Luvk9s Dog Training

Does your dog need a job?


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 ( 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.  

Protecting the home from intruders (or barking out the window)

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.

Other job ideas for your dog

The possibilities are endless - be creative.

  • Teach your dog to pick up dirty laundry from the floor or laundry basket, one item at a time, and hand it to you to load into the washing machine. (This will make your retriever happy and save your back!)
  • Teach your dog to pick up and put his toys away at the end of the day.
  • Teach your dog to run or walk by your side and become your walking partner. (Your dog will help you achieve your goal of exercising every day.)
  • Have your dog retrieve an item (on land or in the water) and return it to you. (Payment is the item gets tossed again.)
  • If you get a newspaper or the mail delivered to your home, have your dog carry the newspaper (or some of your junk mail) back into the house.
  • When you get home from grocery shopping, give your dog an item to carry inside.

  • Instead of having family members wake up to an alarm clock, send the dog in to do the honors instead.
  • Have your high-energy dog wear a backpack (and carry items you need) on a walk.
  • Hide toys or treats and have your dog “find it.”
  • Invite your small dog to be a “lap warmer” when you are watching TV or reading a book.
  • The easiest thing to do is implement a “no free lunch” policy. Before you do anything for your dog, ask him to work (do something) for you first. Most folks simply ask their dog to sit, but you can mix it up with other cues your dog knows. Before feeding, treating, walking, petting or playing with your dog, ask him to sit first. Your dog will learn that if he does his job (sits) he will get paid (with food or life rewards).

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!