How to Ensure Your Working Dog is Healthy & Happy [Free Guide]
by Dakota Storage Buildings, on October 14, 2020
From selecting the best breed to training and care, our guide has the tips you need.
Working dogs like farm dogs and hunting dogs are extraordinary creatures. More than workers, more than pets — these helpful companions can offer the best of both worlds for farmers, ranchers, and hunters.
Not just any dog will do. Working dogs are specially bred for intelligence, energy, and stamina. This means they require proper training, mental stimulation, and care in order to stay healthy and happy. Good working dogs are an investment, so learning all you can to help them thrive for years to come is time well spent.
Choosing the Best Breed
Canine research has shown that dogs with a purpose are often happier. This can be especially true of dogs that were bred with specific traits in mind. Think of it as if you were selecting the best candidate for a job.
Choosing the best breed for your needs can help ensure that your dog is up for the task at hand and will be both eager and able to perform.
Training Your Working Dog
While it’s not always true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks (anyone over the age of 40 will agree), it usually IS best to start young. Depending on the type of work, you may want to start training when the pup is around three months old.
Start with Socialization
Your work dog needs exposure to the environment, people, and other animals that he’ll be in contact with regularly. You’ll want to play with your pup as you begin to teach him your expectations.
If your farm dog will be working with sheep or cattle, try to find pups raised on a farm with the same type of livestock to get a head start on socialization (they may even pick up some early training from parent dogs). Once you bring the dog home, give her ample time to bond with you and the other farm animals she’ll be guarding or herding.
Hunting dogs need to get along well with other hunters and their dogs, so socialization is important for these guys too.
High-energy working dogs need plenty of time for outdoor exploration and play. Introduce new things and terrain gradually as puppies can be susceptible to injury if pushed too hard. If the dog will be allowed in an expansive area where getting lost is possible, keep track of him with a training check cord or locator collar.
In addition to getting lots of daily exercise, these intelligent work dogs need mental stimulation as well. Look for mind puzzles and chew toys to keep them busy, along with plenty of social interaction with their favorite pal (you!).
Give Clear Instructions
Obedience training is essential for the development of any pup — even more so for a work dog. Firmly establish your position as pack leader by employing a dominance technique, using body language and a tone that shows you mean business.
Be clear in your commands and expectations, then be sure to offer plenty of praise when he completes each task successfully. Clicker training can be a useful communication method. Help your work dog learn about the dangers he may encounter and show him in advance what to do if various situations occur.
Training a farm dog or hunting dog is different from raising a pet, so be sure to do your research, stay consistent, and consult an expert if necessary.
Keeping Your Working Dog Healthy
A sick or injured dog could result in a tough day on the farm or a canceled hunting trip, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure your work dog stays healthy. Quality dog food, clean drinking water, and a comfortable kennel are key components to keep Fido in tip-top shape.
Provide Adequate Nutrition
A high-fat, high-protein diet is recommended for an active working dog. It may be tempting to feed her sandwich scraps when those big brown eyes look up at you, but remember that some foods are difficult for your dog to digest. Sticking with a quality kibble or canned food that is specially formulated for your dog’s needs is a safer bet.
Most farm dogs and hunting dogs tend to be larger breeds with an accelerated growth rate as pups. It’s imperative to ensure that they are getting the nutrients and calories they need for development. As your dog reaches adulthood, large breeds can be susceptible to orthopedic disease. Ask your vet to recommend a quality, large breed dog food with a joint supplement to foster long-term mobility.
Offer Protection and Comfort
Providing your dog a safe place to rest and spend his free-time is an essential responsibility of any dog owner. Most working dog breeds can be housed safely and comfortably in an outdoor kennel. This gives guard dogs the ability to keep a watchful eye. Though they may not be able to exit their kennel to chase off intruders, they most certainly can provide a sufficiently loud warning signal.
Choose a high-quality kennel that’s easy to clean and maintain. Be sure that the kennel is the right size and includes an insulated room that protects her from the elements while keeping her cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s also critical to provide a fenced-in area or outdoor run where the dog can move around freely. Selecting the best outdoor kennel is a valuable investment for your dog’s well being.
Happy Dog, Happy Owner
Farm dogs and hunting dogs are hardwired to do what you want them to do, whether that’s herding sheep or retrieving fowl. And most dogs want nothing more than to please. You can hold up your end of the bargain by choosing the right dog for the task, setting consistent expectations, and providing everything needed to stay safe and healthy.
To learn more about training and caring for farm dogs and hunting dogs, including helpful resources for beginners, download our free guide, How to Ensure Your Working Dog is Healthy & Happy.