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.
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.
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.
4. Disc Dogs
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.
5. Dock Jumping
Also called dock diving, dock jumping is a competition where dogs jump from a dock into a body of water in an attempt to achieve great distance or height. Dock jumping is much like the human long jump or high jump, but with water.
In distance jumping, or "Ultimate Air," the handler throws a toy off of the dock in an attempt to get the dog to jump as far away as possible. Distance is measured at the place where the tail base meets the water. Jumps are usually recorded digitally for accuracy.
The newer "Ultimate Vertical" is a high jump. A bumper is placed at a predetermined height. As competing dogs reach it, the height is recorded and bumper is moved up. The winner is the only dog that can reach the bumper at its highest position.
Herding is an instinct for dog in the herding group - it is the way they were bred. Sometimes, even some non-herding dog breeds or mixes will show an instinct for herding. Because many dogs live in urban or suburban areas rather than farms, the opportunity to herd is not presented. Enter herding competition. Most dogs that posses the instinct to herd absolutely love it. Training and trials are great ways to let them act out on instinct and have the time of their lives. Trials involve the dog, a group of animals (often sheep), handlers and judges. The handlers give commands and the dogs work their magic.
If you think your dog would enjoy herding, there are probably herding groups in your area to contact regarding training and competition.
8. Lure Coursing
9. Rally Obedience
In Rally Obedience, dog/handler teams must complete a course made up of signs describing specific obedience exercises to perform. Judges design the course and observe as the teams swiftly navigate the course.
Rally Obedience rules tend to be less strict than traditional obedience competitions. Typically, Rally competition is open to all breeds. Trials usually have several levels, and teams compete for titles and championships.
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You probably have noticed that your dog's nose is his most dominant sense. Most dogs want to follow their noses. Why not turn this talent into a fun and challenging activity?
A tracking trial is a type of test that requires a dog to follow a scent trail. These events mimic search-and-rescue missions, assessing the dog's natural ability and willingness to follow a trail left by human footsteps. Dogs and their handlers often enjoy this work, and success can open doors to pursue real life search-and-rescue work.