Five Fabulous Sports To Try With Your Dog

Do you have a dog with lots of energy, who is curious and eager to learn? Do you watch dog competitions and wish you could enter your mixed breed pup? Are you looking for fun structured activities to do with your dog?

There are a (constantly growing) number of events you can participate in with your dog, ranging from non-competitive temperament tests to highly competitive sporting events. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t have the right kind of dog for any of these, either- although AKC events are usually only open to purebred, registered dogs, there are many other options for those of us with unregistered or mixed breed pets. AKC events are well-known and organized- simply check out their page to see the options. But that’s just the beginning! New dog sports are still being created- one of the following was formally introduced less than a decade ago. Here are five great activities to do with your dog, no matter what kind of dog you have:

The Canine Good Citizen Program

Referred to as CGC, this is the only AKC event open to all dogs, pure- or mixed-breed. CGC certification is an option for anyone with a well-behaved and trained dog. Many people use this certification as a starting point for training a therapy dog, or continuing in more rigorous physical training, like agility or search and rescue. Others just enjoy the recognition for their dogs. CGC certification can benefit owners of marginally acceptable breeds as well- namely bull breeds- by providing proof to property owners and local officials of a dog’s stability and temperament. In addition, many insurance companies that don’t cover people with certain breeds (like Rottweilers, Akitas, etc.) will take into account a CGC certificate.

Flyball

If you’ve ever seen a canine fly ball show, you know it’s a lot like relay races most of us probably participated in as kids. There are a series of jumps, then a flyball box. The flyball box is a spring-loaded platform- when the dog hits the angled surface, a ball is released for the dog to catch. Each dog must get to the box, catch a ball, and race back over the jumps to his starting point, where the next dog is waiting. It is a team sport- teams consist of 4-6 dogs, any breed or size. Many teams will include one small dog, called the ‘height dog,’ because the height of the shortest dog determines the height of the jumps. Flyball is a lot of fun for dogs and their people, and an excellent option for any active dog. This page is a good place to learn about the sport and find teams and tournaments worldwide.

Carting

Carting is one variation of harness activities, in which a dog, or team of dogs, are harnessed to something and pull it. In this version, a dog, or two dogs, pull a cart or wagon carrying whatever you want, including you! Using dogs to pull carts has practical purposes- historically dogs were used both to pull work supplies, and in place of horses to carry people in sulkies (the term for a cart that carries people). Also called dryland mushing, carting is a way to keep sled dogs in shape during off-season; for others it’s a sport of its own, or simply a fun hobby. Medium and large working breeds are well-suited for this activity- any dog in decent shape who will enjoy pulling something can be trained to cart. There’s no specific way to cart: people build their own, buy pre-made carts; do it around the neighborhood or competitively. This page is an excellent introduction to carting, training and supplies.

Dock Diving

A recently developed dog sport, dock diving is exactly what it sounds like- a dog runs down a dock and dives into a body of water. Also called Big Air, this sport has quickly gained popularity since it was first included in the 2000 ESPN Great Outdoor Games. While there are higher-level competitions, DockDogs events around the country are open to any and all dogs. You do need access to water, and eventually a dock, to train your dog, but once that part is taken care of, this is a simple and high-energy sport. Dockdogs.com is headquarters for information about the sport and upcoming events.

Schutzhund

Switching gears, Schutzhund (German for “protection dog”) is an intensive sport that tests a dog’s working abilities. It was developed to test German Shepards specifically, although other breeds can train and test. The skills tested in Schutzhund are those appropriate for police work and search and rescue: strength, intelligence, stamina, protective instinct, trainability, scenting, etc. Dogs that successfully complete Schutzhund training and testing are often used as breeding stock for police dogs and similar working dogs. This sport is in an entirely different vein than most dog sports, only suitable for a few dogs (and a few owner/trainers, for that matter); however, it is highly rewarding and enjoyable for those dogs and their people. Due to the nature of the sport, membership in a club is highly recommended, if not necessary, for training. DVG America is part of the original German club, founded about a century ago. USA, or United Schutzhund Clubs of America, and this organization are the two largest clubs in the U.S. They each sponsor clubs and trials- in the case of the USA, all breeds are welcome.

These are only a few of the many dog events out there! Keep an eye out for our next article, where we’ll talk about Musical Freestyle, among other interesting doggie activities.

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