Dog Sports

Dock Jumping (Image provided by:

Dog sports are almost as varied as human sports. Humans love to see their companions jump for joy or use their natural skills. Personally,  I think dog sports are a great way to build a better bond with your dog – if your dog can handle it! While dog sports can be a great way to exercise and get involved in the community with your dog, some dogs just can’t handle the stress (being around new dogs and people all the time, traveling to different locations, or the pressure to perform correctly). Some people get dogs specifically to perform in certain dog sports so it can get highly competitive!

Recently, I heard someone talking about how her dog was incredibly anxious in the car on the way to agility class or competition, but once they got there she was fine. After some more in depth questions, it was discovered the dog would run and hide under the bed when the owner picked up the “agility training” bag. The owner was persistent in saying the dog loved agility, but getting her there was troublesome. In my opinion, if you look at the big picture – the dog probably didn’t really enjoy it, but rather performed just to please her owner. The dog performed well, but didn’t enjoy the stress and demands the owner was putting on her. (They often traveled hours to get to agility competitions in different cities.) If the dog truly enjoyed agility, I believe she would be begging to be let out of the house to run to the car to head to class – not running and hiding under the bed.

This brings me to say that if you decide to participate in dog sports – listen and observe your dog’s body language. Here are some different dog sports that might interest you and your dog:

  • Agility – This is probably the most common dog sport. It involves jumps, tunnels, weaves and teeter totters. Winners are judged based on speed with time added if the dog touches a jump or jumps the wrong way.
  • Dock Diving – In this sport, dogs sprint and jump off a dock. Similar to long jump in track and field competitions, the longest jump wins.
  • Fly Ball – In fly ball, a relay of dogs take their turn running over jumps to get to a machine that throws a ball, then they turn and run back over those jumps to let the next dog go. Fastest team wins!
  • Treiball – This dog sport is basically “ball herding” which is a great alternative to herding live animals! It is very new to the states so I wanted to share a video so everyone could see what it’s all about:

  • Lure Coursing – Dogs are are allowed to chase a plastic bag or other object on a string that goes about a circuit. This mimics the behavior of a running rabbit on the ground which triggers the dog’s natural instinct. This sport is great for sight hounds like Greyhounds, but a variety of breeds enjoy it!
  • Carting – In this sport, dogs are trained to pull a cart around (similar to a horse and carriage). While some of the larger breeds such as Bernese Mountain dogs specialize in this sport, calm dogs of any size can learn this skill.
  • Disc Dog – Handlers throw  Frisbee discs for their dogs to jump and chase. Usually, fun tricks are incorporated into it as well.
  • Earth Dog –  Jack Russells and other small dogs specialize in this sport because they can fit into the small tunnels that are placed under ground for the dog to run through. At the end of the tunnel there is usually live prey contained in a cage. This sport is a great way to use your small dog’s natural instinct to chase prey and carry out what it was bred to do!
  • Weight Pulling – This sport is all about who can pull the most weight. There are size and weight categories so each dog has a fair chance at winning in it’s proportional group size.
  • Canine Freestyle – If you love to dance, this is the dog sport for you! It is all about being creative and original with your dance routines with your dog.

Skijoring – Image provided by:

  • Skijoring – Imagine skiing with your dog and you’ve got Skijoring! The dog learns to pull the skier through all kinds of terrain. Huskies and other northern breeds specialize in this because they can tolerate the cold and can work for long distances.
  • Schutzhund – This is a sport based on protection, obedience, and tracking. Shepherds are the most common breed. A successful dog will have to master all three parts.
  • Tracking – This sport can be practiced by all breeds – all dogs have a nose! Dogs are trained to follow a particular scent over a certain distance. This sport is very easy to practice on your own if you can find an appropriate field.

Whatever sport you might decide to be a part of, make sure your dog enjoys it. Let your dog have a choice in what they do “for a living.” Personally, I am going to try my dog, Loker, at dock jumping and tracking, I will keep you all posted!

If you participate in any of these sports, please comment below about your experiences and how you got into it!