to royalty. Oh, and I suppose they were occasionally given AS gifts FROM members of royal families. Either way, these little flat-faced cuties are pretty much just glorified party favors.
Even if your dog isn’t out hunting foxes, taming reindeer, or defending the borders of Croatia, they still need good stuff to keep them kicking. That’s why Front of the Pack has developed The One, a vet-recommended blend of 12 ingredients to support your dog's health. After all, they need to be in peak physical form for all that napping.