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20/04/2012 / Julie

A working dog is a happy dog

At a lecture once I was told that a dog would be happiest if it didn’t get many walks, but only short pee breaks every now and then. Maybe followed you to get the mail, etc. The lecturer felt that in Norway, we over exercise our dogs. This sparked quite a lot of heat in the room, people did not agree with her. Of course, what she neglected to mention was that she meant that your dog should be with you for as much of the day as possible, and be outside as much as possible. She felt dogs got stressed by walks, and you should avoid any stress. For some dogs, this may be true, but very few people have the opportunity to take dogs everywhere and have them outside all day every day, i.e. walking around on a farm.

I don’t agree with her. Romeo is my prime example of my point of view. Romeo was a family dog. He enjoyed life, was perfectly happy as my mother’s companion on walks, and the entire family’s cuddle bug. His life for the first five years of his life was this. He got an hour off lead every day, he was loved and cuddled with. Then we started agility. His life changed drastically, and he got to use his head. Yes, he has had some run ins with other dogs, but this down side is nothing compared to the joy on his face whenever there is a chance to work. Agility led to other sports, he got to try obedience, tracking and back packing. We even tried biking, but after he came to an abrupt halt and I went heels over head and tyre for the third time, we stopped that.

Romeo built muscles, social skills and general obedience after we started dog sports. He did not grow into a stressed dog. He was his old calm self, but he was easier to control in stressing situations. He was no longer going ballistic every time he saw a dog.

I do a lot of different things with my dogs. When I got Bajnok, the plan was always that he was to become an agility dog. First and foremost, at least. He was/is an agility dog. We started the training when he was about 10 months old. He was then done growing, height wise. So we started with low jumps, tunnels and dog walk. He excelled at agility. With Bajnok I have trained pretty much anything I have wanted. When I thought of a Mudi, I wanted an all round working dog that could do well in any dog sport, and what I got was exactly that. Bajnok does well at any task I give him. He has tried agility, conformation, obedience, freestyle, tracking – blood, animals and people – , ski- and bikejoring, back packing, swimming and herding. We have only competed in agility, conformation and one obedience show, but we have tried every one. Some more than others, some less due to proximity and accessibility. Apart from the average dog sports, Bajnok and I have also worked out our own. From he was very young, one of the things I would do on a walk was this:

Now Derria is getting the full blown feel of my obsession with working the dogs. And she seems to enjoy it. She has yet to be introduced to agility, but we have slowly started obedience, and we have been joring all winter, and havbe recently gone over to the bike. She is an extremely calm dog, she is happy and relaxed at home, she wasn’t before. She is battling Romeo for the title of calmest dog in the house. The first week with me, she was pacing in the mornings, but as the new life settled in, and I got to know her routines, and she got to know ours, she has become a very calm and relaxed dog. She has tried schweisshund a couple of times, and is starting to get the point.

Working a dog gives them something to do, something to focus on. It can help scared dogs build more confidence in themselves, and it brings you closer to your dog. Most of the confidence training I have

Terrain change

done with Bajnok has not been specifically towards people or other dogs, it has been through pushing him to do things he wasn’t comfortable doing on his own, and then discovering they weren’t dangerous. Because he is that kind of dog. Sometimes pushing him away from me, getting him more independent by building his confidence on his own. Getting him to climb things, or simply working alone in agility or tracking. But in all these instances were I push him, I’m always there to catch him. His biggest reward when climbing something, is getting to jump into my arms.

Dogs build confidence through mastering experiences, just as any one would. The more you let them conquer, the more they’re going to think they can conquer. Dog sports can always help with this, of course more so if you use positive reinforcement. I will believe that dog sports can help build up a dog. Keep them calm at home, motivated to stay with you, healthy and happy. Perhaps not all dog sports work for all dogs, if you have a reactive or fearful dog, perhaps a dog sport where you don’t have to be close to other dogs or people all the time? Setting the goals at a reachable level for you and your dog. Perhaps not competing in agility or obedience, but perhaps you can still train.

For the last year and a half Bajnok hasn’t competed in anything, but we have still trained. He is a working dog, and loves being used, in any way or form.

And in the end, a film about building Bajnok’s confidence through climbing.

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6 Comments

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  1. Jen / Apr 21 2012 00:23

    Only happiest when they have pee breaks? Who ARE those people?! Elka is miserable if she only has pee breaks, and not walks and playing off leash with the ball out back, etc.

    I definitely agree: a dog needs work, even if the work is as a family dog.

    • Julie / Apr 21 2012 21:56

      The point was to avoid stress of any kind. And in her trail of thought you’d be bringing the dog everywhere with you, including work. Not many that can do that. Playing ball was strictly forbidden, or walks faster than walking pace. Stress, you see. I just sat quietly rolling my eyes. But I see her point of avoiding unnecessary stress, just sometimes stress and fun go hand in hand. Not all stress is bad, is what I believe.

      • Jen / Apr 22 2012 19:53

        “Stress” is not inherently a bad thing, that is true. There is good stress and bad stress. Stress is how we learn and grow, really. Getting excited about something? That’s stress too!

        I would love it if I could bring Elka with me everywhere. I think she would be the same as an adult, personality wise, but her social behavior would be consistently calm her, would I have been able to raise her like that!

  2. kenzohw / Apr 22 2012 15:59

    Great post! Giving them something to do that trains the mind and the body is the biggest gift for a dog. And you get it back tenfold.

  3. Lamar Granger / Apr 27 2012 15:00

    I really liked your article post.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on…

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