9 Sports to Enrich Your Dog’s LifeOctober 6, 2022
Taking your dog for walks and playing fetch are good ways to keep your energetic pup physically active, but have you ever considered enrolling your dog in a sport? Finding exciting sports classes for your dog will boost their workout and mental stimulation. Such classes and competitions will help your dog thrive physically and emotionally and will also strengthen your bond with them.
Check out our PAWEDcast episode on the world of dog sports.
Below are nine sports your dog may find entertaining.
#1: Scent Work for Dogs
American Kennel Club (AKC) scent work is a sport that involves the dog locating a scent and communicating their finding to their owner. Working detection dogs are trained to find substances and objects such as drugs, explosives, human remains, currency, and missing people. Scent work builds on this relationship and allows any dog to enjoy the experience.
Dogs can participate in one of two divisions. In the odor search division, dogs search for the odor of one or more specific essential oils, such as birch, clove, anise, and cypress. In the handler discrimination division, dogs search for the scent of their handler. The detective class is the highest competitive level and offers an integrated search environment with an unknown number of hides in a variety of elements.
- Dogs best suited — To compete in AKC scent work, dogs must be 6 months of age or older and registered with the AKC. Any breed can participate, but Bloodhounds, Beagles, and German Shepherds are particularly talented at this sport.
- Getting started — Scent work can easily be started by training your dog at home, but many dog training facilities and local scent work clubs offer training.
#2: Dog Agility
Agility involves directing your dog through a pre-set obstacle course in a certain time limit. Obstacles typically include tunnels, weave poles, tire jumps, seesaws, and tables where the dog must pause for a certain amount of time. Your dog must rely on your cues and body language to navigate a course, which usually includes 14 to 20 obstacles. Dogs are judged on their ability to get through the course without making mistakes.
- Dogs best suited — Agility is great for active dogs who enjoy spending time with their owners. Herding dogs, such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, excel at the sport because of their high energy and need for a job.
- Getting started — Beginner agility courses introduce you and your dog to the obstacles and provide competition basics. Most dogs need to train for at least a year before they can compete successfully.
#3: Dock Diving for Dogs
In dock diving, dogs compete for the longest jump in a pool. You throw a toy in the pool and at your command, they jump in the water from a dock to retrieve the toy.
- Dogs best suited — To participate in dock diving, dogs must swim well and be unafraid of water. Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers tend to be naturals.
- Getting started — North American Diving Dogs (NADD) facilities across the United States offer dock-diving training programs.
#4: Dog Lure Coursing
In dog lure coursing, dogs chase a mechanized, white plastic lure around a 600-plus-yards course. The lure travels in unpredictable directions, and the dog must keep their eye on the lure and make sharp turns nimbly. Dogs are judged on their speed, agility, and endurance, and their ability to follow the lure.
- Dogs best suited — Dogs who have a natural prey and chase drive, such as Greyhounds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Whippets, tend to do well at dog lure coursing.
- Getting started — Look on the American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) website to find a lure coursing club near you.
#5: Flyball for Dogs
Flyball involves a team of four dogs and handlers. Each dog runs down a 50-foot lane, jumps over four hurdles, activates a flyball box to release a tennis ball, and carries the ball back to the starting line, and then the next dog goes. The fastest team wins.
- Dogs best suited — Dogs who are agile and fast, such as Border Collies, Whippets, and terriers, are best suited for flyball.
- Getting started — Flyball contains many different parts, and formal training is useful for competition. Go to the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) or the United Flyball League International (UFLI) to find a club.
#6: Disc Dog
Disc dog competitions have two divisions. One is based on distance—you throw a disc, and your dog gets points for catching the disc in midair and for long distance catches. The other division is freestyle—your dog performs a choreographed routine with multiple discs.
- Dogs best suited — Dogs who enjoy chasing and retrieving are good at this sport. Herders, terriers, and sighthounds are especially agile disc dogs.
- Getting started — Your dog may be a natural at catching a disc but getting involved with a club can help you be competitive.
#7: Treibball for Dogs
In treibball, dogs have seven minutes to maneuver eight inflatable stability balls into a goal, taking cues from their owner to select the balls in a particular order.
- Dogs best suited — Energetic dogs who have a herding drive, such as collies, shepherds, and Labs, tend to do well at treibball.
- Getting started — You can find a trainer in your area by going to the American Treibball Association (ATA) website.
#8: Dog Skijoring
Skijoring, which requires one to three dogs, a pair of skis, and a pulling harness, is a great winter sport to share with your dog.
- Dogs best suited — Skijoring organizations recommend dogs who weigh more than 35 pounds. Huskies, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shorthaired Pointers make excellent skijoring dogs.
- Getting started — Contact Skijor USA to find a club in your area.
#9: Geese Chasing for Dogs
Geese chasing isn’t a sport, but many people are training dogs to help address their goose problem. Geese are naturally afraid of canids, and view dogs as a predator, and when threatened, will find another home where they can feel safe. Certain dogs can be trained to safely chase away the geese while adhering to the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918, which states that no Canada goose may be touched or harmed.
- Dogs best suited — Border collies, German Shepherds, and Australian shepherds tend to be most effective at geese chasing.
- Getting started — You can find tutorials online to help train your dog to chase geese, and local research organizations may provide professional goose herding services.
Trying out a new sport is fun for you and your dog and provides excellent physical and mental stimulation and enrichment to keep your dog happy and healthy. We encourage you to look up local opportunities in your area!