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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Give Your Dog a Job!: Just Like Us, They Need Purpose to Be Happy

Jun 06, 2016 03:30PM ● By Mary Oquendo

Using the wellness model, one of the keys to happiness is having a purpose. While cats take responsibility for themselves, dogs need our help to fulfill that function and have a purpose in life. There are four criteria when it comes to finding a job for your dog; the job has to be appropriate, measureable, safe, and something they want to do.


Every dog has specific traits in its genetic code. Know your breed(s) and utilize what they were bred to do. For instance, dachshunds were bred to hunt underground vermin. They are diggers. Something appropriate for a dachshund might be arn trials instead of your sofa trials. In a barn trial, dachshunds locate rats that run through tubes throughout the barn. These rats are usually pets and are very well cared for. Another breed, the Siberian husky, has a high prey drive; this sport would not be appropriate as they might eat the other participants and contestants. On the other hand, it might be fun for a Siberian husky to engage in sled dog trials, whereas a dachshund would not appreciate being hooked up to a sled and told to step on it.


What is the dog accomplishing? For the dachshund, it’s locating the rat in the tube. For the Siberian husky, it’s running endlessly. They love to run so much that they may even ignore the squirrel on the sledding trails.


Any sport or vigorous activity requires that a dog be in good physical health. Is the dog physically conditioned to participate in a sport? Does it get along with other animals so it will not cause harm to other animals or themselves due to over exuberance or dislike of other dogs? In both examples, the dachshund and Siberian husky need stamina in order to fully participate. There have been Siberian huskies pulled off sled duty because they are so powerful and over excited that they could harm the other dogs while running. Be prepared for injuries with a handy pet first aid kit and the knowledge to use it, including pet CPR.

Is it fun?

Your dog has to want to do it or the job won’t fulfill its purpose in your dog’s life. Just because most Siberian huskies love to pull sleds doesn’t mean they all do. On the flip side, not all dachshunds want to catch a rat.


There are many other jobs your dogs can do besides the examples of sled dog and barn trials. Other sports include agility, coursing, dock diving, Frisbee, throwing balls, geocaching and hiking. Many of these sports have their own associations that include national and local events, address safety concerns, and provide guidance for getting started in the sport.

Dogs that like being around other people and keeping laps warm may like being therapy or comfort dogs at a school or nursing home. While comfort dogs do not need specialized training, therapy dogs do. More information on associations connected with therapy dogs can be found at

Many dogs, particularly retrievers, like to carry items, including their own leashes. Doggie backpacks—available at stores such as REI in Norwalk—come in many different sizes. Other activities a dog may have been bred for include pulling carts, hunting or herding. Is your dog naturally or genetically inclined to be a protector? Then try walking around your home at night with your dog to secure the premises.

These are examples, but you can also simply observe what your dog enjoys doing naturally does and seek a corresponding activity. Every dog is different, but when taking into consideration these four aspects, a dog and its human can find a way to satisfy their need for a purposeful job.

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master pet tech pet first aid instructor. She is the co-owner of Hands and Paws-Reiki for All. She can be reached at See ad, page 24.

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