Summer Sports to Enjoy with Your Dog by Zack Manko
Everywhere you look, people and their canine companions are getting back outside to play, socialize, and engage in some physical activities. While Sorsha prefers herding children to playing fetch, tossing a ball or stick for your dog is a great way to get some sunshine and exercise.
However, if you’re looking to move beyond the basics, there are a variety of dog activities and sports you can dip your paws into this summer.
A track-and-field style event, flyball is like a relay race, an obstacle course, and a good old-fashioned game of fetch all rolled into one. Teams of four dogs race over hurdles one at a time towards their target, which launches a ball into the air. The four-legged competitors then grab the ball and run back to their handlers, and the next dog begins its run.
Flyball is truly a team sport, as a team can lose points if a dog runs off early, or if they fail to catch the ball (or drop it on the way back!). Remember, the team that trains as a pack wins as a pack.
Looking to know more? Check out the North American Flyball Association.
While some may not consider this a “sport”, there is no doubt that conformation requires a ton of diligent training and work. This term refers to the classic dog show in which a trainer and their canine compete against others to be the best example of the dog’s breed. Thus, the dogs are not being compared against each other, but rather how well they conform to the characteristics of their breed.
Good for those critters who are real lookers and fall into a breed that is officially recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Take cross-country running. Add dogs. Enough said.
While the concept seems simple, the reality is much more complex. Canicross runners are attached to their dogs at all times by a waist belt, harness, and bungee cord. Sometimes, handlers run with two dogs at once. More than just an interesting way to walk your dog, this practice can make you faster, as you must keep up with your tethered companions!
This sport began as off-season training for mushers, but dogs (and people) of all ability ranges and temperaments can take part. New to the sport? Ditch the advanced gear and just start out with a leash and collar.
Dog Sled Racing (and more!)
This winter sport is well-known, but hard to get into. It requires special equipment, special training for dogs and humans both, and even special breeds of dog.
That being said, there are some related activities that are a bit more accessible. For example, dog carting (also known as drafting) involves your dog and—naturally—a cart. Depending on the size of your canine companion, they could haul small loads of sticks, groceries, or even people. This is perfect for medium to large working breeds, or packs of toy breeds (kidding!).
Translated literally, Schutzhund means “guard dog” in German, and is the practice of training a dog for guard and police-related duties. This involves activities like barking at intruders, attacking and subduing targets, and even chasing suspects.
While breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermanns, and Belgian Malinois are most often seen in such programs, any dog that is courageous, protective, intelligent, physically strong, and determined can do well in this activity.
Dig playing frisbee but can’t stand those ultimate frisbee guys? No sweat. Grab your disc, and your dog, and get ready to have a blast!
“Disc Dog” is actually a blanket term for various activities, from distance competitions to more freestyle sessions that show off choreography and dog tricking skills.
Flying disc-based dog sports are perfect for agile, alert, and focused breeds. All that running can take a toll, so make sure they have high endurance as well.
Another classic dog sport, agility encompasses events in which canines must complete obstacle courses while following verbal instructions from their handler. The catch is that only verbal and physical (hand gestures or body language) signals are allowed—no treats or toys here!
If you are looking to get started in this world, there are numerous dog agility organizations that can provide resources and more. Fast-moving, agile dogs with good listening skills are ideal for this activity. It goes without saying that they must be highly trained, so get ready to put the time in if this sport interests you!
This sport looks so cool it deserves its own post. Skijoring is an activity in which a person on skis is pulled along by animals such as horses or dogs. This can be a team of dogs or a single, proud, powerful pooch.
The skiing practices in skijoring can be the normal cross-country fare . . . or it can involve jumps and tricks off ramps of snow. The latter requires high speeds and is typically performed when a horse is doing the pulling. That being said, Sorsha and I are willing to bet there is a dog team out there that can pull hard and fast enough to send some skiers flying.
To Fetch and Beyond
Remember, before engaging in a new sport or activity, do some research. Is your dog of the right breed for that sport? Are they of the right temperament? Are YOU of the right temperament? Do you have the time for (and are you willing to invest it in) a new activity? Do you have the money to spend on it?
Answering these questions will help you avoid trying to do dog-carting with your Chihuahua (unless, of course, you have a whole pack of the little critters). Do some research, get honest with yourself about your level of commitment, and make sure your dog has the right characteristics to thrive in your activity of choice.
The results will be better for you and your dog both. Have fun!