Owning a dog is more than just having a companion at home or on walks. It is about bringing a sentient creature into your life not only to enrich it, but to also provide the best life for your dog as well.
All dogs were bred to do a job, be that catch prey for us, guard our homes, gather livestock, or remove vermin. In the modern world we live in, they no longer need to perform these roles, and have to adapt to our lives and environment. This can leave big gaps in their daily lives where they can end up being destructive, vocal or frustrated if you don’t stimulate their mind.
I get many calls from people saying their dog has started to bark at strangers passing the house, or they are chasing cars. These are all signs of dogs becoming “self employed”, basically meaning if you don’t give them a job to do, they will find one, and this can mean following breed traits to hunt or guard, creating conflict between us and them.
By getting into a sport, you are giving your dog a new job to do that is constructive and fulfilling. It is going to give them a feeling of a job well done, that doesn’t involve you shouting at them at 3 a.m. as they bark at the next door neighbour putting their bins out. Haven’t you felt amazing at having been praised for a job well done? You dog can get the same feeling if we give them the right job to do.
You do not need to join and compete to championship level. Just commit to training your dog a minimum of once weekly. This creates an outlet for fun, and, what’s more, you’ll have an hour or so a week where you are 100% focused on your dog. This will build your bond more and more, which has brilliant effect on things like recall, heel work, and listening skills in general.
I personally recommend Mantrailing the most as I love it so much and do it with three of my dogs. It is essentially hide and seek for dogs, and the dogs love it as it uses their nose in a natural way. It’s not a super complicated sport for the handler so it’s great for everyone. It’s also always conducted on a lead, so there’s no need to worry if you have a running rover. They cannot leg it! I love Maintrailing so much that I became an instructor, as it is the one sport every dog can join.
But there are so many other sports out there you can get involved with such as, Scent Work, Agility, Hoopers, Rally, Obedience, Flyball, Working Trails, Disk Dogs and Heel Work to Music. They all have different skill levels, and many you can do at home.
Committing yourself to a block of training each week will do wonders for your bond with your dog, as well improve your dog’s manners and attention. Let me know how you get on!