Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rigby earns his keep

Here's a scenario for you: You have a dog who's young (somewhere between 14 and 16 months), energetic (think "bouncing off the walls"), intelligent (will make his own "fun" if not otherwise entertained), and is very driven (a mix of two different herding breeds). The dog is extraordinarily loyal, and will follow you anywhere you go. What's the best way to keep yourself (and the dog) sane?

Well, the first steps would be: plenty of exercise, lots of training, and strict guidelines and boundaries. The absolute best thing for a herder, though?

Give the dog a job!


Most dogs, regardless of breed, do well if given a job. Even something simple, like fetching the morning newspaper, will give a dog a sense of purpose. Dogs of any age, size, or breed can learn to do far more elaborate jobs, though. If you've ever seen the television show SuperFetch* which used to play on Animal Planet, you'll know what I mean! Dogs can learn to do a lot of things for us-- from search and rescue, drug detection, and assisting the disabled, to things like taking out the garbage, finding the remote control, and putting the toilet seat down.

Quark's job when we're out in the field working? Looking adorable. Also, she growls if there are bears nearby, and will speak on command to make noise when we're entering brushy habitat. Rigby's job? Well, he happens to be the aforementioned young, energetic dog, so Rigby has been tasked with carrying trail cameras for us in his backpack.

The cameras, in their steel-case housings, weigh around four pounds apiece, so with Rigby packing one camera on each side, he frees nearly ten pounds of weight from my pack. On a day when we're hiking four or five miles to a field site to set cameras, my shoulders really appreciate not having to cart around those extra eight pounds, and the backpack helps keep Rigby focused.


To be perfectly honest, he tires himself out more when he's not wearing the pack-- he runs back and forth on the trail constantly, using the woods as own personal agility course. But the pack forces him to think more about how he carries his weight and how to move through the trees.


Rigby's other jobs include riding in the raft or canoe, heeling when we think there might be a bear nearby, and pestering Quark.




*For those of you with Amazon Prime, you can watch dogs learn awesome tricks here; I'm pretty sure Netflix has them online as well.

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