In the past, I have written about selecting your pet to suit your lifestyle, ranging from very active to suggesting you consider flowers or goldfish for those whose busy lives leave little time to enjoy and interact with a pet.
This time, let’s think about the different levels of one activity and what can spin off from such a simple thing as walking.
I’ve heard too many people say that they know that walking is good for them, but walking around the block is so boring. With my first dog, 40 years ago, we both wanted to do something more than walk in a straight line, so I trained my dog to track. Don’t tell me that your dog isn’t big enough. At a tracking seminar my dog and I attended, there was a four-pound Pomeranian tracking through a wheat field connected to her handler by a string. The rest of us were amazed at the little dog’s ability.
Now my dog had the nose for the work, but I soon learned that not every dog has the motivation and drive to track for hours. My dog had an agreement with me, one track, not were over 200 yards, per a day and that was that. A tracking judge couldn’t believe me and ask me to work her on a second track. My dog put her head down, leaned into the harness, looked really business-like and drifted yards from the track. The judge agreed with me, I had a one-track per day dog.
Unfortunately, in those days there weren’t any other options to select from.
Now, 40 years later, there are lots more activities, no more walk-around-the-block these days. For those who want to run, there is agility where the dog races over an obstacle course while the handler runs to keep ahead in order to direct the dog to the next obstacle. Then there is dock diving for dogs that like to swim, lure coursing for the speedy racers, herding for a number of breeds outside of the herding breeds and so forth. Find your dog’s favorite activity, add a specific reward for accomplishment (many search/rescue dogs work for a tennis ball or a throw toy) and you can have fun while both of you exercise.
However, tracking can lead to community service where a certified tracking team may be called on to locate a missing child or a lost hiker.
Some energetic, environmentally-minded owners train their dogs to hunt specific things. German shepherd dogs have hunted the egg masses of the moths devastating the pine trees in the New England area. Other dogs have located endangered turtle species for relocation before road work is started.
Certain dogs show the ability to work in the medical field alerting their owners to impending seizures or diabetic shock; sniffing out cancer cells by the chemical change in odor, but these are the exceptional dogs and are in great demand.
Where are these special dogs found? Anywhere, even at county animal shelters, you never know.