In olden days, dogs had specific jobs.
Some were bred to help control vermin, like the Jack Russell, others like the Border Collie were bred to herd sheep. Dog history shows us there was a variety of jobs our humans needed us to do;
…..as well as a whole range of other tasks.
Keeping us doggies active and challenged with enjoyable ‘jobs’ leads to lots of busy contentment…this, along with our daily outings, walks and adventures, are what make us truly feel alive and involved with our humans.
These days, the majority of us doggies do not work the way that our past family members have worked, but we still have a ‘built-in’ desire for ‘work’. ‘ Work’ in the sense of ‘working activities’ or ‘jobs’ whereby, we will still be mentally and physicallly stimulated, positively challenged, rewarded and involved with our humans…Just like in days gone by.
Although all dogs can be taught all assignments, it is worth finding out about our family’s previous job description since this is why we find different breeds of dogs have different abilities and interests for certain tasks.
- For example: My ancestors were excellent at ‘tracking’, so activities which require similar skills like: ‘find the treat’, ‘hide & seek’ and ‘follow the sausage trail’ are guaranteed to keep me busy and satisfied….no instruction manual required!
Activating our doggie desire for jobs is also very effective through dog enrichment toys.
- For example: working out how to get to the treats from my favourite toy: my Kong stuffed with goodies…..yum-yum!
When Vikki goes out to do some human chores, she leaves me with a ‘home-alone task’. Its my job to find the hidden treat. I watch her wrapping a big yummy treat a million times over in newspaper (like a Pass-the-Parcel game!). Then, she puts this parcel in a few cardboard boxes and closes them all up! I don’t even notice that she has gone since I get started on the assignment straight away! It’s quite tiring working out how to open some of the boxes and then unravelling all the newspaper…by the time I get the yummy treat (feeling very proud of myself) and have an ‘after-task’ nap..I wake up to the sound of the front door opening. Back already?
For example: Choosing jobs we are more predisposed to will satisfy our natural instincts and give us the confidence and motivation to go on to do the trickier tasks that might take us longer to learn (our humans need to spend a bit more time and patience teaching us these ones).
Look at what these Ridgebacks are doing in the following videos. Their human sent a message to Vikki to say what a lovely girl I am..thank you!
This doggie’s human has made a clever machine for his ball-loving instincts…busy, busy, busy!
A dog who is happily working away at a task is much more content than a bored, restless dog with nothing to do.
Sometimes, if dogs don’t get given tasks to learn and do, we invent ‘jobs’ for ourselves, such as;
- seeing off people approaching the house
- chasing birds out of the garden
- running after joggers
- perhaps changing some of the decoration in the house
- changing the flower bed design
…… not always the best choices!
Channelling our energies and desires for our natural behaviour patterns into ‘work’ of any kind gives us a real sense of well-being and happiness.
There are some great ideas from the book ‘Clever Dog – Train your dog to be really useful!‘ by Gwen Bailey which shows us some great jobs to learn and homework assignments.
Christina Sondermann’s website shows more ideas on jobs to challenge and stimulate our senses. We can learn how to improve our sniffing skills, intelligence and obedience work through tasks and games. In her book ‘Playtime for your dog’ she shows how everyday objects and places can turn into fun working challenges!
Mr Fox game – (broom handle/ rope/ stuffie) allows me to ‘work’ with my natural chase & catch abilities and its fun for Vikki too:
Nina Ottosons activity ‘enrichment’ toys are designed for us to find hidden doggie treats through problem soliving in different ways; to lift blocks, push pieces, turn discs, push blocks, put blocks inside something.
Home-made enrichment games are grea too. When I was a Baby-pup, Vikki used her old muffin baking tray to hide treats under tennis balls that sat nicely in the mufin holes. I had to pick up the tennis ball with my mouth or paw-bash it out of the hole to find the treat!
Although most of us now live as companion, family and home doggies, this does not mean our interest and needs for jobs have disappeared. Dogs need jobs! With help and guidance from our humans, anything is possible for doggies of any breed, mix-breed and age to learn new skills.