Dog Sport: 11 fun sports you can play with your dog
If you want to start a new sport in which your dog can participate, consider a dog sport. There’s something to suit every dog breed and personality. You can find out about local dog sports by Googling ‘dog sports near me’ or asking for recommendations from your veterinarian, groomer or dog obedience school.
1. Dog Agility
Agility is the most popular dog sport. With guidance from his handler a dog must race through an obstacle course in a specified order accurately and as quickly as possible. Obstacles include tunnels, jumps, weave poles, pause tables, A-frames and hoops. Read more in our article about Dog Agility.
Flyball is a relay of four dogs who take turns to jump hurdles, catch a ball and race back to the start line. The hurdle height is set to the shortest dog on the relay team so that all breeds can compete. For more information about his exciting sport, read our article on Dog Flyball.
3. Dock Diving
In dock diving, dogs jump from a dock over a body of water competing against one another in the height or distance of the jump. Dock diving is perfect for water lovers such as retrievers.
Some dogs were born to herd! In herding competitions, the dog must herd animals into a pen. The animals are normally sheep or ducks but herding titles can be won on herding geese, turkeys, goats and cattle, too. Different tasks can be added, such as ‘sorting’ the animals or moving the herd back and forth before penning, according to the dog’s skill level.
5. Lure Coursing
This sport is perfect for high-energy dogs who love to chase things. Dogs chase a mechanized lure around a course. The lure simulates the unpredictability of chasing live prey by zig-zagging across the open field.
6. Scent Work (or Nose Work)
A dog’s sense of smell is up to 100,000 times more sensitive than ours. Scent work allows your dog to sniff to her heart’s content! Neither the handler nor the dog knows where the target scent is hidden, so this sport is simply a matter of letting your dog sniff it out. The target scent is normally a cotton swab saturated in essential oil. When the scent is found, your dog must communicate this to you, and you call it out to the judge.
7. Tracking Trial
Like Scent Work, Tracking Trial involves your dog using his nose. Your dog must follow a scent trail that has been laid out the day before, and by doing so find ‘lost’ articles. The sport mimics search and rescue missions and police work where the dog must find a lost person or article. Tracking is also a survival skill that helps a dog to hunt prey in the wild. For many breeds tracking is still a strong instinct that they love to use.
In obedience competitions dogs complete a specific routine of behaviors correctly to demonstrate their training. The basic commands of ‘heel’, ‘stay’, ‘come’ and ‘sit’ are mastered, along with fetching and jumping ability.
9. Rally Obedience
Rally obedience takes the obedience competition a step further by testing your dog’s obedience behaviors over a course while he is timed. Handler and dog must run side-by-side through the course of numbered signs. Each sign provides obedience instructions that the dog must perform. Rally obedience is all about working as a team while performing skills.
10. Canine Freestyle (or Dog Dancing)
Canine freestyle requires you and your dog to perform a dance routine together. This not only requires a deep bond with your dog, but a mastery of basic obedience. Patience and a sense of fun will go a long way!
11. Disc Dogs
Disc dog competitions are sometimes called Dog Frisbee Competitions but ‘Frisbee’ is a trademarked brand of disc and is not the official name of the sport. A disc must be thrown by the handler for the dog to catch. The dog and handler are judged on either the distance of the throw and the skill of the catch, or on the cleverness of a freestyle form of disc throwing which demonstrates the dog’s skill at catching discs.
A Word on Short-Snouted Breeds
The brachycephalic (short-snouted) dog breeds such as bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers and ShihTzus are predisposed to breathing difficulties, especially during exercise and when they become over heated. Controlling your dog’s weight and keeping him fit is important for his health, though, so don’t let this put you off dog sport. Just be aware of it and learn how to heed the warning signs of breathing difficulties and overheating.
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