I think my first introduction to a true working dog was with the McNab pup that my grandfather gave me when I was 11 or 12. At the time, he had sheep and cattle on their place in Healdsburg CA. He was acquainted with 'old man McNab', who provided the pup he gave to me. She was a great dog... when she was three or four, I had my horse stabled at the fairgrounds, and also took care of horses for others.
I would turn the horses into the infield of the track as I cleaned stalls so they could get some grass. Once I was done with the stalls, I'd bring them in, one by one, until all horses were bedded down and fed.
One day I was sidetracked just before I went to get the first horse, talking to my trainer at the time. As we stood there, chins dropping to the ground, Lucky brought in the first horse, seeing her into her stall... standing with her head held low, almost daring that mare to try to come back out.
We were, well, flabbergasted to say the least.
That evening, Lucky brought in all the horses, one by one, seeing each to it's own stall. And she continued with her 'job', until we moved to Oregon.
Remarkable, no? Amazing, even? I'd say yes. Now take this in... I had never worked her at all, yet she knew the horses names, and could bring them with a simple: "Get Clover." Even more amazing, right? Now for the real magic! Two of the mares were identical twins, Holly and Mistletoe, and she knew which was which, and never put one into the other's stall.
Wow. I have another amazing dog story of Lucky, I'll save it for another post.
My point? Give working dogs work! While Lucky seemed happy at home on our small lot, she really shined when bringing the horses in, holding them in their stalls until I came to latch the door. She blossomed. Our relationship grew exponentially. I learned more about my little McNab working her, than I ever did living with her as a companion.