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.
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.
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.
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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