Have you ever been told that your dog needed a job – and then wondered what in the world that meant?
While it would be great to have your Great Pyrenees guard livestock, your border collie herd sheep or your Labrador retriever bring back downed ducks, most of us aren’t in a position to offer our dogs this sort of job opportunity.
Giving your dog a job simply means asking your dog to do something to earn food, treats and life rewards such as walks, playing ball, petting, etc.
All dogs, whether they are shy or high-energy, need a way to burn off physical and mental energy. The American Kennel Club (akc.org) suggests you “keep your dog active and alert by giving him tasks to do. Giving your dog a sense of purpose and accomplishment will increase his sense of well-being.”
Dogs that are bored will often come up with their own job, which usually doesn’t thrill their owners.
Any self-respecting dog finds the job of protecting the home against strangers to be fun and self-rewarding. The owner doesn’t even need to be home to provide feedback.
The FedEx truck pulls up in your driveway; your dog sounds the alarm! As the driver approaches your home carrying an unfamiliar box, the barking increases in intensity; did the stranger not take the hint? Finally, after leaving the box, the driver returns to his vehicle and drives away. Mission accomplished; the stranger has been chased away and peace and quiet has been restored – at least your dog spots the next intruder out the window.
Because this is such a self-rewarding behavior, it’s challenging to stop particularly since you cannot always be home to redirect the behavior.
So why not turn this behavior into a job? Allow the dog to do his job and alert to the danger outside. Your job will be to quickly go the window, acknowledge the danger and thank the dog for letting you know. (Something as simple as “thank you” will do.) Then quickly run into the kitchen (turn this into a chase game) and ask your dog to sit (most dogs won’t bark while they are sitting) and make eye contact with you. Quickly reward the dog with continuous non-stop (small) pieces of a high-value treat until the driver is gone.
Practice this at first when there is nobody at the window; in time, your dog will only bark a few times and then beat you to the kitchen for his reward.
The possibilities are endless - be creative.
Google defines Labor Day “as a public holiday or day of festivities held in honor of working people.” This Labor Day, why not honor your dog by giving him a job (or two) to do? Happy Labor Day and happy training!