Dogs thrive on activities that appeal to their basic instincts. They want to chase anything that moves and also learn about their environment using their senses of smell and sound.

Dogs thrive on activities that appeal to their basic instincts. They want to chase anything that moves and also learn about their environment using their senses of smell and sound. They are pack animals that seek leadership and want, oh so much, to please. The nuances and inflections of their owners voice when praising the pet, are a thrill for them. It is our responsibility as dog owners to provide basic necessities and to keep it safe and secure. Thoughtful owners also recognize their dogs' needs for enrichment and will create opportunities for satisfying them.

Walking your dog provides activity and exercise and offers opportunities to smell the air and learn about the world around them.

On a walk your pet can read the "doggie newspaper" by trying to sniff every single scrap of odor-containing material within a five-mile area. Backyard play can keep your pet motivated. Hide and seek is a variation on this. For dogs with a strong food drive, hiding tidbits around the yard satisfies the desire and is fun for the dog. Some experts suggest that you never feed your dog from a bowl because that comes too easily.

Dry food can be put in a dispensing type toy or canned food can be stuffed in an accessible object/toy and frozen so they have to work to get it.

Organized events designed to engage an individual dog's instincts and abilities are becoming popular. Dock diving is one of them. Any breed or mix can compete to see who can jump the furthest off a raised platform into water in pursuit of a thrown object. Skilled dogs can achieve over 20 feet in the air before hitting the water. At these events, the joy and pride the dogs display is incredible.
Terrier Trials are said to be pure pandemonium and fun for all. They are restricted to the Jack Russell Terrier breed. Short sprint and hurdle races are at the heart of these events.

The dogs are loaded into individual starting boxes, a lure is started, the boxes open and the terriers are released to run in pursuit of the lure. At the end, they are stopped by "catchers. Competitors are required to wear a soft muzzle. This is to protect the terriers as well as the volunteer catchers at the end of the track from being nipped by an over-excited dog.

Go-to ground events at Terrier Trials are designed to simulate and test a terrier's natural ability to follow the scent of quarry and work underground. It really is a fun game for the dogs. Tunnels measuring 9-10 inches diameter are constructed either above or below ground. At the end of the tunnel a rat is safely secured in a cage. Each terrier is released at the start of the tunnel. They are timed and must "work" (bark, bay, whine, scratch, or dig) for 30-60 seconds.
Barn-Hunt is another terrier popular event. Jack Russell Terriers (and other terriers) are well known for keeping the barn free of rats.
This event takes place in a fenced-in area. Bales of hay, wood, etc. create a simulated barn setting in which several PVC pipes are hidden and only one pipe holds a rat.

The dog is released and will use his hunting instinct to find the rat. A passing score is received if your terrier finds the rat within the two-minute timeframe.

Some terriers could care less about finding the rat and spend their time wandering among the hay bales and marking their territory!
Another program for small terriers, mixes and Dachshunds are Earthdog trials. Testing of natural instinct in non-competitive activities is provided.

The program requires the dog to demonstrate that it is willing to perform the required tasks including seeking its quarry, locating and working it underground. The Earth-dog program seems to be less formal and the events have other fun activities for dogs.

The clubs and groups that offer these programs usually do them in conjunction with a fun event. Other breeds are welcome to participate or try out the competitive or test events at different times than the terriers.

Anne Divine is a long time member of LAWS and has volunteered at Animal Control for 18 years. She can be reached at: