Friday Fun: Give Your Dog a Job!

As a dog trainer of a herding dog, I’m all too aware of Rugby’s need to stay busy and work that keen mind of his. Something I’ve started doing, is giving him a daily job to do.  It’s really fun for him, and helps him realize that he’s earning his place in our pack, which is a good thing.  Just like we enjoy working for a paycheck, dogs feel the same way.

This client’s dog was bored…

In the United States, many dogs are overfed and under-exercised.  Humans do everything for their dogs, so that their dogs are often bored beyond belief.  This is often why dogs become destructive.

Today, I trained an Australian Shepherd who had chewed the cable connection off the side of their home….twice…in two days…the second time was within hours of the first repair!  She had begun “shopping” for items on shelves, and chewed up her AKC papers!  Her owner was stymied.  She had never done this sort of behavior before, and she had a very naughty week.  In every naughty case with her this week, two things were to blame….too much freedom and too little supervision, and she was solving her problem of what to do with her high energy and boredom.

Physical exercise is wonderful for dogs and humans alike.  But physical exercise is not enough for your dog…especially if you have a working breed or herding dog.  Those dogs were bred to work, and they want to work! They are not happy dogs if they are expected to go for a 30 minute walk, 30 minutes of fetch, and sleep the rest of the day.  They. Need. A. Job.

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Rugby in the kitchen waiting to work!

Years ago, our very first Corgi, Schatsi had a daily job of bringing in our morning newspaper.  At the time, we lived in a little bungalow style house, in a block with other bungalows….all in a row.  So, looking at the houses from the street, you saw, driveway, sidewalk, driveway, sidewalk….all the way up and down the block.  The paperboy would throw everyone’s newspaper in the middle of their sidewalk.  That meant that all up and down the block, each one of those sidewalks had a newspaper right in the middle of it.  When Schatsi would go out to get the newspaper, he would see every single one of those other newspapers, and he would busily grab them all and bring them to me!   And then, in my bathrobe, I was quickly putting all of those newspapers back before my neighbors realized Schatsi was a thief!  After a day or two of this, I learned my lesson, and I sent him out to get the paper on a long line every day so I could reel him back in if temptation became too great!  I always thought our neighbors must have really enjoyed seeing the little Corgi on a long leash fetching the morning paper to me!

Closing the door!

A dog’s job doesn’t have to be anything huge, but just something that he can do that’s helpful and will enable him to feel like he’s contributing to the pack.  Rugby’s job is closing doors and cabinets for me and bringing me his supper dish when he’s finished.  He also opens his crate door for me.  I’m going to add in picking up his toys and putting them away before too much longer.  If you have a larger dog, you might consider getting a great backpack for him and letting him carry bottles of water for you when you go for a daily walk.  This also has the added benefit of adding just a bit of extra weight to wear your dog out!  This is really great for those high energy dogs!!

Do you have a baby or toddler in diapers?  Teach your dog to bring you a clean diaper!  Can he bring his leash or harness to you before walks?  If your dog can fetch a ball, he can learn to bring other items to you, or pick up things that you drop.

Many dogs that I train love to learn tricks.  One of the dogs that surprised me most was a dog who was half Great Dane and half Labrador Retriever!  People often think that large dogs won’t like tricks, and Mia was a dog who got so very excited when it came time to learn tricks!  Don’t underestimate your dog and what they are capable of doing!  It doesn’t take much effort to teach tricks, and with a few simple tricks, your dog can be earning his keep by helping you out at home!  It’s a win/win, and I promise you’ll have fun at the same time!!

So this weekend, take a good look around your house, and ask your dog what job he would like to have to earn a few treats at home! Take inventory about your daily routine, and see if there’s not something you do that you could delegate to your dog.

And for those of you who have put your dog to work, what jobs does he do for you?




  1. says

    Every morning before my hubby leaves for work, he gets out treats for the dogs, and Luke's job is to close the cabinet doors afterwards. He just loves it so much. On the days I don't have to work, I stay in bed and I can hear those cabinet doors SLAM every time! I think that just shows his enthusiasm for it. He also closes those doors and others throughout the day when we're using them. I think that's one thing I taught him that we use the most.
    I think it would be fun to teach him to get his leash before a walk too, we might have to try that.

    • Sally says

      Good for you, Jan, for putting Luke to work every day! It really DOES make our dogs happier, and it also makes the day much more fun for them and for us. If your dog can do a good retrieve, he can do so many little jobs for you! I teach fetch with "Get it, Bring it, and Drop it." That way, when I ever need Rugby to pick something up, he understands my finger point to the object, and he understands that "Get it" means pick it up. Dogs love to help us, and it keeps those brains working!! Well done, my friend!! Belly rubs to your crew!!

  2. Joni says

    Your story reminded me of several years ago when our newspaper would mysteriously disappear. Turned out our neighbor's dog was retrieving ours too. A sweet boy that figured two was better than one!

    • Sally says

      Joni this makes me smile so much! I can still see the delight on Schatsi's face when he had brought two additional newspapers to me! I'm sure he thought if one was good, two more must REALLY make me happy!! What a wonderful character he was, and the reason I love Corgis today!!

  3. Michelle says

    This is good food for thought. I've got to come up with a job for Spencer. He will run out and bring his ball inside when I tell him to get it. I think I could expand this into the house and have him pick up his toys. I'm afraid that I've become so accustomed to my teenagers leaving stuff around that I've learned to not pay attention. But Spencer is the kind of dog that would indeed benefit from the positive things that come from a job well done.

    • Sally says

      That's super, Michelle! If Spencer can retrieve on command, it's a piece of cake to teach him to pick up his toys and put them away. You're just going to ask him to drop the toy into a container instead of your hand or randomly on the floor. I start with a big laundry basket or box so that he can't help but succeed in getting it into the container. You can make the container smaller and smaller over time until you have him dropping his toys into the ultimate container that you'd like to use. I think all dogs want to have a purpose in life, and giving them simple things to do makes them as happy as it does toddlers when we let them help with work. Rugby follows me around looking for something to do! Keep in mind we have herders who would happily work with sheep (or piggies) if they could....ALL DAY LONG!! Keep me posted!! Belly rubs to Spencer!!


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