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.
- Agility – 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. 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.
- Herding – Herding is an instinct for dogs 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 possess 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.
- Flyball – The sport of flyball is a type of relay race that involves teams of four dogs. One dog from each team runs down a course, jumping hurdles, towards the “flyball box.” The dog steps on a panel and triggers the flyball box to release a tennis ball. The dog then brings the ball back over the hurdles to its handler. Once a dog has completed the course, the next dog is released from the starting line. The first team to have all four dogs complete the course wins. The game is played in several heats. Flyball is a great way for your dog to enjoy time with other dogs, plus a nice way for you to meet other dog owners.
- 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.
- Disc Dogs – During disc dog competitions, dog/handler teams are judged in disc-throwing events like distance/accuracy catching and freestyle routines. 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.
With so many new dog sports like dancing & surfing, your choices really are endless. Find some time to enjoy your companion and give them a chance to participate in recreation that is more related to their personalities and instincts. It’s not a bad bonus that you too will find it rewarding!