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Dogs Are Athletes Too!

Behavior and Training  •   Erin Tursam  •   Aug 23, 2016

Let your dog “unleash his hidden talents! In light of the recent Olympics games, I felt inspired to highlight some activities that you and your dog can participate in together. Taking part in doggy activities is not only good for their physical health, but also their mental health. It’s also is a great way for you and your canine companion to bond in a new way.

Below, I briefly talk about some of the common, and some not-so-common, activities available for you and your dog to enjoy.

Agility

Probably the most well-known of the dog sports, agility is a fun, action-packed event that involves a handler directing his dog through a pre-set course of obstacles. Examples of obstacles are things such as tunnels, jumps, weave poles and walkways. The event is scored based on time and successful completion of obstacles. Dogs that excel at agility are typically high-energy, athletic and fit. The sport requires a great deal of training, concentration and teamwork. There are a variety of difficulty and intensity levels to suit almost all dogs.

Flyball

Flyball is a relay race that involves a team of four dogs. One dog will run down through a course of hurdles towards a specialized “flyball box.” The dog must then step on a panel to release a tennis ball and then bring the tennis ball back through the hurdles to its handler. The other three dogs then complete the same course. The first team to have all four dogs successfully cross the finish line wins. Athletic, high-energy dogs with a high chase-drive love this sport.

Canine Freestyle

Excellent for dogs who like to show off, canine freestyle is a choreographed musical performance by a dog and its handler.  The routines do not have any requirements or stipulations but often include a variety of twists and turns, weaving through legs, walking backwards, jumping and moving in rhythm with the music and handler. This sport is well-suited for a variety of breeds, ages and sizes of dogs. The only requirement is that your dog must love to be the center of attention!

Disk Dogs

There are a few different types of disk dog events—distance/accuracy and freestyle routines. Freestyle is where the handler develops their own routine that is judged on certain criteria. Distance/accuracy disk dog is judged on what zone (which is measured in yards) the dog catches the disc. To be successful in disc dog, the handler must first be able to properly throw the disk and the dog must exemplify a high desire to run, jump and catch!

Dock Diving

Dock diving is a fun canine sport where dogs jump off a dock into a body of water attempting to achieve the best distance or height. Typically, the handler will throw a toy off the dock and the dog with the greatest height or distance (whichever is being measured) is the winner. A successful dock jumping dog is one that is athletic, fearless, highly toy-motivated and loves water!

Herding Trials

Though most common in herding breeds, this canine activity is not necessarily exclusive to the herding group. Any breed of dog with a strong desire to herd can excel in the sport. Herding trials involve a dog, a handler and a herd of livestock (most commonly sheep.) With the help of the handler’s commands, the dog moves the sheep into predetermined area. Successful herding dogs must be able to concentrate for long periods of time, be very physically fit and LOVE to herd!

Lure Coursing

This fast-paced chase sport is ideal for dogs who have a keen prey-drive. It was developed as an alternative to hare coursing. In lure coursing, dogs are timed while they chase an artificial lure across a field—sometimes while negotiating obstacles on the course. The activity of lure coursing is a fun, safe, humane outlet for your chase-driven dog.

You don’t want to go to the doggy Olympics you say? Deciding to try one of these fun pastimes does not necessarily mean you have to compete. You can enjoy the training aspect of these various sports and simply enjoy spending the quality time with your best friend.  Look into local clubs and training facilities to get involved in any of these activities. You can also contact your veterinarian or local pet store for recommendations in your area.

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