Are Workers Wired Weirdly?
Are Workers Wired Weirdly? Not really, just a little differently – but it was the only word I could think of to finish off my alliterative title.
Working Dogs, maybe you have one? Maybe you’re not sure or you don’t even know the difference. This article will give you an insight into what is meant by the term “working line” and why it’s worth have a gist of what this means for you and your dog.
At some point in history as we humans domesticated and bred dogs for our needs, most dogs would have fit a purpose or job required by their owners. Whether that was herding, hunting, pulling or guarding. Dogs started their lives with us by being useful and we, like the opportunistic creatures that we are capitalized and built upon that. By selectively breeding from the dogs that showed the traits that best suited the job required of them we created breeds which could do much of this job without training. Think of the Collie which herds and assembles all its tennis balls in one spot, The Pointer which stops dead in its tracks and lifts a paw towards a duck or even The Labrador that carries a toy or stick around just for the sheer joy of it.
Dogs spent a long time being useful to their owners, providing a service if you will – and they were VERY good at it. Behaviours and traits which were and are wired into their very DNA meaning they could fulfil the role needed easily and with less training required. As we humans began to breed our dogs for aesthetics, appearance as a hobby many of these traits would begin to fade away as they weren’t selected for. However breeding for appearance doesn’t selectively decide which behaviour we get as a result meaning those working traits can still exist in many dogs. But we certainly have a better chance with our “Show-Line” dog that we’re getting a dog who may be easier to shape into “Pet Life”.
But we’re here to talk about Working Dogs, particularly Working Dogs fitting into a “Pet Life”.
Is it possible?
Is it difficult?
Dogs are wonderfully flexible creatures, it’s how they became the way they are, but we must remember how they got to where they are and what we as humans have created.
Your Working Dog is hardwired to do a very specific job.
They’re designed to think fast
Always respond to an opportunity/stimulation (They literally can’t say no, we made them that way!)
To keep going, regardless of fatigue (The last thin you want is your Working Dog kipping on the job)
To be alert (Notice everything, EVERYTHING)
To respond to sound/movement/scent (Depending on breed)
That could be The Collie that chases cars/bikes/joggers, the Spaniel which can’t stop sniffing or the Vizsla which bolts after a Squirrel.
I’ve witnessed numerous owners and dogs in these situations say much the same thing. When these situations occur, their dog loses interest in anything but that distraction. In that moment often our dogs are experiencing an desire and urge created by some very powerful Biochemistry. Think Alex The Lion in the film Madagascar. He can’t help but chase Marty The Zebra. Now that might be dumbing it down a little (a lot actually) but you’re not here for the science! You’re here to get an understanding, and maybe some answers if you’re lucky. Alex the Lion is relatable.
The reality is we’re trying to interrupt and interfere in an incredibly natural, powerful and designed behaviour which our dogs are rewarded heavily for internally. That thrill, that anticipation outweighs just about any treat you’ve got in your pockets – even the stinky fish ones which you had to keep yourself from gagging as you prepared them that day.
This is just a snippet of some of the struggles owners have with their Working Line Dogs – Many of these Pups find it difficult to switch off at home and can be biting, zoomeying, chewing and causing all kinds of terror for the whole day. Crate training isn’t essential for a working dog, but my goodness can it be exactly what they need. Creating a dark space where they can switch off from the world and all its stimulation is an absolute must. Your working-line pup will likely need more exercise and stimulation than the average Puppy (Be careful to do more low-impact sniffy walks) but they too need plenty of sleep too!
You may need to adjust your walks for your Working Pup to make sure they’re on the calmer, sniffy side. That could mean avoiding roads, busy parts of the park or small parks.
Many of the working dog group members (And there are some big groups out there) will tell you to be “firmer” with your working dog otherwise they’ll get the better of you. “Firmness” is a very vague word that gets interpreted differently by everyone. Needless to say, it doesn’t help you, nor does it help your dog.
Puppies have a hell of a journey to go through to get to adulthood and it can be even harder for our Pups who show working traits have even more to deal with. It’s our job to guide them and help them and them through this development by managing their environments carefully, keeping things positive and by exercising as much patience and confidence as we can.
If this feels familiar to you and you’d like support with your Puppy, don’t hesitate to get in touch and have a chat about how I can help you. You don’t need to be alone in your struggle!