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Do working dogs make good pets?

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Think of it like "you really want that Red Ferrari but deep down you know the more practical family estate is the right choice??" Tough decision I know. :)

At Cotswold Hound work with a wide range of dogs across Cheltenham and the Cotswolds, both on a 121 basis and in group training. The difference can be stark between dogs that are bred for homes and those bred to work. Years ago working dogs would be advertised as "For working homes only", now this isn't as obvious and unsuspecting owners don't always realise what it entails to own a working dog.

We've seen some particularly 'hot' working dogs in unsuitable homes - either with young busy families or older less active people and, while most have been resolved, the outcome in a number of cases has been challenging to say the least.

A working line dog, much like a Ferrari, is full of energy, likes to go fast and has the potential to cause problems if you aren't concentrating 100%.

These dogs are typically bred to be a lot more active than other dogs. They can also be more intelligent and learn quickly (good things and bad). The breeds can include gundogs (Retrievers including Labradors, Spaniels such as Cockers, Springers and Sprockers, HPRs such as Vizslas and Weimaranes, Poodles and the mixed gundog breeds too including the popular Cockerpoo etc), Shepherds (e.g. Collies, Australian Shepherds, Germans Shepherds, etc), Terriers, plus a range of others.

This is not saying that working line dogs can't make great pets, we own a working line Golden Retriever and he is amazing. However he has been a lot of work and his needs for exercise, enrichment and interaction are substantial. But we love him dearly, even when it's the evening and we're trying to get stuck into a boxset and he still wants to be entertained. This could be if we've not worked him enough, maybe because we've been too busy or we've been ill.

A working Golden Retriever enjoying a walk in the woods
Odin in Devon

All dogs need stimulation but a working dog, or a dog with more drive will require more stimulation and a job to do (our retriever chooses to retrieve from our washing basket when bored!) Essentially, if these breeds don't have enough of an appropriate outlet they can get very creative and disruptive.

It's worth being clear that it's not just about physical exercise, it's about channelling their drive into something productive and rewarding. You will typically know if your dog needs more mental stimulation if they busy themselves by chewing, retrieving things, barking, pacing, digging etc, even after a couple of hours of exercise a day.

As a working dog develops from puppyhood through adolescence, their drive to explore the world can be significant. This can manifest itself as pulling, lack of recall and picking up unwanted behaviours. Techniques to control and manage, plus consistency and dedicated training are key to avoid these behaviours becoming long term bad habits. As such, training might become a regular if not daily activity to ensure obedience.

Additionally, it's worth mentioning that all dogs have different levels of drive to work, some dogs that are bred for homes can actually have as much drive as some 'working' dogs.

So, my advice is think carefully before you choose, meet the parents of any dog and see if you can accompany the owners on a walk and get an idea of the work they put in. Speak to other owners of that breed or even owners of dogs bred from the parents of the dogs you are considering and ask how it was during puppyhood and is living with such a dog. Get an idea of the work they have put in and also ask about the challenges they have had. Every dog is different but this can give you an idea of what to expect. Alternatively give us a call and we'll be happy to give you some advice.

Just remember that Fox Red hunting dog might look wonderful, but do you have the capacity to exercise, train and stimulate it to the level required, every day?

Cotswold Hound are a force free dog services provider. We offer private 121 dog training, group puppy training and group dog training in the Cheltenham area. We also provide Dog walking services too. To find out more click here

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