Many of us enjoy walking with our dogs to get some exercise and fresh air. It not only benefits us and our overall health but our canine companions’ health as well. Exercise stimulates the mind of each species. For us, it frees our minds and lets us have a moment to take everything in stride. For dogs, the smells of the world outside their yard are exciting. Walking the dog can get a bit tedious though. Same path, same trail, same neighborhood, it becomes mundane, then we look for excuses to stay indoors – especially when it gets too hot or cold outside! But what if you could enjoy something that is not only fun but also competitive?
In the dog world, many sports exist, tailored to each dog’s specific talents, and that list seems to expand each year! They have sports for each lifestyle and fitness level. Some of these include:
Dock Diving – this is a sport that involves water, so it is perfect for summer. Many people already have dogs that have mastered the basics of this event during regular play sessions. In dock diving, the handler throws a toy into the water. The dog is then measured on the height and length of their jump when they dive after it. Many dog breeds, such as Labradors, excel in this sport.
Agility – arguably the most popular dog sport, agility is all about speed and athleticism. This includes the handler. There is a lot of running involved! In agility, dogs must complete an obstacle course under the guidance of their handler. It takes a lot of discipline and focus on the dog’s part and is best suited to obedient and high-energy dogs.
Lure Coursing – do you have a speed demon that chases everything in sight? Then this is a great sport for you and there is no running on your part! It all comes down to the dog and their natural drive to chase. Many breeds such as greyhounds and Ibizan hounds are masters of this sport however any breed with speed can excel. It involves a white flag placed on a motorized line. The dogs are judged on their speed. It’s a wonderful outlet for their need to chase without the potential of harming another animal!
Rally – if you have a focused obedient dog, this is great for them, no matter the age, breed, or size. This goes for people too! Rally is about the team of dog and handler working together to follow obedience prompts. These prompts are placed on signs that the owner must read then direct the dog to do. Your marks reflect your swiftness and correctness in obedience.
Nosework – do you have nothing but a hound dog? Are they crying all the time? Then this is a great sport for them! This appeals to a dog’s natural instincts and comes in many different forms. There is tracking, which mimics search-and-rescue. Nose or scent work requires the dog to find a scent and alert their owner. This one is an easy one to do at home by hiding hot dogs in boxes and rewarding your dog when they locate them. Finally, there is Barnhunt, which is a trial involving rats (humanely protected in carriers) hidden in hay bales. The dog must hunt the rats as their ancient ancestors did, tunneling and climbing to find them.
In all dog sports, any breed can compete, whether a mutt or a purebred! Blue ribbons aside, the main goal of these events is to bring joy to dogs and build the bond shared with their owners. If you’re interested in participating the best place to start is by taking an obedience class at your local dog training club. Below are a few nearby locations here in Little Rock. Having practiced some of these myself, I highly recommend it.
- Little Rock Dog Training Club
- Off Leash K9 Training
- Conway Canine Companions
- The Pine Hill Ranch Canine Center