Should I get a working breed Dog?

When deciding on what breed of dog to get, there are many factors to take account of. This is particularly true when you are considering a working breed, with their specific needs and wants.

Written by: Helen Bannan
Published: 14 April 2023
Categories: Uncategorized

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Over thousands of years, humans have selectively bred dogs to fit unique niches in our world. Some have been selected for their amazing sense of smell and desire to make birds take off to help us hunt pheasants, etc. While others have been selected for their natural desire to control movement and bring together and move groups of other animals.

Breeds that have been cultivated to work with us often are needed to be able to work long hours, at high speed, without getting tired, be able to concentrate for long periods, work independently of their humans and be ready to go again at short notice.

All of these traits that have been selected for mean we have breeds of dog that have some mind boggling abilities. Many of whom find the expression of their innate behaviours hugely satisfying! Think about; Collies herding, German Shepherds alert barking, Spaniels flushing pheasants or Labradors retrieving.

These traits make working breeds amazing to train and play with, however, they bring with them potential difficulties when being raised in a pet dog environment. It can mean blood, sweat and tears (literally) is required to get a working dog to be a pet dog.

Before I go further, it is important to note that not ALL Collies will have issues with chasing cars and I have even met a lazy Husky! All dogs are individuals, but they have genetic predispositions to certain behaviours and make for some specific needs that must to be met.


Bringing home any puppy brings with it a few weeks of being treated as a walking, talking, tug toy! They all love to sink their needle teeth into anything and everything!

However, when you bring home a little whirlwind of a working breed puppy this puppy nipping can be enhanced. The solutions that come naturally to most puppy parents when they are being nibbled can make things worse. For example, pushing the puppy away – if you’ve got a confident, high drive puppy this easily becomes the best game for them, making them MORE excited, making them bite MORE and HARDER – leading to BLOOD!

If this is not resolved, as they get bigger and stronger, you can end up with a dog that can not deal with their arousal levels so they re-direct onto their human and jump and tug on them when excited – leading to more loss of BLOOD and lots of holes in your clothes!

Another example is when your puppy grabs something they shouldn’t have and their human understandably panics and rushes to grab it out of their mouth. If your dog is pre-disposed to guarding and they learn that you will jump on them to take the fun thing away they may start by running away with it (this can also work for dogs that love to be chased/run!), others may run then swallow the item in order to keep it. If this continues, guarding dogs may learn that actually they need to protect their prize with a growl or a snap…..


It is not possible to underestimate the amount of energy many working breeds have! When they are puppies and you have to limit the time they walk to protect their joints, this can be very tricky to manage. An unemployed working dog will generally go find it’s own job! That is when the difficulties start – obsessive behaviours, destroying your stuff, etc.

Most working breeds will cope with however much exercise you give them. If you walk for 4hrs a day they will just become fit enough to cope with that easily and struggle with only 2hrs. Our clever dogs need mental stimulation as well as running around. This will mean playing games, training and if your dog has particularly strong breed traits you may need to find an activity that gives them an outlet to express them. For example, scent work for a Spaniel. Get SWEATING!

Until you’ve taught them to settle, evenings in front of the TV may well be somewhat disrupted!!

If you are looking at a working breed there are so many dog activities that you can get involved in – agility, scent work, mantrailing, cani-X, Working Trials and many more.



It is hard work bringing up any puppy, but with our high energy working breeds are just another level! When they work out that picking up “contraband” or barking incessantly makes you get up and interact with them, they will not be above using this to their advantage – multiple times a day. Normally when you’ve just sat down with a cuppa! Imagine this at the end of a long day keeping them exercised and entertained as well as doing your work/chores – every day for months!

Our clever breeds learn quickly, but that doesn’t mean they just learn what we want them to do. If your training is unclear, they find something that gets them what they want (e.g., they bark at you until you take them out for a walk) or they find some activity particularly reinforcing (e.g., Collies lunging at cars/cyclists) behaviours can quickly become reinforced and need specific training to change. They are indeed sometimes to clever for their own good.

When they develop these unwanted behaviours it can be both physically and emotionally draining. Even without unwanted behaviours it is not uncommon to find owners of young working dogs in TEARS with just the exhaustion/frustration of it all.


Having said all that, if you have the time, energy, space and desire to learn with your working breed – they are amazing, loyal dogs and the satisfaction of watching them learn and growing together as a team is second to none. They can turn their paw to most activities, and will love spending special time with their humans.

If you can survive the tricky days and find the right outlet for their energy you can find yourself in a new world of people who become life long friends and the best possible support group.

Nothing is more lovely than the morning cuddles I get from my Working Sheep Dog each and every morning as she wiggles into me as she hasn’t seen me in a few hours while we slept! Her love and loyalty make life brighter!


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