A list of sports that can help strengthen your pup and the relationship you share.
Growing up, most tend to get involved with some type of sport. Soccer, football and softball are all popular choices. However, have you ever considered involving your pup in a sport? You may not know it, but there are a huge variety of sports and activities that you and your canine partner can participate in together, and many of them offer competitions, some of which may be broadcast nation-wide. Shows such as the Westminster, Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge and most recently, Top Dog on A&E, all showcase the brilliant talents of human-dog teams.
Agility is a sport where a human handler guides his or her dog through a series of obstacles that are predetermined by the judge who designs the course. The objective is to guide the dog correctly through the course as quickly as possible. The dog cannot practice on the course until it is their turn to compete; however, the handler has an opportunity to walk the course beforehand to determine a plan. The handler will use his or her body motion, hand signals and voice to guide the dog.
Obstacles include multiple jumps, tunnels, weave poles, teeter totter, A-frame and a long-elevated board called a dog-walk. Any dog can compete in agility, but certain breeds such as the border collie, Australian shepherd and Shetland sheepdogs tend to have a special affinity for agility due their high drive and quick speed. The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers resources for learning more about agility, as does the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) and Canine Performance Events (CPE).
Disc, or Frisbee, is much like what it sounds. The handler throws a disc and the dog must catch it. There are multiple different Frisbee or disc games that can be played with your dog, as well as a few different competitive outlets. UpDog Challenge offers games where you and the dog can accumulate points based on how many catches are made. Other opportunities include “freestyle disc” where the handler and dog design and perform a routine in which the handler throws discs of varying distance and height and the dog must catch and retrieve them.
Is your dog a natural swimmer and always jumping in your pool? Dock diving may be the perfect sport for your pup! Dock diving is exactly what it sounds like – a handler throws a toy off a dock; the dog gets a running start and the longest jump into the water wins. The best dock divers can jump over 25 feet into a pool of water. There are some modified games such as air retrieve, where the dog must not only have the longest jump into the water but must also catch a suspended toy in their mouth in order to win. The American Kennel Club offers dock diving events, as does the North American Diving Dogs.
Canine sports are a great way for your dog to get some physical and mental exercise and it doubles as a fun way for the handler to get outside and move as well. The human-animal bond is strengthened, and your dog learns new skills and has fun in the process.