By Courtney Emken
co-written by Jen Larson, KPA-CTP, and Bart Emken, CPTD-KA
With spring already upon us and summer just around the corner, it’s a perfect time for you and your dog to get your game on! Canine sports are not only a great outlet for energy, but they provide a powerful opportunity to strengthen the human-dog bond as well.
In this article, we’ll list our favorite dog sports (in no particular order) and walk you through some of the basics of each activity. Then we’ll explain how you and your companion can get playing today! Now let’s play ball!
If you’ve followed our blog, then you’re probably familiar with Canine Agility. Agility is one of the most popular and widespread dog sports in the world, and for good reason. Dogs of any size, speed, and breed can participate in Agility— just be prepared for them to go at their own pace!
Agility is essentially an obstacle course. You’ll want to train each type of obstacle with your dog individually before facing the course as a whole. Otherwise, your dog’s inexperience coupled with Agility’s fast pace can increase the risk for injury.
Furthermore, young dogs and puppies should wait until they mature before doing Agility. These dogs are still growing. The constant jumping and falling can damage their developing muscles. Ask your vet if you’re not sure whether your dog is ready.
If your dog needs a mental workout as well as a physical one, then Nosework may be the right sport for you. It harnesses your dog’s incredible sense of smell and engages their search drive in a way few sports match. Plus, sniffing is a calming, enriching activity for most dogs and stimulates them in a way that doesn’t risk hyperactivity.
Nosework is also one of the easiest exercises to do from home. All you’ll need is something to hide things under— like boxes or bowls, something smelly, and a dog! First, let your dog familiarize themselves with the scent of their search object. This can be anything from:
- A ball scented with herbs
- A pungent treat
- Your own wallet
Hide the object underneath that bowl or box, then shuffle the hiding place among similar boxes/bowls. Just imagine it as a canine version of the shell game. Your dog will seek out the correct spot and when they discover it, reward them!
#3 Rally Obedience & Freestyle
Rally has several different versions of competition, but we’ll focus on the two most popular: Rally Obedience and Rally Freestyle. Like Agility, Rally is an obstacle course played in an open field. However, unlike Agility, the obstacles are different tricks, maneuvers, and cues that your dog must perform, such as:
- Left turn
- Call front
It’s basically a big game of canine Simon Says. Rally is a wonderful way to build communication skills and practice reinforced cues in a fun, engaging environment. For owners who want a less rigid experience, Rally Freestyle features similar challenges but has a totally different vibe. It’s more fluid, relaxed, and is often set to fun music for you and your dog to enjoy.
#4 Disc Dogging
Disc Dogging is another personal favorite, due in large part to our involvement with the Flying Disc Dogs of Austin. If you’re looking for a sport that’s both engaging and visually impressive, then look no further than Disc Dogging.
There are varying levels of competition within Disc Dogging, but the basic premise is simple.Throw a frisbee and watch your dog snag it out of the air. Once you master the basics you can try more complex challenges like:
- High jumps
- Mid-air tricks
- Catching multiple frisbees
If you’re interested in Disc Dogging, come on down to the Ranch the first and third Sundays of the month, and see how it’s done! We’ve got plenty of space and are always excited to get newcomers into the sport!
Treibball is a German sport created for herding dogs who didn’t have any animals to herd. These dogs have high-motors and can go stir-crazy if they don’t have engaging work to do. To stimulate their herding instinct, competitors use big exercise balls as stand-ins for live animals.
Treibball plays similarly to soccer, where the aim is to get the balls into netted goal areas as efficiently as possible. We highly recommend giving this sport a try if you have a dog, like a Border Collie, whose herding drive is rarely worked.
A Flyball course consists of a series of straight line hurdles. Official competitions are team-based, but you can play Flyball entirely on your own as well. The object of the game is to cross the hurdles, retrieve a scented ball, and then return as quickly as possible. This is a great game for ball-driven dogs who need mental engagement as well as physical exercise.
#7 Lure Coursing
Lure coursing is traditionally intended for hunting dogs. Speedy, prey-driven breeds like Greyhounds typically perform best, but any dog that will chase a lure can play. The lure itself can be anything from a paper bag to a fluffy ball— so long as it stimulates the prey drive.
The lure is then placed on a line strung around the course. This line is pulled by a special machine that whips the lure around the course at high-speeds. After the set up, owners can sit back and pull out their radar guns to see their dog’s surprising true speed.
#8 Dock Diving
We’re wrapping up our list with a great summer sport that exercises and cools your dog simultaneously. Like Disc Dogs, Dock Diving involves leaping to grab something out of the air, but isn’t restricted to frisbees. Just set up along a dock, get your dog’s attention with a ball or treat, then launch it into the water and see how far your dog can jump!
If you’re interested in these competitions but don’t know where to start, please contact us today. We offer specific training classes for Agility and Rally, and our trainers can demonstrate the basics of other sports. We’d love to see you and your dog compete across our fifteen acre park!
Frisbee Disc Dogs of Austin by JSmall Photography