Digging? Barking? Chasing? Biting? Jumping? Generally driving you bonkers? And that's just the children.... If your dog is a little crazy try channelling some instincts.
Activities that can be used to channel your dog’s less desirable instinctual behaviours include;
Dog agility classes; this activity would prove helpful for a dog with problems rooted in a keen prey drive or with bags of energy that cannot be removed by walking alone. It helps the owner to bond with the dog, provides an opportunity for socialisation and is great fun for all involved. The availability of these classes varies from area to area. We have plenty of classes in West Yorkshire but many are breed-specific. A fun agility course can be constructed by an imaginative human in the back garden; although this omits socialisation with other dogs it could still prove to be a useful tool.
Walking/running with your dog; this is available to everyone and can be done alone with your dog or with multiple dogs, it can be done in the company of other dogs and owners to add socialisation to the mix. As it mimics the migration of the wolf and the journey to find food/shelter/water this is good for dogs that have behavioural problems under the umbrella of ‘self-preservation’ such as an overly defensive dog or a nervous dog. A backpack can be added to intensify this activity further for your dog, or a ball thrown to encompass retrieval (which is a prey drive related activity). Many people now meet with their dogs to enjoy ‘canicross’. This is a sport that involves running off road with your dog, the dog wears a padded harness and the handler wears a belt. I would maybe be reluctant to recommend this for very assertive dogs though, as the dog is way in front of the owner throughout, in effect leading the way, but it is good for most – they quickly learn that the harness means pull and the collar means don’t pull!
Working your dog in a breed specific way; such as cart pulling with a powerful breed such as the Newfoundland or dog scootering with a Husky. These activities shouldn’t be underestimated; if you look to the behaviour that you want to channel you may find the solution right there in front of you. For example, a noisy hyperactive circling hound may just need a job; he may be ‘looking’ for something, why not create something for him to find? Scent tracking may help to channel this (essentially prey drive related) behaviour into a fun mentally and physically tiring activity for your dog.
I have tried to focus on activities that can be done by anyone, anywhere, regardless of the availability of classes and organised events. There are, however, activities that are available in Yorkshire that cater to almost every preference.