Engaging in dog sports with your canine companion can be an immensely satisfying experience. It’s an opportunity to keep your dog physically and mentally challenged plus build a bond like no other by taking small (or big) steps toward achievement. From an outsider’s perspective, the competitive world of dog sports can seem intimidating. Don’t worry: There are lots of ways to get started in a calm and relaxed environment.
All Dogs Welcome
Dogs of all sizes and breeds, including mixed breeds, can participate in dog sports. I have two mixed-breed dogs, and we compete in multiple dog sports.
It’s Not About a Trophy
Participating in dog sports is a great way for you and your dog to build confidence, learn to trust each other, make some new friends and even get exercise — all while growing your bond. Start by taking classes, and who knows? You might find yourself participating in an organized competition.
Dog sport classes are available at all levels from entry to advanced at a local dog training club. Another great option is the “canine sports club” with agility ring and classes integrated in doggie daycare or boarding facilities. Ask your veterinarian, trainer, dog walker, groomer or local pet shop for a recommendation.
The Right Fit
Agility: If you have a bouncy dog who loves to jump, sign up for a beginning agility class. Even if you don’t envision competing, you both will have a lot of fun learning and bouncing around together.
Scent Work: Dogs naturally love to sniff and use their noses — after all, it is their most powerful sense. Scent work really gives your dog a task that he loves to do, all while building confidence. It’s also a great way for you to learn to read your dog’s body language.
Trick Training: I love trick training! It’s a favorite activity with my dogs.
There are many online trick tutorials to help get you started. And yes, just like in all sports, you can win titles and certificates to hang on your wall. I use trick training to help build confidence. At home, my dogs work for dinner by performing tricks. During therapy dog visits, their tricks bring smiles to so many faces.
Rally: If tricks aren’t up your alley and you love obedience, take a look at rally. Rally is based on obedience. Unlike regular obedience, which requires a judge to tell you what to do, in rally you move around a course with signs that instruct you what to do. Think of it like an obstacle course of obedience behaviors. You can practice rally on any day when out on your walks. Need some extra help? There are classes just for this, too!