A benefit of dog ownership is enjoying quality time with our canines. If you’re looking for more fun with your fur baby, try dog sports. There’s truly nothing quite like the bonding that occurs when you and your pooch get involved in this type of dog training.
Dog sports can help your pup learn obedience, improve their agility, provide mental stimulation, and do so much more.
A pooch involved in dog sports, will have a new spring in their step. You might just find them glued with you to the television when dog shows are on! Maybe they’re trying to pick up some new moves?
Getting Started in Dog Sports
Canine sports are a wonderful way to teach your pet new skills. Actually, since you and your doggo need solid teamwork for this activity, kudos should really go to both of you. Dog training requires hard work and persistence from you and your pooch.
The first thing to know is that competition isn’t at the same level for all dog sport events. This means you should be able to find something that Fido or Freya can participate in, no matter what their skill level.
Research what obedience competitions and other canine sports events are available nearby and what the entry requirements are.
One tip is to attend a dog sports event to see first-hand what’s involved. It’s also a good idea to join your local branch of the American Kennel Club (AKC). The AKC offers resources, group classes, a range of different canine sports events and more.
That’s where you’ll find out how your pup can compete in dog sports and you can network with other dog owners. Something to be aware of is that, in general, your pet must show conformation of an AKC registration number to take part in an AKC competition.
Once you’ve found something you want to try with your pooch, start off slowly. Don’t get discouraged if your pup doesn’t get it right away or looses interest.
Not all dogs take to the same dog sports − some may prefer a certain activity over another. Plus, some dogs learn faster than others.
Training with Positive Reinforcement
When you’re teaching your pooch a new dog sport, it’s important to use positive reinforcement. This is one of the key training methods employed by dog trainers who’ve made a career in canine sports.
Basically, your pup wants to please you. So, they’re happy when you’re encouraging them to try their best and giving them praise for each small success. Punishment will get you nowhere. Your pup may feel more nervous about making a mistake and will be discouraged from attempting again.
Patience, praise, and practice win out every time. Whether your doggo is entering an informal competition or an event that requires them to meet their breed standards, remember you’re there for enjoyment as well as learning. This is a time for you and your pet to bond.
Picking a Sport for Your Pup
Here’s where the fun starts. Consider what activities Snoopy or Sally already has some aptitude for. Do they love to run at top speed when you take them off leash? Have you seen them try to herd other canines at the dog park? Maybe they’re the first to jump into the water at the cottage.
Knowing what they like to do already will give you a clue about what dog sports they may perform well at. Take their temperament and health into account as well.
Today, there’s so much more than just obedience trials to choose from, and more innovative dog sports are offered all the time by organizations like the AKC. Read through the list below to help decide what to begin with.
You’ve probably seen dog agility competitions on television. They’re very popular. Basically, dogs move through an obstacle course with as much speed and dexterity as possible.
A typical course includes jumps, tunnels, weave poles and other obstacles that dogs have to maneuver through or around, jump over or walk on without making errors.
The dog who reaches the end of the course fastest with the fewest mistakes wins. Agility training requires a lot of your pet physically so they must be in good shape. To do well at this dog sport, a canine must be able to follow direction from their dog handler.
A Disc Dog competition focuses on a dog’s ability to catch a flying disc mid-air. The handler tosses a disc or Frisbee into the air and the canine retrieves it. A high degree of athleticism is required for your pet to win at Disc Dog since they need to respond quickly and jump high.
There’s some variation to this where the dog’s handler engages in a bit of showmanship with their pooch. They may have the canine do freestyle moves like flips or jumping over the handler’s back. It can be very entertaining to watch an AKC event.
This interesting dog sport takes advantage of an activity many dogs love – digging. The instinct for unearthing items is stronger in some dog breeds than others. Terriers have the right characteristics for this sport. The idea is to place mice in a protective cage underground and have the dog dig until they’ve found them.
Flyball is another dog sport that tests speed and agility. Four dogs compete as a team in this relay race. Dog number one takes off down the course, hurdling over jumps on the way. They retrieve a ball from a flyball box at the other end and bring it back to their handler.
The other three dogs, in turn, do the same in response to the flyball handler’s command. The winning team is the one that brings back all the balls from the flyball box in the shortest time. Usually there are two teams of dogs taking part.
