Dogs Need Jobs
One of the key ingredients to a happy well adjusted dog is a feeling that it is a contributing member of a group. In the wild, canines band together and accept the roles and responsibilities of an extended family. Some pack members leave the den area to track and hunt prey. Others stay behind to protect pups and to patrol pack territory. All the social benefits of the pack can be enjoyed as long as members accept their placement in the pack hierarchy and behave in a manner which is consistent with pack protocols.
Thousands of years ago humans and dogs developed a unique and fascinating association which contained elements of a canine pack structure and aspects of a human extended family. Earliest evidence suggests the companionship of humans and canines was founded upon the benefits which each species was able to give the other. The canines, with their keen sense of smell and superior hearing were excellent sentries. They were an invaluable early warning system which alerted human encampments to approaching dangers. In return humans gave dogs scraps of food and a safe haven.
When human settlements became more permanent, the roles of humans and dogs changed, but the fundamental reason for the association remained the same - dogs provided specialty services for humans and humans provided consistent food and security for dogs.
Humans began to select dogs for special work. Pups which exhibited certain physical attributes or behaviours, were used to guard and herd stock. Others were put to work pulling carts or keeping settlements free of rodents or pests.
Recent urbanization has put pressures on the existing human canine relationship. Barking dogs no longer provide an early warning service valued by humans. Powered vehicles remove the need for dogs pulling carts. Livestock is enclosed in fenced areas and the use of herding dogs has diminished. The fundamental issue of dogs feeling valued as contributing members of a human/canine social group is in question.
As families disperse and children move for better educational or employment opportunities, dogs have become emotional lifelines for many. Wagging tails, soft fur and the effervescent attitudes of our dogs is undeniably good for our emotional health. Clearly, dogs soften the harshness of the urban scene for their human companions, but have we humans provided our dogs with what they need to be healthy and happy?
Give your dog a job. Create situations where your dog does things for you. Recently, my mobility was limited due to knee surgery. My dog, Dusty was asked to help with day to day tasks. She loved bringing me a cane, or fetching my slippers, or even carrying the food bucket for the other dogs. Her eyes sparkled as I pushed on her shoulders to help me rise from a chair. And when I sat in the chair and played fetch, she returned the ball enthusiastically. Something inside her knew that she was working for me, and I think it gave her a renewed sense of purpose.
Give your dog the opportunity to do things for you. Get them to carry your slippers. Have them wake the children in the morning. Have them walk with you to the post box to pick up the mail. Give them a job - give them a purpose!Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists