Jobs for a herding breed?

Dog Agility Trials
An Australian shepherd at an agility trial. Source: Flickr user oxherder

As you probably know by now, I’m very fond of the herding breeds. My top three choices for a dog right now would be a German shepherd, an Australian shepherd, or a rough collie. These are all very intelligent breeds with a well-deserved reputation for being high-maintenance dogs. Not high maintenance like a pampered Maltese, though. These dogs are high maintenance because they were bred for their considerable intelligence and their overpowering drive to work.

If left to their own devices, GSDs, Aussies, and collies become difficult, destructive, and occasionally dangerous dogs. In all of my reading and my interaction with these breeds, I’ve come to learn this full well. I know that most herding dogs come with a caveat emptor.

The standard advice for someone planning to get a high energy dog is to be sure to have “a job” for the dog to perform. I’ve heard this a lot and I often repeat it to other people, but if I’m honest, I don’t always know what that means. Since I don’t have a flock of sheep handy, what qualifies as a “job” for my future herding dog?

Here are some of the little “jobs” that I’ve been contemplating teaching our future dog, in the absence of actual herding:

  • Agility, if the dog is so inclined. There are a number of agility classes around here. I know that Aussies often excel at agility, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a GSD or a collie in an agility trial.
  • Rally obedience.
  • Retrieving games. So long as the dog enjoys retrieving, we will have him retrieve everything: Tennis balls, toys by name, his leash, our slippers, etc.
  • Obedience trials. This might not qualify as a job, but regular and ritualized obedience training would at least give his mind something to do.
  • Trick training.
  • Therapy work. I would love to be able to train a dog to visit schools or nursing homes.

Does your household (non-working) dog perform any jobs? If so, what are they? Any you would recommend? I’m all ears!

Review: The Canine Good Citizen

The Canine Good Citizen, by Jack and Wendy Volhard

After reading Bad Dog, I felt certain that I’d want to put my future dog through the paces of earning his or her Canine Good Citizen certification. The author of Bad Dog, Martin Kihn, mentions attending a workshop by the authors of this book, Jack and Wendy Volhard. Kihn emphasizes how helpful they were in getting his out-of-control Bernese mountain dog to her CGC certification and so I thought I’d read it in my spare time.

It’s a very slim volume and would be most helpful to those who were actually in the process of training for the CGC test. The book walks you through the 10 tests that the CGC evaluates and provides step-by-step instructions on how to train your dog to perform each task.

The Volhards create a helpful “Canine Personality Profile” for owners. This profile is supposed to help you evaluate your dog’s dominant drives and then use that information to tailor your training regimen. I think it’s an interesting idea and I think I’d probably at least try it once I get a dog of my own.

This book is kind of outdated in some of its training recommendations (recommends aggressive jerks on the leash, for example), but I figure I may reference it again if and when I decide to train my dog to earn his or her CGC certification.

Have you trained your dog to pass the CGC test? Do you have any advice about that test in particular? Do you think it’s worthwhile?

Pup links!

Kate Moss and a watchful border collie. Source: Via Camila Chaves

Dog-related links from around the Web this week…

Vintage Dog Show. A collection of photos from dog shows decades ago. The dogs look great; the people, not so much. (Miles to Style)

Herend Dogs. Rich, old dog ladies should fill their homes with these colorful figurines. (Miles to Style)

The never-ending dog show. And pictures. Lots of pictures. Great ones, too. These border collies look so joyful, whether in the backyard sprinkler or in the agility ring. (Hippie Dogs)

Maine: Island Life. I love these beautiful photographs of a peaceful family vacation with the dogs. I can’t wait to take my dog on vacation with me! (Big Bang Studio)

Italian Dogs. Poignant photographs of dogs met while on vacation in Italy. (Ulicam)

Building Your Dog’s Drive in Preparation for Obedience. Minette discusses how we can keep our dog’s play drive alert and active–and how it can be used for obedience training. (Dog Obedience Training Blog)

Which Would Work Better, a Dog or a Scanner? Personally, I’d much rather be searched by a dog than by a TSA agent! (Pet Connection)

Spaying the Neuter or No? Oh, my goodness. This is what I mean when I talk about people who shouldn’t get dogs… (You Suck at Craigslist)

A Dog Post. A funny comparison between the regal profile of a Rhodesian ridgeback and the sloppy face of a Basset hound (including a wonderful montage of Bassets running, which is always the funniest thing I see all day). (Confessions of a Pioneer Woman)

Not Your Stick. A helpful photographic explanation of how the game “Not Your Stick” is played. (Raised by Wolves)

Self-Gratification. A hilarious montage of one German shepherd’s delight in a big orange bucket. (Raising K9)

Dog v. Goon Squad. Dogs reading and lounging around with Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I coincidentally loved. (Big Bang Studio)

Review: Bad Dog: A Love Story

Bad Dog: A Love Story, by Martin Kihn

I’m skeptical, as you know, about dog-centric memoirs. They’re almost always too sappy. Thankfully, this new book by writer Martin Kihn doesn’t allow itself to become saccharine. Rather, it’s the tough and motivating story of the author’s struggle with alcoholism, a failing marriage, and one very big and very bad dog.

The book chronicles a dark time in Kihn’s life. He can’t stop drinking. His dog–a Bernese mountain dog named Hola–attacked his wife. His wife moved out. He joins a support group, only to find out later that his sponsor had been lying to him about being clean the whole time.

To prove to his wife that he and Hola can get their lives together, Kihn decides to train Hola to pass the Canine Good Citizen test. This is an AKC-sponsored obedience test that is the foundation for dogs who want to go on to therapy work and more advanced obedience. Its tenets, however, were designed to show that “ordinary” dogs can exist politely in society. Hola doesn’t seem to know what this means. At all.

I breezed through the book–the style is light and very informal–but enjoyed following Kihn through his introduction to the bizarre world of obedience junkies. It is a strange world filled with big women in fanny packs, but Kihn learns to navigate it successfully–and Hola is finally awarded her CGC certification in the end. You’re proud of her–but mostly you’re proud of Kihn. The success is his and you finish the book wishing him and Hola a long and happy life together.