Top Dog Sports: Get Started In Canine Sports & Activities (Guide & Tips)

dog sports

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The complete guide to the most popular dog sports to help keep your dogs physically and mentally healthy and active.

Whether you are a dog parent who may take up a canine sport and practice it for fun or take it more seriously and enter major dog sport competitions and events, this guide will help you decide which sport best is the best fit for you and your pup.

Below you will find the most common canine sports and competitions along with the dog sport equipment you will need to get started. Let’s dive in!

What Are Dog Sports?

Dog sports (o canine sports) usually involve competitive physical activity or mental stimulation through casual or organized participation. The aim of dog sports is to maintain or improve physical ability, skills, and bonding while providing entertainment to dog and dog owners, and in some cases, spectators.

It’s necessary to train the dog but the dog owner’s abilities are just as important. The owner needs to be a pack leader and able to teach their dog new skills as well as go out and compete alongside him. Any breed and almost any kind of dog can practice in canine sports.


How To Get Started In Dog Sports

If you are interested in practicing a competitive sport with your four-legged friend, look for a local team or local AKC Club to help guide you with the first steps.


Why Practice Dog Sports? Top 10 Reasons

If you are an avid sportsperson, why not do it with your dog?

Below are some of the top reasons why you and your dog should practice a dog sport.

  1. An excellent way for dogs to stay healthy and fit
  2. An excellent way to deeply bond with your dog
  3. Dogs naturally enjoy working and playing with us
  4. Dog sports can teach your dog new tasks and tricks
  5. Can improve obedience, communication, and behavior as your dog will become more disciplined
  6. Discover your dog’s hidden talents
  7. Dogs are capable of doing some really amazing things
  8. Showing off your dog’s skills and accomplishing incredible goals together
  9. It’s the best way to provide physical exercise and mental stimulation for your pet
  10. New friendships, and a healthier lifestyle for both you and your dog

Types of Dog Sports

There are many different sports we can try with our dogs. Here is a list of all dog sports by category.

Whether your dog is extremely active or just likes to do fun tricks for treats, there is always a sport for you both to enjoy. Take a look!


Herding Sports
Obedience SportsProtection SportsMushing or Pulling SportsRacing SportsTracking & Hunting sportsWater Sports
Other Sports
Sheep dog trial Freestyle heeling (Heelwork to music)
Schutzhund (also known as IPO and IGP)Bikejoring
Dachshund racing
Earth Dog Trials
Dock Jumping
Agility
Herding (Stock Dog)

Musical canine freestyle
Belgian Ring Sport ( NVBK, KMSH, and KCB)Canicross
Greyhound jockey
Field TrialsWater Rescue
Catchball
TreibballObedience trial
Campagne
Carting
Greyhound & Whippet racing
Hare Coursing
Water TrialsConformation Showing
Rally obedienceDutch KNPV
Dog scootering
Sighthound racing
Hound Trailing
Dog surfingDisc Dog
French Ring Sport
Mushing
Jack Russell Terrier racingLure Coursing
Flyball
German Schutzhund
Skijoring
Sled Dog Racing
Nose work
Junior Showmanship
K9 Pro Sports
Sled dog racing
Terrier Racing
Retrieving TrialsSighthound Disc Sport
Mondio Ring SportWeight pullingSkip Dog

Most Popular Dog Sports

Let’s take a look at the most common (and not so common) canine sports you can start practicing right now!

Whether you are looking for dog sports for small dogs, large or medium, this list will help you pick the right one for competitive or fun purposes.

Doga

Do you want to have a much more balanced dog? Doga (Dog + Yoga) is a trend that emerged in the United States and is an excellent choice to get some exercise for you in the company of your pet dogs while improving their welfare in a healthy and fun way.

This discipline is spreading quickly across the globe. The goal of the Doga is to achieve a deep connection with your dog and a deep state of relaxation.

Some of the postures used in traditional Yoga are the same in Doga. However, others are adapted to be performed together with our dogs. Soft music usually accompanies the room to provide an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

Among the advantages of Doga practice are muscle relaxation, and the tranquility synchronized breathing brings between the dog and the owner. And just as regular Yoga, it may help improve the circulation and flexibility in our dogs while enhancing their concentration and obedience, which, as we have been saying, strengthens the bond between the owner and dog.

