Dog Sports: Keeping Your Dog Young and Active
The warm months are here! It’s time to get outside and bring out the youth in your dog. Sport is always related to youth. Athletes and people who exercise look and feel better. It’s like the Fountain of Youth with its restorative powers. There’s never been a better time to get out and enjoy athletic activities with your dog. You know I love to rollerblade with my pack. And when I’m working with a problem dog, I use all kinds of dog sports - biking, running, hiking, swimming – to drain energy, so we can focus on the behaviors that need correcting.
On a recent episode of Dog Whisperer, Shelly Atherton’s Labrador, Dan, was aggressive towards anyone approaching his kennel. To drain his energy before we started working together, Shelly and Dan practiced their hunting and retrieval training, something Dan was very good at! Watching a dog and owner bond in an activity like this is one of the most special things to see.
There is a difference between going to the dog park and getting your dog involved in a sport – the dog gets to run and release energy, but she also needs to use her mind and take her cues from you – the pack leader. You are not only giving her the physical exercise but you are also giving her the mental stimulation. You’re giving the dog a job, and every dog needs to work in order to be fulfilled.
With so many activities out there for you to bring out your dog’s inner athlete, take some time this spring and summer to do your research and get active! While breed doesn’t necessarily matter, there are some breeds that will take to certain activities better (or quicker) than others. For example, if your dog has an active nose – Beagles, terriers, hounds – you might think about search and rescue training, or tracking activities. Tracking takes place on a field, where dogs are rewarded for finding the “scent.”
For high-energy, working dogs, like Huskies and German Shepherds, think about Urban Mushing – which is essentially dog sledding on city streets with the use of a harness and a scooter, trike, or skateboard.
For water dogs, like Labradors, consider dock diving and dock jumping, the canine equivalent of the long jump, only in the water!
For big and small dogs alike, you can get involved in agility activities, which takes advantage of a dog’s speed and quickness, to jump, balance and run through an obstacle course.
Of course, in addition to organized activities, there are other ways of bringing out your dog’s inner athlete, whether it’s a bike ride, rollerblading, or taking your dog with you when you go kayaking.
Whatever you choose, engage your dog in the activity with calm and assertive energy. You’ll be amazed at how your dog responds!