For some dogs, even regular long walks and access to a big backyard just aren’t enough of a challenge. You want your pup to test their mental and physical prowess and allow them (and you!) to have some fun. How can you do this? Dog sports!
So how do you pick from all the options available? You need to take into account your dog’s breed, size, and temperament. For instance, you probably wouldn’t have your Chihuahua compete in Schutzhund, where German shepherds and other large breeds learn to protect, track, and obey commands.
But there are so many different sports that there’s something for almost every dog. Here are some of the more interesting examples and the types of dogs most suited for them.
People with tiny terriers should definitely try Earthdog if they’re looking for a fun and productive way to direct their dog’s desire to dig. Competitors are taken out into the field and tasked with finding and digging out rats (most commonly) that have been buried in a completely safe cage or artificial quarry. But only small terriers are allowed, so don’t even try with larger breeds.
Best for: The American Kennel Club (or AKC) has a long list of the specific types of breeds that are eligible for Earthdog events. But you should be aware that your terrier has to be six months or older and cannot be a mixed breed. Short-legged, high-energy dogs are best suited to this sport.
You can probably guess much of what this sport entails — dogs are enticed to jump into the water from a ramp to retrieve a toy. Whichever one jumps the farthest is the winner. It’s provides a fantastic workout, because swimming forces dogs to use muscles they otherwise wouldn’t.
Best for: Water breeds, like Newfoundland, Irish setter, or English setter. But any dog that loves water will enjoy it.
Is your dog incredibly fit and great with taking commands? If so, dog agility training can be incredibly rewarding for both you and the pup in question. It’s basically an obstacle course that’s so complicated dogs can’t complete it without directions from you. Common obstacles include jumps, tunnels, a teeter totter, and more. People (and, of course, dogs) who are really into dog agility as a sport often train for months in order to do well in a competition. It’s so serious that experts recommend you consult with your vet first to come up with an exercise regimen for your dog.
Best for: Top breeds for agility training include Jack Russell terriers, Pembroke Welsh corgis, Shetland sheepdogs, Border collies, and Australian shepherds, but the most important factors are that your dog has lots of energy, a desire to please, and is physically active.
You’ve heard of this. You just don’t know it because most people call it dog dancing. Open to canines of any breed, Heelwork requires fantastic coordination and communication for owners and their dogs to dance naturally together. Many people practice routines for several months before taking an act to a competition, and some even incorporate costumes.
Best for: One of the best things about Heelwork to music is that dogs of any breed can participate, as can those at various levels of physical prowess. More physically fit dogs don’t necessarily have an advantage, because owners can tailor routines to their dog’s strengths. That being said, Heelwork is best for dogs who are well-trained and remain completely under their owner’s control even while off-leash. If your dog hasn’t received any kind of obedience training yet, you’ll need to provide that first.
Is your dog an athlete? Tell us in the comments what your dog’s favorite physical activity is — besides the walk, of course.