How To Help Your Dog Build Confidence With A Job

 

So many times people come to me asking about issues they are having with their dog and so many times it comes down to not enough enrichment/exercise – and a lack of confidence-building activities.

One way to help boost your dog’s confidence is with positive reinforcement training. This is sort of like a job in that your dog learns to do something in exchange for payment (a reward). If you’re not already doing some sort of training with your dog, even the basics, I’d highly encourage it! I have a course available to you, but really any positive reinforcement training will help your dog in this aspect of life.

Another thing that many dogs need and/or want … and seriously, some dogs really NEED it … is a job to do.

No, this doesn’t mean that your dog needs to go down to the neighborhood McDonald’s or Walmart, but your dog does need a task that rewards them and provides them with some form of payment (reward).

Inevitably when this topic comes up, the number one question is … what does a job for a dog look like? And this is an excellent question! Before I started my dog training journey I probably couldn’t have told you, so if you’re asking this question, you are definitely not alone!

First, let’s talk about the benefits of giving your dog a job to do.

1. Stimulating your dogs mind makes them less likely to “misbehave”

2. Working dogs are less likely to get fat (so they are healthier!)

3. Having a job will increase your dogs confidence and decrease anxiety

4. Working with your dog will strengthen the bond you two share

Choosing the right kind of job for your dog can depend on their breed, as certain breeds were bred to do certain types of jobs. An easy way to figure out what kinds of jobs your dog might like is to watch their actions and behaviors to see what they gravitate towards.

HERDING
moving living creatures and vehicles where the dog wants them to go. When your dog barks at running kids in the playground or chases tires of moving cars she’s showing her herding tendencies.

Jobs that are good for dogs who like to herd:

Chase: Find a beautifully manicured lawn inhabited by hundreds of Canadian geese (golf courses are a good bet). Release your herder using a long line if not safe off-leash. If you live in a middle Atlantic state where Canadian geese have become a scourge, you’ll find yourself very popular with groundskeepers. And your dog will love her job.

Puppy in the middle: Arrange several people in a large room. One at a time, each person should call the dog. When he comes, make sure you treat and pet him for coming. As your dog gets better at this, take the game outdoors and have the people stand farther apart. You’ll be amazed at how much your dog’s recall improves.

Chase the Squirrels: When you see squirrels on your walk, run with your dog to chase them to the trees. Tip: don’t do this if you live in the city. Your dog might pull you into the street.

SNIFFING
using the nose to gather information. If your dog is constantly sniffing the ground or the air, you’ve got a sniffer in the house.

Jobs that are good for dogs who like sniffing: 

Nosework:   Once your dog learns how to use his nose to search, you’ll have hundreds of possibilities for work and fun. This is a great post about beginning scent work: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/how-to-teach-your-dog-scent-work/ 

Find It: While the dog is out of the room take her favorite toy and hide it somewhere in the room partly hidden. Tell your dog to find the toy. If she doesn’t understand, squeak the toy to draw her attention. As she gets better, make the hides tougher.

Following Along: Fill your pocket or bait bag with tiny, smelly treats (I use popcorn). While you’re walking, occasionally toss treats behind you for your dog to find. A side benefit is that this job may lessen your dog’s pulling on walks.

RETRIEVING
returning objects to their person. A dog who loves his ball is probably a retriever at heart.

Jobs that are good for dogs who like retrieving:

Toss & Run: Get your dog interested in a toy or ball by making a big fuss over it with loud, happy sounds. Toss it away and as soon as your dog grabs the object, take off running away so he feels compelled to chase you.

Find It: While the dog is out of the room take her favorite toy and hide it somewhere in the room partly hidden. Tell your dog to find the toy. If she doesn’t understand, squeak the toy to draw her attention. As she gets better, make the hides tougher.

Puppy in the middle: Arrange several people in a large room. One at a time, each person should call the dog. When he comes, make sure you treat and pet him for coming. As your dog gets better at this, take the game outdoors and have the people stand farther apart. You’ll be amazed at how much your dog’s recall improves.

Put Your Toys Away: Make sure your dog is watching when you put his toy into a box while saying “clean up.” Repeat it a few times before giving the toy to your dog and repeating the cue in front of the box. Feel free to help by moving the box close to the dog to set her up for success while she’s learning.

COMPANION
just showing love. While it’s easy to argue that all dogs are companions, some have that special touch that makes them great friends and potential therapy dogs.

Jobs that are good for dogs who are great companions:

Dog Yoga: Your companion wants to be with you. That makes him a natural to join your yoga practice.

Puppy in the middle: Arrange several people in a large room. One at a time, each person should call the dog. When he comes, make sure you treat and pet him for coming. As your dog gets better at this, take the game outdoors and have the people stand farther apart. You’ll be amazed at how much your dog’s recall improves.

GUARDING
protecting the household from all threats, from mail carriers to cheeky squirrels. Your barking dog might make you crazy, but he’s just doing his job.

Jobs that are good for dogs who like to guard:

Speak: Catch your dog before he notices something that usually causes him to bark. Perhaps when you hear the UPS truck drive up or know that the local school will be letting out soon. Give the cue “speak” as the activity that excites your dog’s guarding instincts begins. After a few barks, bring out an especially stinky treat or favorite toy and say “enough,” “thank you” or whatever cue you prefer while putting the treat under your dog’s nose. When he stops barking to grab the treat, click or say “yes” and give him the treat. Soon you should be able to cue him to “speak” on cue as well as stop barking on cue.

Find It: While the dog is out of the room take her favorite toy and hide it somewhere in the room partly hidden. Tell your dog to find the toy. If she doesn’t understand, squeak the toy to draw her attention. As she gets better, make the hides tougher.

Chase the Squirrels: When you see squirrels on your walk, run with your dog to chase them to the trees. Tip: don’t do this if you live in the city. Your dog might pull you into the street.

PULLING
just what it sounds like, pulling. Whether a cart, a sled, or a person on the end of the leash, pullers just gotta pull.

Jobs that are good for pullers:

Tug: Does your puller like to play tug? Sit on a towel while she grabs a soft tug in her mouth. Hold on tight while she pulls you across the floor. Here’s a video I made on how to make your own tug toy: https://youtu.be/dtmF1bMxgos 

Following Along: Fill your pocket or bait bag with tiny, smelly treats (I use popcorn). While you’re walking, occasionally toss treats behind you for your dog to find. A side benefit is that this job may lessen your dog’s pulling on walks.

Lifeguard: Sit in shallow water in a warm lake or stream. Encourage your dog to pull you to shore using the soft tug toy you’re holding.

RESCUING
finding people or animals in trouble and bringing them to safety. If your dog brings you baby bunnies, you must have a rescuer.

Jobs that are good for rescuers:

Hide and Seek: If your dog is trustworthy off-leash, wait until she’s occupied with a smell and duck behind a tree. If she doesn’t come looking for your right away, make a sound. The side benefit of this job is that it will reinforce your dog’s recall. Or do it in the house by hiding in a closet or behind a door.

Rescue Me: Crawl under the covers and yell to your dog, “Help me, help me.” See how long it takes her to find you and join you under the covers.

Lifeguard: Sit in shallow water in a warm lake or stream. Encourage your dog to pull you to shore using the soft tug toy you’re holding.

——- This is not an exhaustive list of jobs by any means but should give you a good starting point.

Does your dog have a “job”? Tell us about it!