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Choosing a Dog Sport for You and Your Canine

Posted: 12/29/2011 | Updated: 12/29/2011

Choosing a Dog Sport for You and Your Canine

Are you interested in participating in a dog sport? Learn about the most popular dog sports available today and how to select the perfect sport for you and your canine partner.

From agility to skijoring, dog sports have become increasingly popular among today’s dog owners. Not only do dog sports make great bonding and social activities, they help keep dogs fit and satisfy the competitive side of their owners. But with so many dog sports to choose from, it’s hard to know which one to select. Here are some tips for finding the perfect dog sport for you and your canine partner.

  1. Get to know several dog sports.
    It’s a good idea to research and observe several dog sports before deciding on one. That way, you can see exactly what your and your dog’s role will be in the sport. Many sports have trials or tournaments, where spectators can come and watch. You can also attend a training class as an observer to get a better idea of the training that’s involved in a particular dog sport. Some of the most popular dog sports include:

    • Agility, where dogs complete an obstacle course in the fastest time possible
    • Disc dog, where dogs retrieve a disc as part of a freestyle routine
    • Rally, where dogs move through a course of 10 to 20 stations with commands
    • Flyball, a relay-style race for teams of dogs that includes jumping hurdles and catching a ball
    • Dock diving, a height and distance sport, where dogs dive off a dock into a pool of water
    • Tracking, where dogs follow a trail using their sense of smell to find an article
    • Skijoring, where dogs pull cross country skiers across snow

  2. Consider your dog’s breed, strengths, and age.
    Although most breeds can participate and even compete in any dog sport, some breeds tend to be better at certain sports than others. For example, fast breeds, like border collies and Australian shepherds, often have an advantage when it comes to agility, flyball, and other sports that depend on speed for success. Likewise, retrievers and other water lovers may be better suited for dock diving than, say, boxers, and breeds that are natural hunters might do well at tracking. But keep a dog’s age in mind, too. Young puppies of any breed aren’t ready for the intensity and focus required of many dog sports. Most healthy senior dogs, however, can participate in dog sports but may have better success with the less physically-demanding options.

  3. Take safety into account when choosing a dog sport.
    For the most part, dog sports are safe, but each sport has the potential for injuries. In agility, for example, dogs can injure themselves from falls or other mishaps related to the equipment. Rigorous sports, like disc dog and skijoring, can be hard on a dog’s joints. In flyball, dogs race in close proximity to each other, which can be unsafe if a dog crosses a lane and chases another dog. Even tracking has its share of hazards, like ticks and encountering predatory animals on the trail. Fortunately, serious injuries from dog sports are rare and easily avoided with proper training and awareness. Still, those who have safety concerns might choose one of the low-risk sports, like rally, canine freestyle (where dogs perform a routine to music), or obedience.

  4. Think about the cost and availability of the dog sport.
    In general, dog sports aren’t cheap. Most of them require an investment in training and some type of equipment or accessories. There are also fees for competing in dog sports, not to mention gas for driving to training classes and events. Of course, some sports are cheaper than others. Disc dog may involve little training for a dog that’s proficient at catching a Frisbee, plus a PVC disc is a relatively cheap accessory to buy. Flyball and agility, on the other hand, often take longer to learn and require extensive training and other expenses, like special collars or practice equipment. But be aware that most training clubs don’t offer classes for every dog sport, and some classes fill up quickly – which is why it’s important to check on the availability of a particular sport before narrowing down your choices.

  5. Can’t decide? Pick two dog sports.
    Participating in more than one dog sport is quite common today. Sometimes, dogs and their handlers start training in one sport, only to discover that they might be better suited for another. More often, though, people enjoy the exercise and bonding time with their dog so much that they decide to train in another sport at the same time. Obviously, many of the above factors, like the dog’s age, cost, and safety, should be considered before adding another sport to the schedule, but for many people, participating in two dog sports can be doubly rewarding.

    Finding a dog sport that appeals to both you and your canine takes some time and thought, but whatever you decide, don’t wait too long to get started. Dog sports offer plenty of perks for dogs and their handlers, including loads of fun!

Article Comments

This was an excellent article for people to read if they are thinking about getting involved in a dog sport. Commitment is also very important. We actually practise our sport a little bit every single day. My dog is high energy and she is so passionate about doing agility. We go to both fun matches and judged trails but for us it is about having fun doing a sport that she totally loves.

by emgerber on 1/1/2012 at 1:50 PM

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