Practicing Doga with your dog is a remarkable method that may reduce anxiety, stress and or hyperactivity issues in dogs.

If you are new to Doga and own a dog, we recommend reading this book Yoga For You & Your Dog. It’s perfect for beginners and will get you started practicing this trendy dog sport.

Doga Equipment: A Doga Set Kit.


Dog Dancing

Another awesome dog sport to practice with your furry friend is dog dancing.

Dancing with your four-legged friend is not about grabbing your dog from her front legs and going around the living room, but is about creating a choreographic dance in which your pet and you dance to the rhythm of the song with perfectly timed dance moves and synchronized tricks.

Dog dancing ( also known as freestyle dog dancing) traced its origin to the early 1990s when dog obedience trainer Mary Ray demonstrated “heelwork to music” at Crufts, a popular dog show held each year in the UK. The sport was born to introduce more creative elements in the category of “dog obedience” exercises. Today there are tournaments of “Dog Dancing” nationally and internationally.

Generally, people enjoy dancing to music, and dogs love to move around, and thus, “dog-dancing” is a creative way to combine these two aspects. Usually, results come pretty quickly. You might need to train your dog many years to mount an exceptional good choreography, but the first successes can be obtained relatively soon.

Are you ready to choreograph some dance moves with your pooch? If so, the duration should usually range between 2 to 5 minutes on average.

This easy-to-follow book (Dancing with Dogs: Easy-to-Learn Techniques and Fun Routines) teaches you how to train your dog to perform simple but elaborate-looking dance routines.

Dog Dancing Equipment: Music


Disc Dog

Disc Dog may be one most popular sports for dogs.

Disc Dog (also known as dog frisbee) is a sport or recreational activity in which the owner/handler throws the disc; the dog catches the disc, and the dog returns the disc.

Sounds simple right? On a recreational level, it is. However, if played as competitive dog sport, it can get really challenging.

Judges evaluate the athletic ability of the dog during the chase, speed, resistance, jumping ability, control in the air, and landings. Scoring also considers the creativity and skills of the disc thrower and how the team works together to present a routine that flows naturally. The catch ratio of the dog is another critical factor that determines which dog wins.

Nonetheless, the sport is straightforward to practice. You only need a frisbee to start training your dog for the next big competition of disc dog. However, it does take a lot of practice to be able to compete at a professional level.

Keep in mind that not all dog breeds are born to be acrobats. Just imagine a cute little pug doing disc dog, and you’ll know what I mean.

Furthermore, dog freebie has multiple benefits, both for your dog and dog parent. The activity itself keeps your dog’s mental and physical health in good shape through play. It begins bonding and communication. It serves as an outlet for physical energy, especially if your dog has conditions such as hyperactivity, aggression, or neurotic behaviors. And lots of fun, of course!

We recommend reading Champion Disc Dog!: The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Dog Airborne. It’s a good way to get you started in this sport.

Disc Dog Equipment You Will Need:  A Dog Frisbee.


Bikejoring (or Dog Biking)

Bikejoring is a discipline that belongs to dog mushing (the sport or transport method powered by dogs). You can practice this canine sport for recreation or competitively.

Bikejoring is riding a bike with your dog(s) pulling you (aka dog-powered mountain biking). This dog sport requires a harnessed dog or a team of dogs attached to a towline to pull and run ahead of a cyclist. It involves speed and demands excellent control over your dog and discipline.

Those who have tried Bikejoring say it is an exhilarating sport although it’s more dangerous than other canine sports due to the nature of the sport. That is why safety gear such as a helmet and goggles are essential to practice it.

Not all dogs are are a good fit for this sport. Dog breeds that like to run and are naturally athletic, fit, powerful, and strong make great candidates.

Bikejoring Equipment: (i) Mountain bike (ii) harness specifically designed for Bikejoring (iii) A non-stop dogwear Bike Antenna that prevents the leash from tangling in the wheels & (iv) A bungee dog leash.


Dog Swimming

Have you ever seen your dog splash in a river, lake, or pool? Surely he does not look like a fish in the water, but with the right training, your pet could become a great swimmer and improve his overall health and fitness.

