10 jobs for my dog

Jobs for your dog

My mutt Ace drives me crazy if he hasn’t had enough physical and mental exercise. He needs to run around and play, but he also needs work to do. Mental challenges help him get rid of pent-up energy, fight boredom and leave him tired!

Different breeds need different jobs, so here are some ideas to put that lazy bum currently sleeping on your couch to work:

1. Carry a dog backpack.

One of the easiest ways to tire my dog physically and mentally is to put his dog backpack on him and head out for a walk. He automatically goes into a working mode. He has always heeled nicely with his pack on because he is focused on carrying rather than pulling.


2. Agility and other dog sports.

Dog agility is a lot of fun for dogs and their owners! The sport is great because the dog and the handler get exercise. Any breed (mutts too!) can participate. Many dog-training facilities offer beginning agility classes to the community along with more difficult classes to prepare dogs for competition. You could also try other dog sports like flyball or Schutshund.

3. Hunting.

Most sporting breeds were originally bred to hunt. Even if you don’t actually go hunting, your retriever would love to fetch a stick from water and your springer would love to help flush out birds in a field.

4. Pull a cart or sled.

This is a great job for dogs like huskies and malamutes that were bred to pull sleds and breeds like rottweilers and Swiss Mountain Dogs that were bred to pull carts. Just make sure you introduce your dog to a cart or sled slowly so she is confident and doesn’t get spooked by noisy wheels following her.

5. Visit a nursing home or other therapy work.

With proper training, almost any dog can visit certain schools, nursing homes or hospitals.

6. Dog obedience class.

My mutt crashes when he gets home from obedience class because for a full hour he is required to respond to different commands and work amongst other dogs and people.

7. Games.

I like to mess with my dog all the time by hiding from him and calling him or throwing a blanket over his head to see how long it takes him to get it off. We play the “find it” game where I hide objects in a field or on a playground and Ace has to use his nose to find them. Little things like this throughout the day make a dog think, and they make training more fun.

8. Mentally stimulating toys.

There are hundreds of toys out there designed to make a dog think. I like to fill Kong toys with peanut butter and treats so my dog has to work on how to get the food out. A dog left home alone with interesting toys is less likely to get bored and find her own job.

9. Herding.

Sheep herding schools are set up so dogs like Shelties can come and do what they were bred to do. So many of these high-energy breeds like border collies end up with behavioral issues because they are so bored with the suburban lifestyle. Many dogs start trying to herd anything such as other pets, bikes or the kids they live with. Teaching your dog to actually herd sheep is a great way for her to use her instincts.

10. A long walk.

It is very mentally challenging for a dog to stay in heel position during a long, controlled walk. Keeping her at your side will tire her out much quicker than letting her run ahead and pulling you all over because it will require her to focus. An uncontrolled walk where the dog is everywhere will just make the dog even more excited. Instead, allow the dog plenty of time to run and play after the walk. If a walk is too boring, try running, rollerblading or biking with your dog. You may want to try out a bike leash for dogs so you can have two hands on the bike.

Does your dog have a job?

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  1. Apryl DeLancey on December 8, 2008

    Gus has a backpack that is very funny when he first gets it on. He’ll just stand there. Once he does get walking he will be slow about it. He’s getting better, though. Really long walks work for him also but he’ll never be an agility dog. He is so lazy that he lays down and goes to sleep at the dog park!

  2. Biggie-Z on December 8, 2008

    We have been thinking that Biggie needs more obedience classes or agility – not because he would be “good” at it – he’s a little too slow and self-motivated (or rather, self UNmotivated), but we think he’d like the the mental challenge or doing something new.

    Otherwise, Biggie is all about working. He is always on duty, and he never takes a day off; he lives to guard. We do play games and he has his mentally stimulating toys, but guarding is job #1. All the time.

  3. jan on December 8, 2008

    My dogs’ jobs are to keep the floor clean of all the crumbs that drop from the humans eating. 😉

  4. Chad on December 8, 2008

    Just stumbled on your blog. Some great stuff here! I have a 6 month old Shepherd/Chow mix that definitely needs a job to do. I’m going to look into a backpack this week.

  5. Cynthia Blue on December 8, 2008

    All my dogs have jobs! Well, Lucy and Angel don’t really anymore, they are getting older and their bodies are not as strong as they used to be. But the other four do, and we all love it! (They might say they are games, not jobs, lol)

  6. Ty Brown on December 9, 2008

    My dog has a job as a protection dog. He’s never really had to protect us from anything but he loves to practice when he gets the chance and someone is willing to get bit!

  7. Liza S. on December 10, 2008

    Speaking of jobs for your dog (and exercising) – what do you think about riding bikes with your dog? I recently ordered a Springer – a device which attaches to your bicycle and helps you safely bike with your dog running alongside. The springer absorbs up to 90% of the pulling the dog might do so if Keeda lunges at another dog I won’t fly off my bike! I was wondering if you had tried anything like this before and what the experience was like.

  8. the three dog blogger on December 10, 2008

    Liza, I used to cycle regularly with our previous dog. Only on country tracks though away from anyone else. He absolutely loved it. He would run for about 4 miles and just couldn’t get enough. As soon as I stopped he was dying to carry on. He was a lot fitter than me! He just loved the speed of it.

  9. Lindsay Stordahl Author on December 10, 2008

    Liza, I bike with my dog all the time in the summer. I just hold his leash in my left hand and he runs right at my side so I have never considered buying a Springer or any other kind of bike attachment. I imagine they work very well, though. And they allow the person to have both hands free.

  10. Liza S. on December 13, 2008

    Thanks, the three dog blogger and Lindsay. The Springer finally arrived a couple of days ago and we got to set it up today and go for a first ride with Keeda. She loved it! We’ll have to stick to short rides for a while until we build up her endurance. I barely even felt her pulls. One thing I was worried about is that perhaps putting a harness on her, which encourages her to pull, while biking would cause her to pull in regular situations with a buckle collar as well, but so far that hasn’t been a problem. Then again we have only had one ride so far.