This is the first part of our new sports series exploring working dogs, and how to keep them engaged and happy. This month is all about Water Dogs!
If you’re the owner of a Labrador, Golden, or Chesapeake Retriever, or another breed of water dog, you may have noticed that your dog has an especially keen enthusiasm for fetching toys or jumping in the water. For generations, these breeds have been trained as working dogs to retrieve waterfowl and fish from bodies of water. Their owners would shoot down birds and have dogs retrieve them from across fields or marshes, hence the term retriever. In Portugal, dogs would work with fishermen on boats in a similar way.
Today water dogs are still used for hunting in many parts of the world, and the AKC hosts a number of field events for hunting dogs to compete. But for us city folk who aren’t into hunting, there are still several sports that will keep these energetic, working dogs busy.
Sports, Games, & More.
Here are some competitive sports, games and activities, and recreational sports that all serve to give your dog purpose and of course, to have fun.
Dock Diving , an event by North America Diving Dogs and recognized by the AKC through their title recognition program, measures the distance dogs can jump out into a body of water. Like many competitive dog sports, it’s amazing to watch, but can prove difficult to participate, especially if you do not have time to train and compete or do not have dock diving facilities near you.
Fetch, that old classic dog game, is a great exercise for enhancing retrieval skills. Dogs who were bred to retrieve come to associate bringing the prize (a dead bird, or for us urbanites, a tennis ball) with the reward of praise from their owner. Step it up by throwing a toy or stick into the water and you’re reinforcing their drive to work through swimming and retrieving.
Retrieving doesn’t always mean throwing something and getting it back. You can train dogs to retrieve random items around your house. How awesome would it be if you could send your dog out to get the paper, or teach them to grab a drink from the kitchen? People have done it! There are so many simple ways to activate the retrieval instinct in your dog, but it takes consistent reinforcement to become a trained skill.
Fitdog offers sports classes that are less rigorous than competitive sports, but still offers specific skills and instruction from qualified trainers. Think about the difference in time and intensity of training to be a competitive boxer vs. taking a recreational boxing class at the gym.
Our swim safety class lets your dog get their paws wet and practice their swimming skills all the while reinforcing proper swim safety. We also take a group of super-swimmers on our beach excursions, where dogs get to play in the ocean and retrieve balls over waves.
Fitdog is also excited to announce our new Cardio Fetch class, in which dogs get a chance to put their good retrieval skills to work with one of our trainers and some of their best four-legged friends. The class goes beyond tennis balls and focuses on training the dogs to get to the object quickly and effortlessly. This class is perfect for dogs looking to improve recall skills or simply get a satisfying workout!
Dogs Have Purpose
At the end of it all, dogs love to have a job, something that makes them feel rewarded and purposeful. A great way of achieving this is by engaging dogs in exercises that mentally stimulate and physically challenge them. Wherever you live, there is a way for you to get your dog into retrieving, and the reward will be great for both of you!