Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Dog's Job

Growing up, I never thought much about a dog's need for a job. We never did any training with my childhood dogs beyond the basic skills necessary for living successfully inside a house; sit, down, shake, and potty training was about all they got. Loose leash walking was not part of their daily life and my first dog especially would pull and wheeze at the end of her leash from the second we left the house until the second we got home. There was no recall training--although my first dog was allowed off-leash on the beach.

After they passed the puppy stage, though, they were never destructive or got into trouble that sent them to the vet. I didn't think of it in these terms back then, but their job was to love us. They were happiest when they were near us or playing with us or being pet by us. They didn't need to herd things. They didn't need to fetch for hours on end (although our second dog did love to fetch). They were lovers and that was enough for them.

Then I got Barley and all of the sudden, my little border collie mix made it clear that I had to think about giving a dog a job. Without a job, Barley gets into the trash, finds things to eat that she shouldn't, climbs onto the counters, digs holes in the bedding. She needs to do more than just love me.

She gave herself a job in the first few minutes she was home when she decided herding Soth was her  household chore.


She still thinks that keeping her brother in line is her responsibility, but it's not enough work for her, either. Soth doesn't move enough for her to exercise those border collie instincts all day long and I made it clear long ago that I'm a terrible sheep, so she has given up trying to herd me most of the time.

We've tried various dog sports to give her something to do, and she'll be focused and ready to work when I pull out our odor kit and do some noseworks, but that only occupies her for so long. She enjoys agility, but if there's something more interesting happening (ex. car headlights shining through the window or the sight of her reflection), she's willing to stop doing it and pursue those new interests. So noseworks and agility are hobbies, not jobs.

I thought maybe walking was her job--she does love her walks and gets antsy if she misses one, but they also don't wear her out, either. We can take a five-mile walk in a park, come home, and by the time we get back in the door, she's ready to root in the trash or find a tasty litterbox snack.

A few weeks ago, though, I realized what job Barley takes the most seriously.

The local pet store was doing Santa pictures--we had taken them a few times before at a vet's office to benefit Barley's mothership, the county APL, but the space was small and crowded and it made me anxious. I decided we'd try the new spot out--we could walk over there, survey the parking lot and store windows, and decide whether we really wanted to go in. Nobody else was in the shop, so we went in.

The photographer was setting up her camera, Santa was adjusting his hat, I was trying to figure out how to squeeze in between Santa and the partition. But Barley was sitting and staring carefully at the camera--as the photographer moved the camera around, Barley followed it with her eyes. Finally, the photographer said, "None of the people are ready, but that dog looks like she knows exactly what she's doing." She snapped a few close ups of Bar as Santa and I finished getting ready.


On our walk home, I realized the photographer was right. Barley is the most alert when a camera is present. Her sit-stays are most reliable when I've got the camera out and am moving around to find the right angle. She tries very hard to ignore distractions--whether that's birds, crashing waves, leaves blowing in the wind, or distant dog barks--when the camera is out.  

Why yes, you can drop my leash and back away so you can get me and the rest of the family in front of the train depot.

Even when the camera is out to capture something other than Barley, she thinks she needs to be in he shot and comes running--I have countless closeups of flowers that have a Barley nose creeping into the edge of the photo.

Oh, you wanted to send a pic of this to your BFF--well, I need to be in it, too.

Modeling wears Barley out. We can take a shorter walk combined with a modeling session at the lake and she's ready to nap the rest of the afternoon. I've always joked that she binges on old episodes of America's Next Top Model while I'm at work, but that might just be true.

In Barley's eyes, she is a model and that is the job she enjoys the very most of all.

Be sure to stop by the other Barks & Bytes posts--thanks to Heart Like a Dog and 2 Brown Dawgs for hosting!

Heart Like a Dog


14 comments:

  1. That's fantastic! I love that the answer was something so simple and that you can use it to capture memories and for your blog. Love the photobomb at the end - LOL.

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    1. Barley is the queen of photobombing! We'll be on a trail and I'll see a pretty flower or a leaf and decide to get a close up and the next thing I know, Barley's in front of it. Usually, I end up settling for a picture of her with the thing even though that means I can't get as close and get all of the cool details :)

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  2. It is so great that you found the perfect job for Barley! That gives me the idea that maybe I should do more of that with Luke. He seems to really like the camera, and it might help him relax more, especially when we're out for walks.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. It's crazy how focused Barley is when the camera comes out on a walk. I'm sure you'll find something to help Luke relax more, whether it's a camera or not--but he's definitely photogenic!

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  3. I'm pretty sure Mr. N thinks that's his job too. His photo stay is excellent. He ignored a squirrel the other day!

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    1. If Mr. N doesn't think his job is modeling, he should--he's so good at it! I'm not sure Barley would ignore a squirrel, but she'd try!

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  4. I wish Maddux would pose more for pictures!! He does love selfies though ;-)

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    1. Barley wishes Maddux would pose more, too ;)

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  5. That is a fun and easy solution. Barley makes a great model. Thanks for joining the hop!

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    1. It is a fun and easy solution! I can't believe it took me so long to realize it.

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  6. Barley is so cute! I totally agree with you, most dogs do need jobs. Modeling is a great one! :D The girls get really tired after we do photos, too!

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    1. Your girls definitely make modeling look easy.

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  7. I love it, maybe you just need to set the camera on the counter. That'll keep her in line. LOL

    It's great when you find something they love to do, isn't it?

    It's funny, we never did the types of things with our dogs when we were kids that we do now, and yet we still managed to have them. I wonder why that has changed?

    Thanks for joining the blog hop.

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    1. It is funny how different living with dogs in today's world is (unless, of course, you're visiting my parents in Alabama where all of the neighborhood dogs roam free). Something tells me even with a camera on the counter, Barley would just see it as an opportunity to show off--I have photos of her standing on my dining room table and sitting on the kitchen counter . . . she made no move to get off either, but she did perk up and smile for the camera. Goofy dog.

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