Do you have a dog who loves to play but sometimes seems to get bored with your usual games? You might want to think about getting them involved in dog sports.
Dog sports are a great way to teach your dog new activities and help them with obedience training. They will also help to keep both of you active and fit.
Need some ideas for new dog sports to get Fido moving? Read on!
Getting Your Dog Involved in a Sport
You might think it would be tough to get into dog sports if your pet hasn’t ever been in any sort of competitive event. But the truth is actually quite the opposite. There are a lot of dog sports around – as you’ll soon see.
Just about any kind of dog can participate in dog sports.
As long as both you and your dog can handle running, jumping, and other physical activity, you’ll have a lot of different options.
If you like to compete, there are plenty of events you can enter with your canine companion.
Here are some of the more popular dog sports. Some of them are better for certain breeds and personalities. Talk to your vet before starting any type of physical activity with your pet. The same thing goes for you, too. Talk to your doctor first.
Who doesn’t love going to the beach or the dog park with their furry friend and playing Frisbee? This is one of the dog sports that’s best for active dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds. You’ll need to be in pretty good shape yourself. This sport takes stamina.
Obedience is a big key for Frisbee. Your dog can’t just run off with the disc after you throw it (we’ve all been there). If you’re just starting training a puppy, this is one of the dog sports that might not be for you.
You’ll also want the right kind of disc. It needs to be soft and flexible enough to withstand doggie teeth. Introduce it to your pet during regular play, so they can get used to it.1
Dog Frisbee Tips: Start Slow
Start with short throws, giving plenty of hugs and other positive reinforcement when your pet brings the disc back to you. Mix in a training treat, too. If need be, use a really long leash when progressing to medium-distance throws to make sure your pooch will bring back the disc.
Once your pet gets used to the game, you can increase the distance of the throws to test your dog’s skills. Ditch the leash once you feel confident your dog will bring the disc back to you every time.
After a while, you might be able to enter your pooch in some local Frisbee events!
This is a really popular sport that’s also exciting. Training is a big component of agility, as is having a dog who is nimble enough to move through obstacles. For example, agility usually involves weaving around poles, crawling through large tubes, and jumping through tires.
Agility involves guiding your dog through an obstacle course within a certain period of time. Courses usually consist of about 20 obstacles. These include not only poles, tubes, and tires, but also seesaws and others. Courses also include “pause tables” – which tests a dog’s heeling abilities.
This is one of the dog sports that’s great for both mixed breeds and purebreds. As long as your dog is fit enough to get around the course, they will have a blast. Talk to some dog trainers around town to find out more about how to get started with agility.2
If you live on a lake and have a boat dock, dock jumping is one of the dog sports that could be perfect for your pooch. It’s played just like it sounds: you throw a toy off the end of a dock and see how far your dog can jump to retrieve it.
But you don’t have to have a lakeside home to enjoy this sport. There are events held across the country that involve docks and special pools.
Docks are usually about 40 feet long. Dogs who love the water and mental stimulation are well suited for dock jumping.3
If you’re interested, it probably won’t be too hard to find dock jumping events near your home. There are probably plenty of professional dog trainers who could point you to nearby events.
Flyball is a type of relay race competition. Different teams of dogs jump a series of hurdles before they get to a tennis ball. In order to get that ball, though, they have to jump on a box that contains a spring. The spring shoots the ball up into the air.
The dog has to get the ball and get back to the starting point before the next member of the flyball team can start. Then, the next dog does the same thing until all the dogs on the team have run their part of the relay.
Any dog can play this game. Retrievers and herding breeds usually excel at it. There are events for all ages of dogs – even “veterans classes” for dogs 7 years of age and up. Obedience is very important, as is a sense of teamwork among the human participants.4
You already know how “nosy” your dog can be. You see evidence every time you take your buddy for a walk. Well, dogs can put those noses to good use in dog sports such as tracking.
In order to play, one person first makes some tracks by walking along a trail. The dog then sniffs the trail until it ends. One version of the game involves placing certain items along the trail. Once the dog finds an item, their handler shows it to the judge.
