Is your dog full of energy and eager to please? For this kind of dog, daily playtime may not be enough to sate their thirst for adventure and fun. If this sounds like your dog, you might want to consider getting him or her involved in a job or dog sports. That’s right, dogs can have jobs too, and we want to introduce you to eight of the best outdoor dog jobs we know.
If you live on a farm, you may already use your dog for the important job of herding livestock. If your dog excels in this area, you can take them even farther. There are herding competitions that test your dog’s ability to move and control livestock. During these competitions, you and your dog will show off his/her herding skills by fetching a few animals and by driving a herd or part of the herd into a designated area. Normally, dogs that dominate these competitions are herding breeds, because they have a natural instinct for herding animals and being biddable to their owners’ cues.
If you enjoy bird hunting, what better way to spend time with your best friend than getting them involved too. It is very common for bird hunters to have dogs helping them during the hunt. The dogs are used to point and flush out birds from brushy areas in order to give hunters an easier shot. Once you’ve successfully brought down a bird, the dogs then go into retrieve mode. Various breeds of pointers and retrievers are the most commonly used in this sport because they’ve been bred to excel in these skills, however the dogs still need training to focus their natural instincts and work with their handler as a team.
Dogs have incredible noses, which makes them great for tracking. Give your dog a whiff of scent from the object or animal they want them to track, and this is all that’s needed for them to pick up and follow the trail. Tracking dogs are used by the police to track down escaped criminals and missing persons. If you’re not in law enforcement though, there are also tracking trials and opportunities for freelance tracking services. Any breed of dog can be taught to track and can participate in this fun sport.
Search and Rescue & Avalanche Rescue
Much like tracking, search and rescue requires dogs to use their sense of smell to find people. In this case though, they aren’t following along a scent trail left by the person being tracked, but rather searching an area to pick up a faint scent in the air and then following that scent to its source. They may be used to track down someone who is lost in the wilderness or to find someone who has been buried by debris from a collapsed building or an avalanche. Again, any breed of dog can be taught to air scent however larger breeds such as German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are most often used.
If you have a small dog, you might consider training them for barn hunts. Barn hunting is actually a sport that mimics the traditional use of dogs to hunt and kill mice and rat infestations on farms. For the sport though, the rats used are domesticated and are not harmed once the dog finds them. This sport is best run by small breeds, because they need to be able to fit through tunnels in the haystacks. These tunnels are about 18 inches wide and are the height of a standard bale of hay. Many of the terrier breeds excel at Barn Hunting.
Much like barn hunting, Earthdog is another seek and locate competition, except it is not housed in barns. Instead, the dogs must navigate underground tunnels and dens to find the hidden rats. Earthdog competitors normally use small terriers and Dachshunds, because they have a natural aptitude for underground hunting.
Sled pulling is a type of transportation still used in some of the northern states, especially Alaska, but it has also become a competitive sport. A team of dogs is trained to follow verbal cues to guide them in the right direction. Traditionally, Alaskan breeds, relatives of Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are used due to their adaptations for cold climates, but other dog breeds have been known to get in on the sled pulling action as well.
Cart Pulling (Drafting)
If your dog likes to pull, but you don’t have an entire sled team, you might want to look into cart pulling, also known as drafting. For this job, the dog is hitched to a cart of some type and taught to haul objects around a variety of obstacles and over a distance. The sport is open to all breeds, including mixed breeds, and is easy to practice at home with a harness and a small, lightweight cart. After your dog is trained to draft they can participate in parades, help haul your groceries home from the store or give rides to the neighbor kids.