There is always one in every crowd, that person who must turn a fun activity into a competition. Where is the fun if you can’t enjoy a little challenge here and there! We all love to watch a good game, but maybe you and your dog want just a little more than to watch a football or baseball game. Just like with sports for people, there are many different sports and activities for dogs. No matter what the personality your dog may have, there is a sport or activity out there to suit their needs. Do you have a hyperactive dog? How about a dog that loves to “herd” things? Or a dog that is talented with a frisbee? Maybe your dog is more into swimming? Here is a list of the top 10 most common activities and sports out there for your pups. I guarantee one of these will fit your pup’s personality and lifestyle!
If you are generally an active person and have an active dog that enjoys jumps, ramps, and tunnels, then agility may be the activity for you both! Agility consists of an obstacle course where your pup will go over jumps, in tunnels, weave through poles, and run up ramps. This is a competition based on time completed in the course. It is a great activity to help with obedience, coordination, and a good way to exspend excess energy for your pup. All sizes of dogs benefit from this sport! Check out the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) for more info on this fun sport!
If your dog loves playing in the water, then dock jumping might be a fun activity! Just as it sounds, your dog will run and jump off a dock into the water, and they are measured by the distance they can jump off the dock, and the height of their jump off the dock. You can also use a fetch toy to throw off the dock for your pup. This is a popular activity for the retriever breeds, but any dog that loves swimming will enjoy this activity. Check out the Dock Dogs group for more information on dock jumping.
Is your pup into catching frisbees? If so, Disc Dog sports may be the way to go! There are many different types of disc throwing, from how far you can throw the disc for your dog, to choreographed throw/jump/catch routines with your dog, there is something for everyone in this fun game of frisbee! Dogs with a high chase/fetch instinct would do great at this sport and it expends their excess energy. Check out the US Disc Dog Nationals for more information on the sport.
This is a really fun sport! Your pup must jump through a row of hurdles, and at the end of the hurdles, they then hit a box that ejects a ball. Then, your dog must bring the ball back to you by jumping back through the hurdles and giving you the ball. But wait, the game is not over! It’s not judged just on you and your dog- there is a whole team of dogs and owners that you are with! A team typically consists of four or more dogs and their owners, and the first team that completes the course with the least number of mistakes wins. Sounds like good healthy teamwork and competition to me! The fun part is any dog can play this game, from a Chihuahua to a Great Dane, and the height of the hurdles is based on the smallest dog in the team. So, grab your Chihuahua friends and get out to a game of Flyball! Check out the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) website for more information on Flyball.
Skijoring or Bikejoring
Does your pup naturally want to PULL you around on walks, despite all your “heel” commands? Is your pup not even slightly tired after your walks? Maybe its time to try Skijoring or Bikejoring! Two different activities but with the same idea- Your dog pulls you! Skijoring consists of your dog pulling you while you are on cross country skis, whereas Bikejoring consists of your dog pulling you while you are on a bike. This activity works best with a very well-trained dog and lots of trust! Expect to have some side trips along the way as well…squirrel!
Weight Pulling or Cart Pulling
Weight pulling is a sport where your dog is pulling a sled loaded down with weights. The challenge is to see which dog can pull the most weight at a distance of 16 feet within a minute’s time. The dogs have a special harness they wear so that the weight is distributed evenly, and they are not injured. Traditionally this is a sport that takes place in the winter with snow, but it can be done other times of the year as well. Dogs such as huskies, malamutes, and bully breeds, whom our ancestors bred to carry loads, are naturally very successful at this sport. However, any type of dog, including small dogs, can participate in this sport as the competition is broken up into different weight classes based on the dog’s weight. You can check out the American Kennel Club (AKC) website for information on Weight Pulling as well as Cart Pulling.
