Keeping Working Dogs as Pets

13 September 2023

Having a working dog as a pet can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it naturally comes with unique considerations and responsibilities. These dogs will have been bred for specific tasks such as herding or guarding, and possess unique traits that set them apart from traditional companion breeds.

Working line dogs are selectively bred to perform tasks humans require from them which demand particular skills and abilities. These dogs often have high energy levels, are very focused, and possess an unparalleled work ethic. While these characteristics can prove invaluable, they also offer certain challenges to owners more used to have dogs as companions. These are rarely insurmountable, but do require a slightly more involved ownership style.

At a basic level, owners must understand what their breed’s particular traits and needs are. This should come before considering what their working role demands. For example, a Golden Retriever and German Shepherd Dog can both be trained to work as a guide dog, but will likely have very inherently different behavioural patterns and work drives. Once understood, these traits can be properly accommodated and even developed to allow them to perform better as a working dog with appropriate enrichment and training.

Enrichment and training should ideally be tailored to these breed and role specific traits. Working dogs are at their best and happiest when given a job, or if this is not possible then regular activities which mimic the kinds of roles they were developed for. For example, a terrier is likely to benefit from being employed in pest control, whereas a gundog or hound will enjoy working where they can follow and find hidden scents. It is also worth saying that it is hard to give a healthy working dog too much exercise! More is better than less, and owners should quickly gain an understanding of just how much exercise their working dogs truly need.

At Protection Dogs Worldwide, we have years of experience in keeping working dogs as our own pets, as well as helping other owners do the same. For more information on this matter, please email [email protected].


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