Going to work can be a chore for pet parents, but your dog might disagree. In fact, four-legged friends who aren't suitably occupied may take it upon themselves to get a job — like rearranging your flower bed!
While some of these canine hobbies are merely a messy nuisance, others can be dangerous for people and pets alike. Chasing moving objects is as instinctual for some dogs as other common behaviors, such as barking, marking territory or digging. Without the proper outlets, these dogs could end up chasing cars, cyclists, skateboarders or rollerskaters — “jobs” that can land them in the vet clinic.
Teaching a dog to stop doing what he’s been selectively bred to do over many generations can be difficult. Using physical barriers, such as fencing your pet to prevent access to passing cars, is a short-term solution, but your pup will be happier if you account for his instincts instead.
First, consider your dog’s breed. Is he a retriever? A scent hound? A sight hound? Choose activities and games that match his natural impulses. If you have a mixed-breed dog and aren’t sure of his lineage, let his behavior be your guide. Study his natural tendencies and go from there.
Here are some suggestions to help your dog safely satisfy his instincts, while having a little fun:
terriers were used historically for hunting vermin — burrowing tunnels to seek and destroy. Consider designating a section of your yard as a digging pit for these feisty hunters, or hide toys in a sandbox and have them “find it!”
spaniels and retrievers love to chase and grab. Playing a game of fetch satisfies both of these instincts. If you have a water-loving hound, up the ante by moving your game to the lake or shore.
scent hounds love working their noses. You can set up treat hunts inside or outside, or you can teach your dog how to track your own scent. Competitive tracking events are a fun way for your dog to use his natural abilities.
Visit www.akc.org/events/tracking to learn how to get started!
herding dogs, like shepherds and collies, would love Treibball, or “Push Ball,” a game in which giant fitness balls of different colors and sizes serve as a flock to “herd” into a soccer goal. You could easily create your own set at home, and train your herder to play! Visit www.americantreibballassociation.org to learn more.
Providing your dog with the opportunity to tap into his talents will leave him feeling happy and fulfilled, but be sure to set limits. Too much of a good thing can be hazardous if instinctual play spills over into everyday life. Designate specific areas and times for these types of activities, and be clear with your boundaries. With a little work, you can help your dog find a job that he — and the rest of the family — can enjoy!