Carting is a bit different than weight pulling- the dog will be wearing a slightly different harness and hooked up to a cart with wheels for pulling weighted items. Cart pulling can be done in all types of weather and ground surfaces as the cart is a little easier to get moving. This sport is also different than weight pulling as the dog will be pulling the cart around a course consisting of different objects to maneuver around and even some turns involved. You will be guiding your dog along the course, so teamwork and good obedience skills for your pup are a must! Cart pulling is popular in larger breeds that were bred to be working dogs such as Leonbergers, Newfoundlands, St Bernards, and Bernese Mountain Dogs, however any type of breed can participate and excel in this sport!
Obedience or RALLY Trials
Obedience is not just a class- there are actual competitions out there as well! The American Kennel Club hosts a competition regularly for this sport. If your dog is eager to please and always likes a “job” or “task” to do, then this may be the sport for the two of you! You will be commanding your pup to perform different tasks that will demonstrate control, accuracy, and precision in front of a crowd of people. There are many different tasks to complete from heeling and retrieving to picking out certain scents, listening to hand signals, and jumping. Any type of dog, purebred or mixed breed can participate in this sport.
RALLY trials work a bit differently from Obedience; however, they follow a similar concept. You and your pup will navigate a course where there will be 10-20 different signs with commands listed on them. Your dog must walk at your side throughout the entire course, as well as stop and do the command that is listed on the sign. The course is timed; however, it is also judged on performance and accuracy. If you and your dog work well together and your dog is eager to please you, this is the sport for you! The American Kennel Club (AKC) will have more info on Obedience and RALLY trials for pups.
Treibball is a great sport for dogs that have a natural herding instinct. Under your command, your pup must gather and wrangle eight different exercise balls all into a goal area, like soccer. This sport was created for herding dogs that didn’t have any sheep to herd! You are only allowed to whistle or use hand signals/verbal commands to help your dog complete the course. You as the handler have physical boundaries that you must stay within on the course, meaning you cannot walk your dog through the entire course. Positive reinforcement is only allowed in this sport and the handler is not allowed to verbally or physically correct the dog at all during the activity. This activity has a 15-minute time limit and is scored based on the cooperation and direction that is practiced between the handler and the dog. You can check out the American Treibball Association (ATA) for more info on this fun sport.
Sniff…. any type of dog that is ruled by their nose will excel at this sport! Nosework is a fun scent activity that originated from the professional canine detection dogs. In Nosework, the dog will learn how to search for a specific odor and find the source. Nosework can start out as a very basic task, and as the dog progresses in skill it can lead to searching in containers, interior and exterior areas, and even vehicles. Once your pup is an expert at those types of searches, you can then have someone else hide items and then tell you what the pup needs to find, and even hide multiple items. For more information on Nosework, check out the National Association of Canine Scentwork for more details.
If you have a dog with a high prey drive and loves to chase, then the sport of Lure Coursing may be their thing! According to the AKC, in this sport, your dog will chase a mechanized white plastic lure across a large open area. This lure will move unpredictably and change directions just like a live critter, and your dog must chase the lure from start to finish. Your dog is judged based on speed, agility, endurance, and enthusiasm. Multiple dogs can run the course together. The competition is hosted by the AKC and at this time, only purebred Sighthound breeds are able to participate. Common sighthound breeds include Greyhounds, Whippets, or Irish Wolfhounds. Although the competition is exclusive to purebred dogs, there are many clubs out there that still make this a fun game to play!
An Activity for Every Breed or Personality
Whether your dog loves to fetch, swim, chase, or be mentally stimulated, there is an activity out there to suit their needs! All these activities can be found locally, whether there is a special club or a dog training facility, you’re sure to find a place to participate in whatever activity you choose. Engaging in an activity with your pup not only helps with satisfying their need for exercise, but it also strengthens the bond and obedience skills between you and your pet, which is an all-around win-win situation! Plus, the more time and training owners invest with their pets, the less the pets will end up at a rescue or a shelter down the road. Furthermore, who says that any of these activities have to be just one person participating with the dog, why not make it a whole family ordeal! Get out there and have some fun with your pup!
Is there a dog sport out there that you find enjoyable but didn’t make my list? I would love to hear about it, send me a message!