Can a companion dog breed be a working dog?

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, Feb. 9, 2023
Sedna pup.jpeg
Sedna in the beautiful mountains of Utah

Yesterday, we explored the nature of a companion dog. We talked about how the American Dirus is a companion dog breed by its very nature, specifically designed to have the best qualities of a pet living together with humans in our busy modern lives.

Today, I want to discuss whether a companion dog breed, such as the American Dirus dog, can be trained as a working dog.

To illustrate this, let’s delve into Sedna’s story.

Sedna is from the Sea Monsters Litter out of Essex and Mary. She is a beautiful silver wolf sable with a black mask and fully erect ears. She was born October 19th, 2022. That makes her 3.5 months old.

Here is a stunning picture of this gorgeous gal walking in the snow near the glorious Rocky Mountains in Utah.

I mean… WOW, right?

Sedna was bought by a special person… a true American hero.

This man has put his life on the line many times to rescue trafficked women and children around the world. His life-saving work has been recognized by CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, Newsmax, NPR and many more. He is a nationally recognized published author, speaker, former operative and is the president of Humanitarian Aid and Rescue Project and HALO GROUP.

When he needed a kind-hearted, devoted dog with intuition and intelligence, Burke Bryant looked to the Dire Wolf Project for help. His hope is to train one of our American Dirus dogs for search and rescue in order to locate people who have been abused by the worst evil-doers on our planet. This type of work will allow innocent families to find the peace they deserve when their loved ones pay the ultimate price by terrorists or traffickers.

Back in 2009, both Jay and I trained two DireWolf Dogs for search and rescue work. We were avid members of Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado (SARDOC). We traveled all over Colorado and Utah training our two girls to work scent, both tracking (scent on the ground) and air scent (scent in the air).

Our dogs, Citara and Cricket, trained much differently than the other more prey-driven, energetic, eager dog breeds, such as the Australian Shepherd Dog. Both of our DireWolf Dogs proved highly intelligent with an excellent nose to track even 24-hour old scent. They didn’t have the fast-paced performance of the others, but they performed accurately and loved the game.

I remember sitting in a gnat infested wilderness waiting for Cricket’s little reindeer bell to jingle she was near. That bright trot of hers was such a comfort to see after a long stay waiting for someone to find me.

When Burke first approached Jay and I with his puppy application, we were excited to speak with someone so renowned for his bravery and self-sacrifice. It isn’t everyday one meets a savior doing so much to rescue human lives regardless of the cost.

We jumped on a Zoom call to make sure Sedna had the raw materials to be all he needed to bring a great result to his project. Sedna walked by our barking dogs with ease. She came running to Jay when I restrained her to build excitement for the fun game of “Go Find”. It was enjoyable to remember some of the beginning search and rescue work Jay and I did back in the day.

We were set to depart on the DireWolf Express delivery service with little Sedna when the Parvovirus hit. We were delayed three and a half weeks as the puppies recovered, a major setback in Sedna’s beginning training window.

When Sedna finally arrived at her new home several weeks later than expected, excitement and eager anticipation to begin her training escalated.

Several trainers in Burke’s organization took Sedna for a week to assess her response to different criteria. At the end of her stay, the trainers agreed with us that the dogs bred by the Dire Wolf Project do indeed have a very low prey drive uninterested in chase or fetch, perfect for a calm, gentle family companion dog.

P.S. If you were skeptical anyone could breed out prey drive in a working dog lineage, now you have the testimony of a few professional search and rescue trainers who have first-hand knowledge it has been accomplished.

Sedna is also extremely smart and eager to communicate with her humans in order to learn to be a good dog.

Burke shared with us some of Sedna’s skills, “She is potty trained and has her last shots and was given a clean bill of health by the vet. She’s a very loving and kind dog and will do well with a wonderful family who is looking for a sweet pet. She also gets along with other animals and does not need to be on a leash. Her ears are also up now as well.”

That all being said, Sedna requires a good bit of socialization training when it comes to people she doesn’t know. For whatever reason, Sedna has decided that strange humans are to be feared. When she is startled, she tries to get away and urinates in submission instead of being brave.

Of course, this can be taken care of with proper socialization training. Afterall, Sedna is only 3.5 months old and has only begun to experience the greater world around her. Since she received a late start in life due to the virus, she will need to catch up in this area.

Burke and his trainers feel they would prefer to have a more confident puppy for their training needs. They also worry that due to Sedna’s late arrival, too much crucial training time has been lost to develop the confidence she needs to traverse harsh terrain all around the world finding lost souls.

For that reason, Sedna is returning home to the Dire Wolf Project.

She will need to find her forever home.

She would do well in a family with or without children, with or without other dogs or cats. She is sweet-natured, loving, calm, gentle, with low prey drive. As mentioned, she currently has a lack of confidence when meeting strangers and will require specific socialization training, as many of our more sensitive puppies do.

She has some great skills already, is stunningly beautiful even as a puppy, and will be an amazing family companion dog with continued training.

If you believe your family would be a perfect match for Sedna and you have the time to properly socialize her, reply to this email and let me know.

Here is the link to her page:

So, the answer to the initial question of whether a companion dog can be trained as a working dog is - yes… but…

Yesterday, we learned a working dog can be trained to be a companion dog. It just takes much more training effort to accomplish it. So why not get a dog that already has the innate temperament for the job?

The same goes for the opposite. While training a companion dog to be a working dog can be done (Jay and I did it with Citara and Cricket), it takes a special effort to accomplish it. That’s why most people choose a working dog breed that already has the innate temperament for the job.

Burke is a special person doing incredibly dangerous, but important, work. From time to time, Jay and I see that exceptional puppy that has a more out-going, bold confidence. When we find that perfect furry creature with the bravery it needs to be a canine hero, we’ll reach out to Burke at that time.

All of our love and support to this brave man for his outstanding work as well as to the others involved.

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.