Paws Along the Trail with Working Dogs
“When you give a dog a purpose, when you give a dog a meaning, he finds happiness in that.” Cesar Millan [WTOP 2017]
I strolled into our public library and saw dog footprints leading to a door. They had to be followed. What met my eyes was a room full of children reading to…dogs! It was Paws for Reading at the library. These dogs were working dogs, serving a purpose by listening to children practice their reading fluency. It got me thinking about how often dogs work and love it!
Sled dogs are working dogs. They find meaning and happiness in RUNNING. The difficulty comes not in getting them to run, but getting them to stop! Pulling a sled and guiding their “boss” brings satisfaction and joy. There’s a mutual respect between the musher and his/her dogs.
I wanted to find out if this was true for other working dogs, so throughout the fall and winter, various guests visited our classroom and brought their working dogs.
Maria Schultz with SUP with Pup brought Kona and Riley to visit. Her dogs ride on her stand-up paddleboard and together with Maria, help others learn this sport with their dogs. Stand-up paddle boarding with a dog brings peace and calm. Maria views her dogs’ work as teaching. She uses them as demo dogs and teaching assistants. Dogs learn from each other, and Riley and Kona influence the other dogs.
Deputy Fire Marshall Gouldman and his working dog, Duchess, came to school. Duchess works with the fire department. Her main task is sniffing out the source of the accelerant after a fire. They wait until the smoke is gone, and then Duchess carefully distributes her weight as she sniffs amongst the burned debris. It typically takes her 15 minutes to determine the source of the fire, then she alerts. How does she feel about work? When Duchess sees the leash come out, she becomes very excited because she loves going to work.
Sergeant Lynch, Deputy Myers, and Deputy Truslow also visited and, one at a time, introduced us to their K9 partners. Their dogs came from Europe, and these dogs have high drives to work. Deputy Myers said his partner would “go crazy without work or having something to do.” Their dogs view work as “fun” and are rewarded with a favorite toy for picking up the scent of people, drugs, or explosives. For finding people, they pick up scents because of rafting, where skin cells fall off and leave an odor.
I would recommend inviting in people who have working dogs as I did, or seeing if you can Skype with a musher after the race. The visits let your students see that dogs really love to have a purpose, be it to run and pull, or help and love their “boss.” We practiced finding cause and effect and summarizing the visits, topped off with writing thank you letters. Older students could arrange an interview with a handler of a working dog and write an essay on it.
In conclusion, working dogs love their work!
Dogs do not lie to you about how they feel because they cannot lie about feelings. Nobody has ever seen a sad dog pretending to be happy. – Jeffrey Masson