I have seen quite a few dogs recently who are not living up to their potential. They are loved by their people and well cared for, but they need more. This is usually when well meaning people in the animal industry say “oh, your dog needs a job.”
You are totally right! Fido does need a job!
Why did they say this?
Some dogs just figure out life with humans with minimal interference from us. These are the dogs that were seemingly born with all the skills to be an amazing dog. This is the dog that makes you feel like an amazing dog trainer, and you have no idea why your friends are struggling with their puppies, yours was so easy. (HA! Wait until your next puppy my friend!)
Usually, your dog “needs a job” because he has figured out how to unlock the trashcan, refrigerator, bathroom cabinet, and had a great time going through your stuff. These are the dogs who are barking their fool head off at anything that moves, breathes, or thinks. These dogs are typically not having all their needs met beyond the minimal basics of food and water. The “need a job” folks are on the right track when they look at what your dog was bred to do, but usually off in their recommendations.
What the heck does that look like!?
Do I need to buy sheep for my border collie, or a boat for my Newfoundland? Please don’t. I mean, not unless you have a desire to own sheep or the financial means to buy a boat, then knock yourself out! But your dog doesn’t need these things.
When we look at your dogs behavior wellness to create your training plan, we look at 4 big areas of their life. Exercise, Enrichment, Diet, and Communication. These are the areas that need to be fulfilled for your dog to live their best life, and you to not pull your hair out. Take a look at what your dog was bred to do and match up to the things you think your dog will enjoy. Herding breeds need lots of information, hounds love to sniff, livestock guardian dogs need to walk.
When this affects your dogs well being
Some dogs, like our high drive, herding and bitey breeds (border collies, shepherds, mastiffs) need more information about life and what is expected of them in order to succeed living with humans. Typically these dog begin to fill in the gaps in their learning with undesirable behaviors. While some dogs can fill in the space with something that is just mildly annoying, other dogs are going to go the most embarrassing behavior possible.
Slacking on that loose leash walking, enter barky lungy behaviors.
Did not give your dog clear rules for people coming in the house, they might decide people are not welcome through the door.
These are examples of a stressed out dog who is not coping with their life very well. They do need you to make sure you are giving them all the information they need in order to be successful in your life. Food is the fastest way to tell your dog they are doing something correctly. A well timed piece of chicken can communicate to your dog that you are in control of the situation, and they can trust you to give them information to stay safe. Don’t wait until your dog is doing something wrong, reward the things they are doing correctly. This is the communication piece of the wellness puzzle, and the one I work with the most often. Everyone feels better when they have the information they need to be successful.
I am going to unpack this concept a bit more in the next few blog posts. On the facebook page, tell us one time you have been told your dog needs a job.