If you love dogs, you’ve probably watched a dog sport on television before. You might have seen a dog agility or dock jumping competition. When you saw these amazing animals in action, you might have entertained the thought of entering your own pooch in some sort of athletic contest. Your dog shows excellent form when catching a tennis ball, so why not see if they can do something even more challenging?
There are lots of competitive sports for dogs – ones you probably haven’t ever considered. There are sports in dog obedience sports agility and many others. If you’d like to learn more about how to get your pooch into an official dog sport, read on.
Which Sport is Right For Your Dog’s Breed?
Whether you have a purebred dog or a mutt, you can find a sport that is great for your pet and one where they can excel. Certain breeds, however, just seem to have a knack for particular types of activities. Here are a few examples.1
This sport is mainly geared toward Terrier breeds. These dogs really like to dig around looking for prey. Earthdog is a sport that tests a dog’s ability to hunt by digging – specifically for mice. But no harm comes to the rodents, because they’re in a cage located underground. If you’re interested in learning more about Earthdog, the American Kennel Club has more information.2
Splash dogs, as the name implies, involves dogs jumping into water in order to retrieve something – typically a toy. The dog gets a running start while their owner or handler throws the object in front of them. The winner is the one who jumps the farthest. Water breeds tend to be the top dogs in this competition – breeds such as the English Setter, Irish Setter, or Newfoundland. But if your dog loves water, this is a great sport no matter their breed.3
Lure coursing is tailored to Sighthounds, such as Afghan Hounds and Greyhounds. If you’ve ever seen Greyhound racing on TV, you may have an idea of what lure coursing is about. Dogs chase a plastic bag attached to a lure. The lure is on a mechanized line positioned slightly off the ground. An operator controls the line.4
The hounds are separated into groups of three. Each dog wears a pink, blue, or yellow vest so that the judges can tell which dog is which. The sport not only tests their speed, but also their agility, endurance, vision, and more.5
Put simply, agility tests a dog’s ability to rapidly change directions. Dogs go through an obstacle course that usually includes tunnels, jumps, weave poles, and more. The dog who gets through the course in the shortest amount of time is the winner. Any dog that enjoys being active and who can follow basic directions can enjoy participating in agility trials.6
Musical Canine Freestyle
Whether you call it musical canine freestyle, music heelwork, or just “dog dancing,” the general principle is the same: A dog and their owner basically sing and dance together. It’s an incredible amount of fun to do, and it’s a blast to watch. Even better, it really doesn’t matter what breed of dog you have. Any breed, from a tiny Dachshund to a huge Alaskan Malamute, can participate – as long as the dog is good off the leash and well trained.7
This is an odd-sounding sport, but it’s also fascinating. Schutzhund tests certain types of traits in a dog – their temperament, obedience, and their ability to protect. The protection part of the competition is especially interesting. It involves a “helper,” a person who wears a padded sleeve. The dog is first directed to find the helper. Once that happens, the dog has to keep the helper from moving until they’re commanded to release them. Usually, this is accomplished by gently biting down on the sleeve until they’re told to let go.8
There are a lot of amazing Schutzhund dogs out there. A lot of them work in law enforcement because they’re so good at the “protection” portion of the sport. They go through an intense dog trainer development program before they can join a police force.9
During a competition, the handler performs a “search” of the helper. It’s similar to a police officer searching a suspect while a K-9 dog stands guard. The helper will either try to escape or “attack” the dog. The dog has to bite the padded sleeve once this happens, then release it when commanded to do so.10
Rally obedience is similar to agility in that the dog and handler navigate a specific type of course. The handler uses positive reinforcement to guide the dog through the course. They use specific types of commands throughout the competition, including “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and others. The handler can’t touch the dog, but they are allowed unlimited communication. This can also include hand signals and handclaps.11
Is Your Dog A Scent Sleuth? Try Playing Nose Games With Your Favorite Companion
If your dog likes to nose around, nose games might just be the perfect activity to bond even more with your pet. In fact, there is actually an official dog sport called Nose Games. But you can just as easily do them at home too. If your pooch excels at these games, you might even have a potential detection dog on your hands. Here are a few of the different variations.
- A simple nose game is called “Which Hand?” The name sums it up perfectly. You put a treat in your right hand and close both fists. When the dog chooses the right hand with their nose, reward the treat.12
- Another version is a take on the old shell game. You get three cups and put them on a table in front of your dog. Put a treat under one cup and move them around. When the dog chooses the cup hiding the treat, give the reward.13
- You can also play a sort of “hide-and-go-seek” nose game. Hide some treats around your home, such as under a chair or in a closet, while your dog is either outside or in some other part of the house. Then, let them in, and watch them follow their nose to find the treats.14
There’s another nose sport known as “tracking.” A person simply walks along a trail, making tracks as they go. The dog will then track by sniffing the trail. Competitive tracking typically involves placing a few objects along the trail. As the dog finds the item, their handler shows the judge the item.15
Is Your Pooch Highly Energetic? Disc Dog Or Flyball Might Be Worth A Try
Does your dog bounce off the walls regularly? They might be perfect for either disc dog or flyball.
In disc dog competitions (where a “Frisbee” type of disc is thrown for a dog to catch), a dog/handler team earns points in categories such as accuracy, style, and distance. The handler has to be able to throw the disc accurately for a great distance, while the dog has to be fast and agile enough to catch it. Certain breeds like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds make excellent disc dogs.16
Flyball also tests your dog’s agility and speed. It’s a type of relay race that usually consists of four dogs. The first dog runs down a course (jumping a few hurdles along the way), reaches a box that contains a ball, and then brings that ball back to the handler. The other three dogs then do the same thing. The first team to retrieve all the balls from the flyball box wins.17
Other Great Games For You And Your Favorite Furry Friend
This is one of the classic games for dogs, and it’s easy to play. Simply get a disc, find a big, open space, and fling it. Most dogs are going to immediately want to fetch the disc and bring it back. It will take some stamina in order to play. You need to be in pretty good shape, and your dog should be an active, high energy pooch. Also, try to remember to get a flexible disc that’s easy for your dog to grab. 18
This sport is a tribute to the days when humans first started to bond with dogs. Certain breeds, such as the Welsh Corgi, Australian Shepherd, and the Border Collie, are natural herders. The most common version of herding involves a handler and their dog trying to maneuver livestock through a pre-set course. A judge then determines how well the dog did their job. 19
Yes, you can make a sport out of just about anything – obedience training is no exception. As you can probably tell, competition obedience is a test of a dog’s ability to learn several different types of training commands. Judges will usually look for things such as a dog being able to sit and stay for 60 seconds. 20
Always Remember Positive Reinforcement
As you can see, there are a lot of fantastic sports your dog may love. Some competitions are informal, while certain sports only allow dogs that meet their respective breed standards.
Most of these sports will require a lot of training. Be patient, and incorporate the positive reinforcement philosophy. Praise your dog when they do well, and never punish them if they have trouble getting to the next level. The point of this is to have the highest quality bonding time possible with your pup – so, try not to take it too seriously.