It’s Saturday evening. I’m dirty, sore, tired—and fulfilled! That’s unusual. If you know me at all, you know that I despise manual labor. I always joke that I’m the hardest working lazy man you’ll ever meet. I don’t mind getting a leash in my hand and working with dogs, but other manual tasks like mowing the lawn and fixing stuff around the house just aren’t my cup of tea. But that’s what I’ve been doing all day.
So why am I fulfilled after ten hours of work on a day that I normally try to take it easy? Because the work I was doing was satisfying to me. We just moved into a new 10,000 square foot training center, and I spent the whole time thinking about the exciting new things we’ll be able to do there. There was a purpose to my work. When that sense of purpose and excitement isn’t there, I don’t get fulfilled quite as easily.
A lot of people come to us knowing that their dog needs some sort of job. My advice is always to look at the things that their dog was originally bred to do, even if that was years and years ago. A lab, for instance, will probably find more fulfillment with chase and retrieve games than he would with protection work. Sadly, lots of people look in the wrong place when they’re looking to give their dog a job. Plenty of owners have brought in huskies wanting them to play fetch, or labs that they want to work on pulling a sled. Maybe your dog will enjoy something far removed from its original purpose, but your first step should always be to look to history.
If you can’t give your dog the kind of work he or she was bred for, however, then look to things that engage the dog’s nose. Perhaps your dog was bred to herd, but (like many of us) you don’t have access to sheep. A lot of dogs have a strong brain-nose connection that brings them a lot of fulfillment. Use nose games!
As a last resort, you can always fall back on focused walks. All dogs ultimately need work. It’s not always as easy to give a dog a job as it is to give a human a job. If all else fails, focused walking is very mentally and physically fulfilling, and can satisfy that desire for work.
If one of my neighbors had asked me to help them move or work in the yard, I probably would have hated every minute of it. But today, I worked ten long, hard hours on a Saturday—and enjoying it! That work spoke to who I am, what my goals are, and what my drive is. Find a job for your dog that does the same thing!