Many dogs were bred to work alongside people or to perform specific jobs. When these instincts aren’t utilized, some pets can become bored, which can lead to behavioral issues. If you have a high-energy dog at home, you can keep them engaged and active by giving them “jobs” or “responsibilities” around the house.
Giving your dog jobs can add structure to your pet’s day. It also offers an opportunity for you to teach your dog something new and spend quality time together. Giving your dog access to sports, activities, and jobs around the house can provide outlets for dogs’ physical and mental energy.
Hold and Carry Around the House
Owners of dogs who enjoy fetching or putting things into their mouth can channel those holding instincts. Before putting your dog to work, you’ll want to make sure your dog has a strong fetch and drop-it cues. Once your dog has mastered these skills with toys, you can generalize the behavior and skills.
Clean Up Your Toys
Your dog may love playing, but dog toys need to be put away. And your pet can do the job themselves! Teaching your dog to put their toys away is both impressive and useful. To start, you’ll trade putting toys away for treats. When starting to teach this skill, give your dog one of their toys when they are standing over the toy box, then ask them to drop the toy in.
Finding Lost Items
Dogs interpret the world through scent. With a little bit of training, your dog will not only be able to know where misplaced items are, but also be able to alert you to their location or retrieve them. Start with simple “hides,” where a possession, such as keys, are somewhere out in the open.
Over time, you can make the hides more challenging. This is also a very similar skillset to the ones used in competitions to earn Virtual Scent Work Titles.
Close The Door Behind You
You can build off foundation skills to create jobs for your dog. Does your pet can already know how to do a nose target? Once your dog is confidently nose targeting objects like a sticky note or yogurt lid, apply that behavior and ask them to close doors on cue.
Search The House
You can teach your dog to do a parameter search of your home to alert you if there is an intruder. Especially for dogs that naturally bark when people enter, this job is a fun game that requires very little actual training. You can begin to teach this skill by putting a small plate or target with a treat in each room of your house. Walk your dog on leash through the house and show them each plate.
Then, bring your dog to your front door and take off the leash. Encourage your dog to go from room to room to the target plate, giving them a searching cue of your choice like “patrol” or “look.” When your dog has gone to all the rooms, praise and treat. After repetitions, you’ll be able to cue your dog to do the activity without having a treat target plate; you will be able to reward them when they return to you.
Dog sports can be a great outlet for your pet’s physical and mental energy. In addition to those you may know, such as Agility, sports like Barn Hunt, Earth Dog, Herding, Treibball (urban herding), Lure Coursing, Fast CAT, Scent Work, Bikejoring, and Drafting can channel the natural instincts of different breeds.