Participating in Dog Sports
Release the competitive instinct in your dog – and yourself – by participating in dog sports. Here are some exciting sports that are almost as much fun for you as they are for your dog.
Dog agility is a sport in which a dog moves through an obstacle course with the guidance of his handler. Dogs run off leash, guided by their handler’s voice and body language. This requires exceptional obedience training and unwavering trust between dogs and handlers. In competition, both accuracy and speed are important.
Agility is the most popular of the modern sports for dogs, with well-known competitions like the Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge and the Westminster Masters Agility competition broadcast nationwide. The sport first appeared at the world-famous British dog show, Crufts, in 1977, with a small hurdle race for dogs. Today, there are a wide range of international and national agility competitions, as well as local clubs that allow for practice, learning and community.
Flyball is almost as entertaining to watch as it is to play! Flyball is a race involving two teams of four dogs. The dogs spring over a series of jumps, run to a box, activate a catapult machine with their forepaws, catch the ball that flies out and race back to the start.
To do their best, the dog has to not only clear the hurdles, but keep a smooth approach and landing to clear the maximum distance in the least amount of time. The turn at the box can mean the difference between winning and losing, so that is a particular focus when training for this sport.
A less physically strenuous sport than some of the others on this list, obedience nevertheless requires extremely high levels of concentration and motivation from both dogs and owners. The sport covers common basic skills such as ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, or ‘Heel’ and retrieving. But it progresses to cover tests of character, such as controlling dogs at a distance.
Dock Diving is a relatively new, rapidly-growing sport that started right here in the U.S.A. The sport involves canine competitors diving from a ramp into a pool to retrieve a toy (also called a bumper), with the dog that dives the furthest declared the winner.
This sport is a major crowd-pleaser and is growing in popularity throughout the United States and beyond. Many local dock diving clubs have open houses to allow for novices to try their hand at the sport, so if you are interested in getting involved with your dog, your local club could be a great place to start.
Flying disc is another dog sport that people love to watch – probably because most of us have played frisbee in our own backyards.
The sport got its start in the early 1970s, paralleling the rise in popularity of human frisbee games. But the definitive moment came in August 1974 when US college student Alex Stein jumped the fence at a nationally broadcast baseball game with an amazing dog named Ashley Whippet.
Ashley amazed the crowd with eight minutes of catching frisbees, running almost 35mph and leaping 8 feet in the air to snag discs. The stunt was so entertaining that the game was stopped and the commentators continued to announce the action on the field. Alex was escorted off the field, but the seed was planted and a new sport was born.
Competitively, the catch and retrieve event is the backbone of the sport. It consists of a timed round (usually of a minute’s duration) where teams of one dog and one thrower attempt to make as many successful throws/catches as possible before time runs out. Teams score more points for longer throw/catch combinations, so watch out for some serious party tricks!
Heelwork to Music
Popularly known as ‘dog dancing’, this fascinating activity has recently developed and expanded very rapidly overseas. Speed and punctuality aren’t important, but co-operation and co-ordination between dog and owner are vital to success. The dog and his owner make one team and dance according to the music.
Playing sports with your dog could be the most fun you have together. Whether you do it to stay active or choose to compete, dog sports are a great way to burn energy, stay healthy, and strengthen the bond you share.