Dogs are meant to live active lives. Dog jobs keep that activity alive. Their wild ancestors spent the majority of their time hunting and scavenging, and over time domesticated breeds began working alongside humans in hunting, farming, and protection capacities.
Today, many dogs live sedentary lives that involve no work whatsoever, and in many cases, very little activity. Maybe your pup gets an hour walk in the morning and then spends the rest of the day lounging around the house.
Sound boring? It can be, and boredom combined with excess energy often leads to behavioral issues, such as anxiety and destructive chewing. If you want to help your dog release some of that energy and live a happier, more fulfilled life, consider putting them to work! Here are 5 jobs that your dog can do.
1. Have Your Dog Carry a Backpack
Going on a walk or a hike? One dog job is to put your dog to work by outfitting them with a dog backpack filled with whatever supplies you need (poop bags, treats, water, etc.) Dog backpacks are perfectly safe when fitted correctly and loaded with the appropriate weight for your dog’s size (check with your veterinarian). It’s one of those dog jobs that both you and your dog can benefit from on long adventures!
If this job is the right fit, your dog will feel like they are performing an important task by carrying a haul. Your dog should be both mentally and physically stimulated, and that’s what you want in a job for a dog.
2. Teach Your Dog to Help Around the House
Do you sometimes forget to turn off the light before getting into bed? You can teach your dog to turn it off for you.
Do you sometimes leave the front door open after walking inside with an armful of groceries? You can teach your dog to shut it.
How can you do this? With a training method known as targeting.
How to Target Train Your Dog for Household Tasks
First, teach your dog to “touch” a target, such as a post-it note.
1. Hold the post-it note a couple of inches from your dog’s nose.
2. When they learn forward to sniff or inspect it and you see them make contact with the post-it note, say “touch!” and offer a treat. Timing is incredibly important; you should offer the treat the instant that your dog touches the post-it so that they will know what’s earning them the treat.
3. Repeat this exercise until your dog catches on.
4. Once your dog understands targeting, you can place the target (the post-it note, for example) anywhere you’d like, such as on a light switch.
Repeat the above exercise and over time make the target smaller and smaller by tearing off small pieces of the paper and change the command word from “touch” to “lights.” Once your dog reliably touches the light switch, remove the target altogether.
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3. Play Retrieving Games
Many breeds — such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, Newfoundlands, and Cocker Spaniels — were primarily bred to retrieve birds or other prey for hunters. A lot of dogs still perform these duties today, but those who do not — and don’t have another outlet for their energy — may become anxious and high-strung.
However, you don’t have to become a hunter to satisfy your dog’s natural instincts. Instead, teach your dog to “fetch,” and then take them to new and interesting locations that will help them tap into their innate talents. For example, throw a stick in a river or a stuffed toy in a field. Just make sure that your dog has good recall if you plan to take your game into the wild.
4. Train for Therapy Dog Work
Therapy dogs travel with their owners to places like nursing homes, hospitals, and schools to offer support and affection. Friendly, well-socialized, and healthy dogs are the best fit for therapy dog work, and after training and certification, you can find volunteer opportunities in your area.
Your dog will not only be mentally stimulated, they’ll also do a lot of good. For more information, check out the PetCareRx article “How to Get Therapy Dog Certification for Your Dog.”
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5. Take Some Classes
Training classes will put your dog to work as they learn new skills, and in doing so offer plenty of mental and physical stimulation. There are loads of dog training classes to choose from outside of basic obedience. Once your dog masters obedience training, check out other ways to challenge your dog, including tracking (nose work), agility training, and more.
Does your dog “work?” Leave a comment and let us know, and consider signing up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding and more.