I think that when people hear, “That dog is a working breed” or “you should give your dog a job.” Many people feel overwhelmed, because they have in their minds police dogs, search and rescue dogs or narcotics dogs. They think I can’t possibly provide that. The truth is giving your dog a “job” can be something far more simple and easy to fit into everyday life. It might even make everyday life much easier for you too.
I like to think of it more as giving my dog chores. As my husband and I prepare for our new baby one of the things I have been thinking about is how to keep my dog active and “working” while he is no longer the center of attention.
The idea of allowing your dog to “work” is that you challenge their mind and bond regularly. Having my German Shepherd, Buck help me with chores allows me to give him someone on one bonding time while still getting things done around the house; because time is precious and he loves it.
When teaching your dog to do chores I find it is best to start with teaching a few core skills first.
Once your dog learns these core skills you can use them to teach all sorts of tricks.
“Get it” or “Take it” is to cue your dog to pick something up. It’s super easy to do if your dog already has a few toys he likes to pick up.
“Touch” means your nose touches my hand. This is foundation trick is super easy to teach. “Touch” can be used to teach your dog to place things in your hand, bring things to your hand, or touch something like a light switch.
If you combine “Get it” and “Touch” you can have a nice fetch.
Most chores use fetch as a foundation behavior. Initially, the idea was to use these things once the baby came, but as I am getting bigger and have less balance I have been finding myself being lazy and using them with pregnancy too.
Picking up dropped items is one of my favorites to use. My dog naturally likes to pick things up and carry them around, so it works well for him too. I have taught Buck to pick up things I drop with the cue “Get it” cue once he has it in his mouth I say touch and he puts it into my hand. I use this if I drop a towel while washing dishes, drop a piece of mail or drop a sock while folding laundry. After he has completed his task he is so proud of himself, plus it saves me from having to bend over and pick things up. This is wonderful especially since I’m in my Third Trimester.
The advanced version of this trick would be to have him put things into a hamper. I start this by just teaching him to put his head in different boxes, buckets, and baskets on cue. Then I say, “Get it” followed by “Put it in the bucket.”
Having Buck pick up items that I point to is always very helpful. There are always those couple of socks that don’t quite make it to the hamper.
Instead of bending over and picking all of the socks up I can just point and say “Get it” then say “Put it in the bucket” which for Buck means put it into the hamper. If he didn’t know “Put it in the bucket” I could say touch and I could drop it in the hamper. I also used this yesterday while going around the house cleaning up the wrapping paper from Christmas. I would point to the paper and say “Get it” then point to the trash and say “Put it in the basket.” The result was Buck picking up all the wrapping paper from Christmas.
The trick “Touch” can also be used for your dog to turn on a push-button light. Just start with your touch cue and hold the light in your hand and say “Touch”. Do this until your dog hits the light with accuracy then try holding it and different places and saying touch. Once your dog has mastered this stick it to the wall and say “Touch”. This will result in a dog that can hit the light for your frequent bathroom breaks during pregnancy or all of those late-night feedings.
The more you can include your dog in the process the more he will feel included.
Here is a complete list of the chore tricks I have come up with. Please feel free to send me any you think I missed.
- Get a hand towel
- Get a burp cloth or diaper
- Get dropped items; like keys
- Bring a blanket. Slipper, onesie
- Open close curtains
- Close doors
- Push light
- Switch light
- Pulling owner up from a seat
- Picking things up and putting them in the trash
- Picking clothes up and putting them in a hamper
- Putting used burp cloths and putting them in a hamper
- Putting a diaper in the diaper pail
Basic obedience skills are also really good to brush on. Here are the ones I find most useful for new moms.
- Go to your place/settle
- Leave it
- Walking nicely next to a stroller.
- Door manners
Kennel up (to learn how to train this click here: Everything you want to know about kennel training