Dogs spend every day of their lives giving back to us. Regardless of how it transpires, our dogs will always give us exactly what it is we need whether we realize it or not. This could be something simple like companionship or something more complex like a lesson in patience. Our dogs deserve as much as we can give them and more for their dedication to us. Something missing for a lot of dogs is a general sense of purpose. In between worrying about us or feeding off of our emotions, dogs need to be stimulated in order to truly be happy and healthy. The best way to give your dog a sense of purpose is to give them a ‘job’. Just like people, dogs thrive with challenge, direction and reward.
1. Dog Backpack
My favourite dog job is an easy one: the backpack. Simple to get started with, this is the easiest way to give your dog a daily task that can be an add on to their regular walking routine. Backpack styles vary but most have pockets on the side that can carry items. Start your dog off with their pack empty so they can get used to it. Once they do, you can add in items like water bottles for weight. The pack will get them into a good headspace on their walk, plus it’s a bit more of a work out. I always tell my pups to get ready to ‘go to work’ and they know the backpacks are coming out! Kurgo & Outward Hound are two companies that make great packs for your pup.
2. Sled Pulling
For Northern breeds or other larger breeds that are up to the challenge, sled pulling can be another excellent activity for a job. With the right harness, piece of equipment, and owner patience, dogs can excel at this fun pastime. Start by teaching mushing commands (i.e ‘gee’ to turn right, ‘haw’ to turn left) on walks. These commands are all one-syllable in order to be easily conveyed to your pup. Once they have mastered some of the basics, you can work towards positing yourself on the sled. This can be a great way to bond with your pup by entrusting them to move you.
3. Agility Training
If you feel your pup is looking for a job with a higher learning curve, agility is a rewarding project to take on. Typically an agility course plays out as a 4-8 week period of learning how to teach your pup how to navigate different obstacles, first on their own, then in a sequence. In my experience, working with an agility trainer is ideal if you want to get your pup started. They can coach you on how best to get your pup comfortable with the equipment, as for many dogs, it can be a very new and sometimes daunting experience. The ‘job’ in this sense would be completing the obstacle course and your goal together would be able to complete the sequence perfectly.
4. Service Dog
If the energy burning jobs aren’t your pups forté, why not train them to be a service dog? There is a variety of different areas your pup can service in: hospitals, schools, senior residences, community centres, etc. You can gear you dog towards working with seniors, children with disabilities or psychiatric services (people suffering from PTSD, depression, etc.) to name a few. Dogs have the uncanny ability to fill in the blanks where we need them to. Giving your pup's time to someone who needs it can be an amazing job for them to feel fulfilled, and provides the same sentiment in the people they’re working with. This route requires training in order to ensure your dog is a good candidate for therapy and to teach them how to properly behave in different scenarios.
Dogs were born and bred to accomplish so much more then they are typically given the opportunity to do. In the past, we depended on our dogs to guard property, catch animals, deliver items, herd cattle, and so much more. These basic instincts, while not as fine-tuned, are still there, ready to be harnessed and nurtured.