Activities For Small Working Dogs

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Introduction

Most modern dogs are companion dogs, and they may be rather spoiled as well. However, dogs were traditionally developed for a purpose other than accompanying owners to and fro. Many dogs were traditionally herding dogs, guardians, or hunting dogs. These traits became a part of a dog's personality, and, as breeders worked to emphasize those qualities in a dog, those traits became instinctual. As dogs have become companion animals, they often become mischievous if their humans don't allow them to participate in activities which mimic herding or hunting. To combat this, pet parents need to supply their working dogs with some activities that tap into that centuries-old instinct.

Let's Play Frisbee

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Easy
30 min
Items needed
Treats
Doggy disc
Activity description
One of the small breeds that was originally a working group is the Terrier. This includes the Jack Russell Terrier, the Westie, and the Schnauzer. Dogs in the Terrier group are tenacious, and they don't easily give up on a task - even if it is something mischievous. They love to run, chew, tear, and dig. The key is to give your Terrier activities that allow them to work out their natural instinct. Doggy disc is another name for playing Frisbee with your dog. While you can play with a real Frisbee disc, a doggy disc (available at any pet supply store) is less likely to make your pup's mouth sore. A mere half-hour outdoors session will help to quell those terrible tendencies for your terrific Terrier.
Step
1
Teach the game
This step might require two participants. Begin by tossing the doggy disc to each other. Be sure to get your dog's attention, and make sure that they are watching you and your partner. The dog may actually run between the two of you, anxious to participate. Once you are sure that their interest is piqued, then have treats handy, toss the disc, and instruct the dog to "Go get it."
Step
2
Sit and run
You and your partner may have to take turns commanding your dog to sit and to give the disc to you. Once the dog has gotten the step of catching the disc and giving it to your partner, then work on getting the dog to return the disc to you once they have caught it. You will need a few treats for this step of the game.
Step
3
Have fun!
Once your dog has gotten the hang of sitting, waiting on your command, then grabbing the disc and successfully running it back to you, you can feel free to play at will! If your small working dog is stuck indoors and you have the room, you can utilize your hallway to play a few rounds of Doggy Disc, although outside is always preferable. Playing Doggy Disc will allow your pup to have a sense of accomplishment as they hunt and herd the Disc.
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Go Fetch

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
30 min
Items needed
Treats
tennis ball
Activity description
Small bird dogs such as the Cocker Spaniel and the miniature Poodle will thoroughly enjoy a game of Go Fetch. Certainly, these dogs instinctively hunt small prey (such as your tennis ball). They naturally run after their prey, and they flush the prey out. (Picture the ball rolling under a table in your hallway and your pup nudging the ball our with their nose.) In many ways, Go Fetch is a natural game that your pup is likely to pick up rather quickly. It can be played indoors or outside, and weather is no issue because this game can be played anywhere. Just a half hour two or three times a week provides great exercise for your working dog.
Step
1
Teach the game
Fetch, for most dogs, is almost instinctual. As with the Doggy Disc game, you might want to enlist a partner to help show your pup exactly what you expect from them. If no partner is available, you may also roll the ball in your hallway and have the pup retrieve it. Be sure to have plenty of treats handy and lots of praise for your pup.
Step
2
Roll then toss
Many people begin teaching this game by rolling the ball in a hallway. Begin by commanding your dog to sit. Make sure that they are watching as you roll the ball away. Then, command them to go get the ball. Command the dog to sit again.
Step
3
Practice makes perfect
Once your dog has retrieved the ball, command them to sit. Then, have your dog come to you. At this time, if you haven't already, teach your dog to "give." Offer the dog a treat, and say "give." Make sure that the dog readily gives the ball to you and that you do not have to tug the ball out of their mouth.
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Herding the Humans

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Sunny Day
Free
Normal
30 min
Items needed
Treats
Activity description
Do you have an Australian Cattle Dog? Perhaps you have a Collie? Have you ever noticed the dog nipping at your - or your children's - heels? For the two aforementioned breeds, herding is almost as much a part of their demeanor as eating or breathing. However, many people now purchase these breeds as companions, not as herders. In order to train the dog not to nip at your heels and to stop herding children or small animals, why not allow your dog to practice what they do best? Herding Humans will require four or five participants, and, in this case, this is a great outlet for children as well as the herding dog.
Step
1
Set it up
Round up four or five human playmates for your dog. Each person must be willing to allow the dog to lead them in a certain direction. Make sure all participants know that the fun of the game is to be creative and try to outsmart the dog.
Step
2
The destination pen
Your dog should know that there is a destination spot that they should be herding their humans toward. You might familiarize your dog with this spot by allowing the dog to eat at this destination spot. You might also have someone with treats there for when your dog herds everyone into the pen.
Step
3
Have fun
To be sure, most of the game is about having a good time. Any dog that nips should be dismissed from the game. If you are playing with one herding dog, then you might have everyone stop playing and you may have to leash your pup and take them away from the playing area. Otherwise, make a point to try to get away from the herding dog. The dog's job is to run each participant into the pen.
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More Fun Ideas...

Dock Diving

Again, many working dogs enjoy swimming. They will especially enjoy dock diving. Toss a dummy bird into the water and encourage your dog to take off after it. A doggy life vest is always a good idea; your fun-loving pup may not realize that fatigue is setting in after a few dives.

Swimming

Many of the bird dogs and retrievers enjoy swimming. Research the ideal and safe swimming spot, put a swim vest on your pup and allow them to participate in this great form of low-impact exercise.

Conclusion

Small working dogs may often be cute companion dogs, but deep inside, they still need to work out their need for herding, driving, or retrieving. By playing games such as fetch, swimming or dock diving, or by allowing those herding dogs to put their humans into a destination pen, you can give your canine friend play time that allows them to follow their instinctive characteristics.