Swimming for dogs is one of the complete dog sports in terms of benefits. Dog swimming allows them to develop muscle mass, promote better cardiovascular and respiratory system health without the impact and damage that exercising on land can cause. The water’s resistance makes dogs use double the effort than as opposed to walking or running.

Almost any dog breed can practice this sport regardless of age and size. However, while some breeds seem to know how to swim almost instantly, other dogs like short-legged or shortened snout breeds may struggle in the water. Nonetheless, with a life vest and some dog swimming lessons from you, any dog should be able to get around in the water.

If your pet doesn’t know how to swim, patience is key during training. Bring toys, dog lifejackets, and any other item to assist your dog during the learning process.

Also, take into account any special condition your dog may have such as wounds, allergies, or sensitive skin.

Dog Swimming Equipment: Dog Swimming Vest, a Dog Water Fetch Toy to encourage swimming and have fun.


Dog Agility

Dog agility is one of the most popular dog sport. You have probably even seen on TV as well!

It’s basically a canine obstacle course in which your dog must follow verbal, sound cues and gestures from the owner to overcome an obstacle course in the shortest time possible by making the least number of mistakes.

Dog Agility is a dynamic sport that challenges a dog’s intelligence through obstacle courses built to test the athleticism of the dog and the owners ability to direct his or her dog to the finishing line.

When practicing this sport, the dog must be able to complete successfully weave poles, dog walks, standard jumps, pause tables, tunnels, tire jump, teeter boards, and other elements.

Practicing dog agility with your hound it’s a fun way to get exercise and improve the concentration, obedience, discipline and dexterity of your pooch.

If you have enough space at home, for instance, a small garden, you can create a mini obstacle course and challenge yourself and your dog to finish it.

To get started with this sport at home, we encourage you to watch videos and read books like Agility Right From the Start that walk you through training and all you need to know.

Dog Agility Equipment: A Dog Agility Set like this from CHEERING PET Dog and a guide to building Dog Agility Obstacles.


Canicross

If you love to run and have a dog, Canicross is probably the dog sport for you.

Canicross is a hybrid sport combining elements of cross-country running and dog sled racing.

It’s not exactly running alongside your dog but in this sport, the dog is attached to your waist with a bungee leash with the dog out front pulling the runner along.

This discipline has grown considerably among dog owners in Europe. Generally, it’s practiced off-road. Woodland parks, forestry trails are the best places to run with your dog. Snow is another good terrain to practice it.

Most breeds could technically participate although some dogs make better running companions than others. If your dog is not built to run or generate enough power to propel you forward it will be more like just walking your dog in a harness.

This sport is relatively cheap to practice.

Canicross Equipment: Canicross waist belt with a bungee leash and a proper harness for the dog.


Dock Jumping (Dock Diving)

Dock jumping (aka dock diving) is a dog sport in which dogs compete to see who can jump the longest distance or height from a dock into a body of water.

Dock jumping is an exciting canine sport that’s been growing in Great Britain and the United States.

It’s on the list of dog sports regulated by the United Kennel Club (UKC) under the title of Ultimate Air Dogs. The American Kennel Club also recognizes the sport.

There are two different types of Dock Jumping competitions: Ultimate Air Jumping or Vertical Jump.

Ultimate Air Jumping is the traditional competition where your dog runs and jumps into a pool or lake after you toss your dog’s favorite toy. The dog that jumps the furthest wins the competition.

Or the other hand, the Ultimate Vertical (a newer version of the sport) is a form of a high jump in which dogs jump to reach a toy suspended mid-air at a predetermined height. The winner is the dog that can get the toy at its highest position.

Dock Dog Jumping Equipment: A pool or a dock at the lake, a dog retrieving toy.


Flyball

Flyball (aka catch ball) is a dog team sport that is played by relays.

It became popular as a sport in America in the early 70s and made its debut in the United Kingdom at Crufts in 1990. Flyball is a fun and energetic sport for very active dogs.

It starts with two teams of four dogs each. One dog from each team must perform an obstacle course until it reaches the “flyball box,” where the dog will have press on the device to activate the flyball box to release a tennis ball that he must then catch and bring back to its handler.

Once that process is completed, the second dog from each team is released, and so on. To win, the team must have all four dogs complete the course before all other teams.

