While some dogs are content to sit on your lap and look cute, working breeds have a different agenda. These are the dogs that are bred to hunt, herd, retrieve, and detect. They were born with an urge to work, and when they’re bored they tend to be mischievous and destructive. Working dogs like Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, Border Collies, Newfoundlands, and all the others thrive on farms and ranches where there’s never a shortage of things to do. But what about the dogs that live in the suburbs or city? Their families have 9-5 jobs; they’re not farmers or ranchers. So what’s an average dog to do? If your active dog is getting bored of life not on the farm, try these simple jobs for working breeds that they can do almost anywhere.
#1. Scent Games
Your dog doesn’t need to be a professionally trained scent detection dog to put his powerful sniffer to good use. K9 Nose Work is a dog sport based on the same training those drug-busting and ivory-finding working dogs undergo. But instead of sniffing out illegal objects, you teach your dog to recognize and detect the smell of birch, anise, and clove. There are competitions where dogs earn titles and awards, but you and your pup can enjoy the game right in your home, in the yard, or on the trail. It works your dog’s mind and body while giving him a satisfying job.
#2. Find it Games
In addition to scent, dogs use all their senses to track down items and even people. Think of search and rescue dogs but without all the peril. Teaching the “find” or “go get” cue will be your first step. Once your dog understands the basis of the game, you can teach him to find and fetch all kinds of useful objects. Teach him to bring you your shoes before a walk or carry over his own leash. You can even teach him to seek out specific people and pets. Retrieving breeds love this game because it’s based on their natural instinct to find things and bring them back.
#3. Pest Control
With a prey-driven working dog, you might never pay for pest control again. Your furry friend will keep the house clear of everything from mice and rats to lizards and flies. A dog with a high prey drive will most likely take on this task all on their own. All you need to do is keep them motivated with praise. Terriers are well-known for being expert mouse hunters, and you can use those natural instincts to your advantage. It might sound gross, but working dogs can be just as good as catching mice as any barn cat. Give them full reign of your house and yard, and heap on the praise when they get the job done. Thankfully, most dogs don’t choose to eat their prey after they take it down. If you think that might be a problem for your pup, train him to exchange a dead critter for a better-tasting dog treat.
#4. Clean Up
With the right training, dogs can be excellent at picking up their toys and helping out around the house. It’ll help if you have a designated bin for all your dog’s toys. After a fun round of play, tell him to “clean up,” and teach him how to place each of the toys in the bin. This advanced trick might take a few tries to learn, but working dogs can accomplish almost anything with the right motivation. Use high-value treats and practice consistently for the best results. Before you know it, you’ll never have to pick up dog toys again. It’ll be your dog’s job to always keep the floor clear of clutter.
#5. Keep Track of Family Members
Herding is a great job for working breed dogs, but it can be hard to do without a flock of sheep or other livestock. Without an appropriate outlet, herding dogs tend to treat small children like livestock, and that could mean nipping at delicate ankles. To curb this behavior, it’s best to embrace your dog’s natural instinct and teach him how to do it in a nice, gentle way. If you have a whole pack of pets, teach your herding dog how to gather the other dogs, and even the cat, around the kitchen for dinner. Discourage him from nipping and being too rough by praising him for gentle guidance. Be careful using this trick with children, but you can potentially employ your dog to help keep the entire family where you want them.
#6. Trick Training
Once your dog has mastered basic obedience, it’s time to move on to trick training. It’s not one of the most useful jobs for working breed dogs, but learning and performing tricks gives a dog a purpose and sense of accomplishment. The best part is, tricks are fun for both ends of the leash. There’s no end to the list of potential tricks you can teach your dog. Start with the easy stuff, like roll over and spin. With these types of tricks, you can lead your dog into it by luring him with a treat. From there, try teaching him to open and close the kitchen cabinets, weave through your legs, or jump through a hoop. Once he has a nice repertoire of impressive tricks, put them all together to make a routine that’ll impress all your friends and family.
#7. Puzzle Toys
When you lack a lot of space, puzzle toys are a great way to keep a working dog busy. These dog toys employ a dog’s brain to think about what they need to do to complete a puzzle and earn a treat. Puzzle toys come in varying levels of difficulty, and you can start your pup off easy and increase the challenge as he gets good. Some toys require dogs to pull open drawers, push buttons, slide knobs, and spin canisters to get the good stuff. They’re great low-key activities that keep dogs of all sizes, breeds, and personalities busy. Set up a puzzle for your dog, and he’ll see it as his job to figure it out. It’s one of those jobs for working breed dogs you can do no matter where you live.
For this job, you’ll need at least a medium-sized yard and a cart with harness. Working breeds like Newfoundlands, Mastiffs, and Bernese Mountain Dogs have historically been trained in carting for a long list of jobs. They hauled fish from the docks, wood from timber plots, and dogs even carted around milk and eggs to be delivered in towns. Once they’re harnessed to the cart, they’re all business and take their jobs seriously. Around your house, you can give your dog the job of helping in a garden or with yard clean up. You can even lead him around with no real purpose—he won’t care, he’ll still think he’s doing an important job.
#9. Carry Your Things
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had someone to follow you around and carry your stuff? Your dog is the perfect candidate. The simple task of carrying something can be immensely satisfying to a work-driven dog. As long as it’s not too heavy, carrying stuff is a safe job for all dog breeds. You can train your pooch to carry in the grocery bags from the car or help you carry items upstairs when you’re cleaning. When you go hiking or on a walk, strap a backpack onto your dog and let him carry his own water and treats. Not only will it give him a job to do, it’ll also help tire him out.
#10. Spread Smiles
Therapy dogs have an important job to do. They make people happy, lower a person’s blood pressure, and can help even the most stressed-out college student feel better about life. Going to hospitals and nursing homes typically requires an official therapy dog certification, but your pup can work to make people feel better in an unofficial way. Take him around to visit with friends and family and watch how he responds. If he has a natural affinity for comforting people, you can develop those behaviors so he treats visiting with friends as a real job. He’ll benefit from having something to do, and everyone else will love being comforted by your amateur therapy dog.
Keeping up with an active working dog can feel like a job within itself. They need a life’s purpose to be truly happy, but that doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. Your dog probably isn’t as picky as you think. Try out a few of these jobs for working breed dogs to find what best suits your pup. It might take trial and error, but the end result will be worth it.
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