Dogs within the so-called "Working Group" have been selectively bred to perform specific types of work—as the name suggests. This group includes goliaths such as the Saint Bernard and Newfoundland, as well as the sleekly built Doberman pinscher. These big boys of the canine world were "designed" to guard property, pull sleds laden with people or material and rescue stranded hikers and swimmers. Even though your working-group pup may never pull a drowning sailor to safety, with a supervisor who can manage his independent attitude, he'll happily take on the job of four-legged family member!
Working for a Living
The American Kennel Club recognizes 28 breeds in the working group. Some, such as the Great Dane, meet super-size standards. But even the relatively petite breeds, such as a 70-pound boxer, have big dog attitudes and a go-all-day-long work ethic. The 60-pound Portuguese water dog, for instance, assists his fisherman in diving for fish and retrieving nets, as well as guarding the boat when docked. Working class pups are expected to do their jobs without a lot of human supervision. The Great Pyrenees is a livestock guardian who sometimes spends days alone in mountain valleys with his flock.
Understanding His Behavior
If you expect your working pup to fit your suburban lifestyle, he'll need a strong human leader to overcome behavioral traits built into his DNA. Breeds designed to protect, such as the Rottweiler or mop-resembling Komondor, are often wary of strangers and require socialization and positive obedience training to ensure those guarding instincts don't take over at the wrong time. The Siberian husky excels as a sled dog, but will need your watchful eye to help contain that strong drive he has for catching small prey, including those white bunnies your neighbor cherishes as pets.
Training a Young Giant
Starting obedience training early and practicing it consistently is especially important for working pups in the ginormous category, such as the mastiff. A positive method for teaching your buddy not to jump on people, for instance, is to ignore him by turning your back if he jumps up when greeting -- he gets the attention he seeks if he doesn't jump and loses your attention if he does. It's easy to ignore a 25-pound mastiff puppy. A mature mastiff, weighing in at 180 to 220 well-muscled pounds, only has to nudge you once or twice to get you turned back around so he can plant some sloppy canine kisses on your cheek.
On the Job Education
Obedience sessions for your working pup need to be short and fun -- 10 to 15 minutes two to three times a day. Working breeds generally aren't eager to take directions over and over again, such as retrievers and other sporting dogs. Your laboring pal just wants to do his job and get home. However, you can reinforce the lessons by putting them to use throughout the day. If you're training recall, for instance, make commercials more fun by having treats handy as you relax on the couch. Call your pup over by using his name and the word "come." When he does, give him the treat.
By Sandra King
About the Author
A medical writer since 1990 and successful home-based business owner for more than 14 years, Sandra King holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications. She uses her formal education, professional insight and extensive volunteer involvement to cover topics on health and fitness, pets, parenting for a lifetime, building healthy relationships, conquering business basics and developing career goals.