If you are interested in practicing this sport, The Beginner’s Guide to Flyball covers everything you need to know about the exciting dog sport of flyball.

Flyball Equipment: An Agility Flyball Machine and a dog running obstacle course.


Dog Herding

Dog herding is an entertaining and enjoyable dog sport.

Whether you are involved in farming or ranching, or simply want to explore your dog’s herding abilities, this canine sport may be the right fit for you.

It consists of demonstrating the herding skills of your dog herding livestock, simulating real herding conditions, or by creating new herding scenarios (situations) to make the competition more memorable and exciting.

The dog must follow the instructions of his or her handler and move the herd around a field, fences, gates, enclosures, or even sometimes an obstacle course.

In general, sheep, ducks, or cattle are used in the sport. The sport arose around 1800 in New Zealand, and although at first, farmers practiced it to see who had the best herding dogs, it became a canine sport and spread worldwide.

Herding Dogs: Progressive Training is a great place to get started in dog herding.

Dog Herding Equipment: A herd.


Lure Coursing

If your dog is the type of pet that bolts outside, running as fast as he can after a squirrel, or if he likes to chase stuff, this is the perfect dog sport for him.

In this sport, your dog will be chasing a mechanically operated lure that simulates prey.

The lure is made of a white plastic bag tied to a movable line positioned slightly above the ground. The lure operator will move the lure following a pattern that is meant to simulate live coursing. The operator will make sure the lure runs fast enough ahead of the dog to incite chase.

A typical lure course in the United States is between 600 and 1,000 yards (550 and 910 m) long.

Lure Coursing Equipment: Lure Coursing machine


Dog Conformation

While it may seem like a dog beauty pageant, dog conformation is not.

In this sport, dogs are being ranked by how closely they conform to their breed standard.

Your dog is examined from every angle, from the structure of the legs, paws, shoulders and spine to their relative proportions to one another.

This is a very competitive sport and demanding, even though owners can’t do anything to alter a dog’s genetics, they and their dogs must work hard to strengthen and develop weak areas. Why?

Because the closer the dog matches its breed’s standard, the more chances to win and also to produce puppies that meet the standard.

Mixed breeds and spayed or neutered purebreds are ineligible to compete in conformation.

If you are looking to enter a conformation event, you need to prepare your dog for it. Whether you are just getting started in this sport or are an experienced show dog handler, Positive Training for Show Dogs offers some great advice.

Conformation Equipment: N/A


Rally Obedience (Rally-O)

This is a fun canine sport that mixes classical obedience training and agility training.

It consists of moving your dog through a course (10-20 signs per course, varies per class level) with signs where he performs basic to advanced commands (i.e, sit, stay, come.), turns (90°, 180°, 270°, 360°), jumps, slaloms/spirals, and other exercises.

During practice, you learn that this sport is all about giving your dog the right motivation to perform the right command at the right time.

Any dog can practice Rally Obedience, the key to success is to train your dog properly to respond to all your commands and learning how to sync your pace with your dog’s.

Unlike other sports, speed is not as important, the real core of Rally-O is how well the dog and handler communicate.

If you want to gain the skills and learn all about Rally-O, The Ultimate Guide to Rally-O book is all you need to start practicing.

Rally Obedience Equipment: N/A


Dog Surfing

One of the coolest dog sports in out books! Probably because we love to surf here at Canine Bible.

Dog surfing is a sport where owners train their dogs to surf on surfboards, skimboards, bodyboards, windsurf boards or to bodysurf.

This dog sport has been documented as early as the 1920s in the United States and competition occur in various coastal areas around the country.

In general, dogs will be judged on factors such as length of ride, the size of the wave, style, maneuvers like tricks are a bonus.

Dog Surfing Equipment: A longboard, dog life jackets or vests and human gear.


Which Dog Sport Should You Pick?

Whichever dog sport you choose to practice with your canine companion, it is important to remember that it is about both creating a fun and rewarding experience for both, owner and dog.

If the sport you picked seems to be making your dog unhappy, stop and look for other alternatives.

Boating might not be considered a dog sport, but if you frequently take your dog on your boat, a dog boat ramp can make a difference for both of you.

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