I’ve had the misfortune of being unemployed a few times in my life. At first, it almost seems like a blessing. Endless time to do what I want whenever I want. I can sleep in, run errands whenever I want to, draw, veg on the couch, etc. There’s no schedule and I’m open to doing whatever it is I want. I’m free!
It soon turns out that this freedom sucks. One day becomes the same as the next with little differentiation. I feel lost and useless with nothing to define myself by. One doesn’t realize how much we identify ourselves by our jobs. How important that piece of our lives is until we don’t have it.
I think dogs feel the same way. Descended from wolves, dogs are hard wired to work. Wolves do not have the luxury of much down time in their lives. They must constantly prowl and defend their territory. Food is always on their minds and it’s hard work to get it. Compared to domestic dogs (and modern humans), wolves are working some serious overtime!
While some breeds of dog can survive with no job, I think all dogs can benefit from working. Certainly, some breeds NEED to work or you’ll find your home in shambles. A bored Border collie can become a great interior decorator if not properly exercised mentally and physically. Bored Bassett hounds may be less destructive but can still benefit from some form of employment.
It doesn’t have to be hard for the human either. You don’t have to volunteer for the local SAR (search and rescue) team or buy a farm so your dog can herd sheep all day. Some dogs might require this type of serious work to be happy. They may need a full time job and might not be suited to life with an average family. They might be better off as a sniffer dog at the airport, a farm dog, or as a K-9 officer.
Then there are the dogs who don’t need a full time job but could seriously benefit from a part time one. Many of these dogs compete in the various canine sports. Freestyle disc, agility, Schutzhund (a sport originally developed to test the ability of German shepherd dogs involving obedience, tracking, and protection phases), canine musical freestyle, competition obedience, rally. . . There are plenty of sports out there for you to choose from!
The average family pet may not require that type of commitment, however. Just training some tricks is enough to satisfy some dogs’ needs for work fulfillment. You never know, though. Once the training bug bites, you might find you and your dog really enjoy the work!