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All Dogs Are Working Dogs

Libby

When I was speaking with my sister recently about her Yorkie, Libby, who is almost two years old, she was telling me how she finds Libby’s typically fearless terrier behaviour endearing. I got a sense that she believed it was just Libby specifically who has this “attitude,” so I thought I would make her aware of the background of Yorkshire terribles terriers.

My sister looked completely shocked as I told her about the creation of the Yorkie to hunt rats in cotton barns and textile factories of Yorkshire, England. In typical older-sister fashion, she brushed off my history tutorial and refused to believe her fluffy little Libby had been meticulously designed for mass murder.
Many people fail to realize that their dog was created for a purpose—be it ratting, hunting, retrieving, herding or, in many cases, just being outright adorable. What may seem to us like a quirky behaviour or habit may actually be from the breed’s past.

Roxie, a JRT, collecting her hot dogs into a neat and tidy pile.
I grew up with a bichon frise, a dog derived from the Portuguese water dog.  Apt swimmers, PWDs would retrieve the fishing nets for fishermen out on the fishing boats. Only the ones who did the best job returning with the nets were continually bred. So heaven forbid my bichon greet me without a present! It turned into a fun game when returning home—what is he going to bring us? (Casper was a good boy and usually brought us one of his toys.)

Other than the history lesson, this information comes in handy when considering, is your dog happy?
My dog Casper, at work as a therapy dog.
As humans, we usually consider our dogs’ mental health in terms of giving them the things that they seem to like—such things as the occasional opportunity to have their head out the car window, a play date with a friend, or a favourite treat. However, is this true happiness for them? Or is it the one thing we humans habitually dread that they are longing for in those restless dreams? Do our dogs want jobs?

I am convinced that there is no happier living thing on earth than a Labrador retriever carrying a stick on a walk. These jobs do not necessarily have to be breed specific, but usually any activity that requires dogs to use their minds will make them feel most useful.

Hogan, mid-jump at agility. This photo was taken from his blog.
http://www.wordwitlox.com/dogblog/2013/01/hogans-heading-to-his-first-agility-trial/
Activities like agility are great for energetic dogs, and they don’t necessarily have to be overtly athletic. And for the social butterflies out there, I highly suggest therapy dog programs. Nothing is more therapeutic than a dog. Absolutely nothing. 
Boomer, still available for adoption. I don’t know if he has any retriever in him,
but anything resembling a tennis ball gets his attention.


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