For some dogs, even regular long walks and access to a big backyard just aren’t enough of a challenge. You want your pup to test their mental and physical prowess and allow them to have some fun. How can you do this? Dog sports!
These days, the choices in dog sports and recreation are nearly endless. Dog sports are great options to keep active dogs both physically and mentally healthy. All dogs need some degree of exercise, but most will thrive with extra stimulation. Very active dogs are ideal candidates for high-performance sports like agility and flyball, though almost any healthy dog can enjoy participation.
Be sure your dog has a thorough veterinary evaluation prior to starting any dog sport. Once your vet gives clearance, consider these top dog sports that can challenge your dog’s mind and body while reinforcing the canine-human bond.
Is your dog incredibly fit and great with taking commands? If so, dog agility training can be incredibly rewarding for both you and the pup in question.
Canine agility is a competitive dog sport that takes place within an obstacle course. Dogs are trained to make jumps, travel through tunnels, and navigate various walkways – all in a specific order. Each step of the way, the dogs are directed by their owners.
Agility is an excellent form of exercise and mental stimulation, making it ideal for high energy dogs like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. However, just about any dog can participate in agility. The intensity and difficulty of the course can be altered to accommodate dogs with health complications or special needs. Teamwork between dog and human is the cornerstone of this sport.
Best for: Top breeds for agility training include Jack Russell terriers, Pembroke Welsh corgis, Shetland sheepdogs, Border collies, and Australian shepherds, but the most important factors are that your dog has lots of energy, a desire to please, and is physically active.
Canine Freestyle is a choreographed musical performance by a dog/handler team. Like it sounds, this activity is like dancing with a dog! As implied by its name, in canine freestyle almost anything goes. Basically, any move is allowed unless it puts the dog or handler in danger. Routines typically involve the dog performing twists & turns, weaving through the handler’s legs, walking backwards, jumping, and moving in sync with the handler.
Canine Freestyle requires a deep bond between handler and dog as well as a mastery of basic commands – especially “heel.” Before putting a routine together, the dog must first learn each individual “move.” A dash of creativity, plenty of patience and a positive attitude will go a long way.
You’ve heard of this. You just don’t know it because most people call it dog dancing. Open to canines of any breed, Heelwork requires fantastic coordination and communication for owners and their dogs to dance naturally together. Many people practice routines for several months before taking an act to a competition, and some even incorporate costumes.
Best for: One of the best things about Heelwork to music is that dogs of any breed can participate, as can those at various levels of physical prowess. More physically fit dogs don’t necessarily have an advantage, because owners can tailor routines to their dog’s strengths. That being said, Heelwork is best for dogs who are well-trained and remain completely under their owner’s control even while off-leash. If your dog hasn’t received any kind of obedience training yet, you’ll need to provide that first.
During disc dog competitions, dog/handler teams are judged in disc-throwing events like distance/accuracy catching and freestyle routines. “Frisbee” is a trademarked brand name for a flying disc, hence the reason the word “disc” is often used.
To become a successful disc dog team, the handler must be able to properly throw a disc – and far. The dog can then be trained to chase and catch the disc. During distance competition, the field is broken into zones by yard. Scoring is based on the zone in which the disc is caught. Freestyle events are judged and scored based on a predetermined point system. Rules and scoring vary with each disc dog group, club or association.