In another version of tracking, there is only one item for the entire trail. Regardless of the version, the training is basically the same. Tracking is better for pooches that might not be suited for more active dog sports.5
Dog sports such as herding pay tribute to some of the original ways in which humans started to rely on canines. There are a lot of breeds that are designed specifically for this type of work. These include Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Welsh Corgis, and many others.
Many organizations are specifically devoted to herding breeds. A lot of members of these organizations want to test their dogs to see if they can herd as well as their ancestors. This is where the sport of herding comes in.
You’ll find several different versions of herding. Most have a lot in common. Basically, the dog and handler try to move sheep, or other types of livestock, through a course. The dog is then judged on how well they handled the task. Obedience and teamwork are major components of herding.6
“Skijoring” is a Norwegian word that means “ski driving.” Think of it like dog sledding meets cross-country skiing. It’s a great winter dog sport. Winter can be hard on active dogs, because they usually can’t get out as often as during the rest of the year.
Skijoring is designed to solve that problem. The only catch is that you need to live in an area cold enough to go cross-country skiing. Both the dog and handler wear a harness. A rope connects both harnesses.
The handler skis, and the dog helps to pull the handler.
Skijoring events sometimes involve one dog, but they can also involve teams of dogs. Since the handler provides plenty of momentum, just about any size of dog can participate. Dogs with heavy coats tend to be more prevalent in this sport. This includes Chows, Huskies and the like.7
This is one of the more uniquely-named dog sports. Earthdog was developed for breeds that are specifically designed to hunt rats or other vermin. Terriers and Dachshunds are two of the breeds best suited for this sport.
Earthdog is played by putting a dog into a man-made den situated underground. The dog’s target is typically a rat that is kept in a cage at the end of a tunnel. Neither the dog nor the quarry is ever in any danger. They’re always kept apart.8
Certain breeds are especially active dogs, including a group known as “sighthounds.” Members of this breed include Whippets, Irish Wolfhounds, Greyhounds, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. They are perfectly suited for lure coursing. Not only do they see great, they’re also very fast.
Lure coursing tests a dog’s ability to chase at a high rate of speed. The lure is typically an artificial animal meant to simulate game that sighthounds were born to chase, like rabbits, foxes, and deer. Dogs must be at least one year old to participate in sanctioned lure coursing events.
The reason for the age limitation is that the sport can easily damage the joints of a dog who is still developing. The game is usually played on a 600-1,000 yard course. The dog who finishes the course first, while remaining focused on the lure, is the winner.9
Along with Earthdog, nosework is another one of the dog sports that has a pretty cool name. It’s also known as scent work. Whatever you call it, it’s a game that lets a dog express their natural hunting instinct.
Nosework tests a dog’s ability to find not only a scent, but also the source of that scent.
Think of it as a game that simulates the work of explosives or drug-sniffing dogs. A dog is being tested on their ability to detect many different types of scents.
In one version of nosework, dogs look for cotton swabs that have been drenched in different types of oils. The swabs are hidden, and the dogs need to find them. When the dog finds a swab, they bark to let the handler know. The handler then tells the judges.10
Do you love to sing and dance with your pooch? Would you be willing to do it publicly? If so, you might be interested in pursuing a dog sport known as canine freestyle.
Instead of random dancing, canine freestyle events actually include choreography. Not only is it a test of training, it’s also a joy to watch. Dogs perform some slick moves! They go through their handler’s legs, jump, do turns, and even walk backward.
Canine freestyle is a great test of a dog’s mastery of the heeling command. More important than that, though, it’s a great show. It will take a lot of work, patience, and creativity for you and your dog to be good at this sport, but oh what a blast you’ll have! 11
Did you know training a dog could be a competitive sport? Well, it definitely qualifies to be included on any list of dog sports.
This sport tests a dog’s ability to master a wide variety of training commands. For example, one part of the competition involves a dog being able to sit and stay for one minute. It might sound easy, but give it a try with your pup. It’s not!
There’s also a “retrieve on the flat” component. This is where a dog grabs an object, brings it to their handler, and sits down. The dog is then supposed to hold onto the object until commanded to drop it.12
Which Sport is Right for Your Dog?
Do you think one (or more) of these dog sports sounds like fun? If so, there’s a good chance there’s a group of people and their pooches in your area who get together to play on a regular basis.
Look online, or ask your vet or local training professional and find out how to join.
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