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.
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.
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!
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?