In canine Freestyle, a dog’s obedience is judged as they respond to their owner’s commands in something akin to a choreographed musical performance. Essentially, the pup performs a range of obedience tricks to music with their owner.
This may encompass entertaining dance moves and even singing. It really doesn’t matter the dog breed, if your pet likes to show off a bit consider canine Freestyle.
Certain breeds have characteristics that make them naturals at this dog sport. It won’t surprise you that the Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, and Welsh Corgi are breeds that are the best at this activity.
Herding competitions are fairly simple ones in that they require the dog and their handler to work together to move livestock through a course. The dog is judged on how well they accomplish the task.
Lure Coursing is a very physically-demanding event. Dogs race around a track trying to catch a lure that’s pulled along ahead of them on a wire and pulley system.
Breeds that do well at Lure Coursing are Greyhounds and Afghan Hounds. The dog that has the fastest running time is the winner. Greyhound racing that you see on television is an example of this sport.
This is one of the oldest canine sports. The AKC hosts many obedience competitions. Although rules have evolved over the years, at its core the sport is about your dog’s ability to follow a variety of commands.
For example, a dog is judged on how quickly and effectively they respond when they’re asked to stay, heel, jump, retrieve and perform other moves. A canine who can respond right away and wait attentively for the next direction will do well.
Rally obedience relies on a dog’s knack for following a series of commands while navigating a course. It’s not unlike agility training with an obedience component added. In Rally the handler will give commands like “stay,” “sit,” or “down” and use positive reinforcement for the proper behavior. Handclaps and hand signals are also used in Rally obedience.
The Rally obstacle course usually consists of 10 to 20 signs that the canine has to move around while responding to direction. Judges look for strong teamwork between handler and dog.
Does your pooch love the water? If so, they may do well in a sport called splash dogs or dock diving. Each dog has a running start along the dock while their handler pitches an object a distance out into the water for the dog to retrieve.
The aim is to see which dog can jump the farthest, so the object should be thrown as far out as possible. If your dog is a breed like the Newfoundland, Irish Steer or English Setter they should be good at this sport.
Schutzhund is probably a name you’re unfamiliar with. This event tests a dog’s obedience and their instinct to protect others. The dog handler team includes a person called a “helper” who has their coat sleeve padded. The dog is directed to locate the helper and then commanded to prevent the helper from moving.
This is where the padded sleeve comes in as the dog will hold the helper in place by biting − hopefully, gently – on to the helper’s sleeve. On command, the dog lets the helper go.
Would you believe a dog’s sense of smell is 100,000 times stronger than that of people? Scent work is a canine sport most dogs will enjoy, and it’s something you can easily practice at home with a few treats. Try a shell game, hide treats around the house or ask your pup to guess which hand you’re hiding a treat in.
When it comes to scent work contests, dogs sniff around for scented cotton swabs. People need to understand the alert signs their dogs gives, and this requires strong communication between handlers and dogs.
Another type of nose work is tracking. These competitions require dogs to follow a scent trail, where items are scented and left along the route. The test for each dog handler team is to get to the trail’s end having found each item.
As dogs become better at these routines they advance to longer routes with several turns. Nose games provide mental stimulation for your canine and help them learn to trust their instincts.
This dog sport is great for dogs who’ve passed obedience training and are ready to learn some new commands. Trick Dog is good brain stimulation for your pup.
There are so many options here in addition to teaching your pooch to roll over and shake a paw. Trick Dog contests have various levels of difficulty. You can start out at the lowest level and work your way up to earn a number of Trick Dog titles.
Our Final Thoughts on Dog Sports
As many dog lovers know, there’s a lot to be gained with dog sports. Apart from the physical and cognitive health benefits, they can be a real confidence booster for your canine companion. And, they will bring the two of you closer.
The AKC has classes, resources and good information so it’s a great place to find activities that will fit well with your pet’s characteristics.
Frequently Asked Questions
What sports can dogs play?
There’s an amazing range of dog sports today – Agility, Flyball, Splash Dogs, Disc Dogs and more.
Is a dog show a sport?
Yes. A dog show normally has an obedience component, and this training is one of the oldest sports around for dogs.
Is dog agility a sport?
Yes, dog agility is quite popular. Classes are offered by the AKC.