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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 and 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. Dog sports aim to maintain or improve physical ability, skills, and bonding while providing entertainment to dog and dog owners and, in some cases, spectators.
Training the dog is necessary, 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 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 top reasons you and your dog should practice a dog sport.
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 highly active or likes to do fun tricks for treats, there is always a sport for you both to enjoy. Take a look!
|Herding Sports||Obedience Sports||Protection Sports||Mushing or Pulling Sports||Racing Sports||Tracking & Hunting sports||Water 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 Trials||Water Rescue||Catchball
|Treibball||Obedience trial||Campagne||Carting||Greyhound & Whippet racing||Hare Coursing||Water Trials||Conformation Showing
|Rally obedience||Dutch KNPV||Dog scootering||Sighthound racing||Hound Trailing||Dog surfing||Disc Dog
|French Ring Sport||Mushing||Jack Russell Terrier racing||Lure Coursing||Flyball
|German Schutzhund||Skijoring||Sled Dog Racing||Nose work||Junior Showmanship|
|K9 Pro Sports||Sled dog racing||Terrier Racing||Retrieving Trials||Sighthound Disc Sport
|Mondio Ring Sport||Weight pulling||Skip Dog|
Most Popular Dog Sports List
Let’s 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.
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. Doga aims 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 as 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
Another excellent 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 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) originated in 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 “dog obedience” exercise category. Today there are tournaments of “Dog Dancing” nationally and internationally.
Generally, people enjoy dancing to music, and dogs love to move around; thus, “dog-dancing” is a creative way to combine these two aspects. Usually, results come pretty quickly. You might need to train your dog for many years to mount a perfect choreography, but the first successes can be obtained relatively soon.
Are you ready to choreograph some dance moves with your pooch? If so, the average duration should usually range between 2 to 5 minutes.
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 a 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 a competitive dog sport, it can get challenging.
Judges evaluate the dog’s athletic ability 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 determining which dog wins. Nonetheless, the sport is straightforward to practice. You only need a frisbee to train your dog for the next big disc dog competition. 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, a dog freebie has multiple benefits for your dog and dog parent. The activity 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 hyperactivity, aggression, or neurotic behaviors. And lots of fun, of course!
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. Safety gear such as a helmet and goggles are essential to practice it.
Not all dogs are a good fit for this sport. Dog breeds that like to run and are naturally athletic, fit, powerful, and strong make great candidates.
Have you ever seen your dog splash in a river, lake, or pool? While dogs maybe not look like fish in the water, with the proper 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 and 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 instead of 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. Patience is key during training if your pet doesn’t know how to swim. Bring toys, dog lifejackets, and other items to assist your dog during the learning process. Also, consider any health condition your dog may have, such as wounds, allergies, or sensitive skin.
Dog agility is one of the most popular dog sports. You have probably even seen it on TV as well!
It’s basically a canine obstacle course in which your dog must follow verbal and 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 owner’s ability to direct their dog to the finishing line.
When practicing this sport, the dog must complete weave poles; dog walks, standard jumps, pause tables, tunnels, tire jumps, teeter boards, and other elements. Practicing dog agility with your hound is a fun way to get exercise and improve your dog’s concentration, obedience, discipline and dexterity.
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.
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 and forestry trails are the best places to run with your dog. Snow is another suitable 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.
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 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 “Ultimate Air Dogs.” The American Kennel Club also recognizes the sport. There are two types of Dock Jumping competitions: Ultimate Air Jumping and 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 match.
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.
Flyball (aka catch ball) is a dog team sport played by relays.
It became famous 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 to 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.
Dog herding is an entertaining and enjoyable dog sport. Whether you are involved in farming or ranching or want to explore your dog’s herding abilities, this canine sport may be the right fit.
It consists of demonstrating the herding skills of your dog herding livestock, simulating actual herding conditions, or creating new herding scenarios (situations) to make the competition more memorable and exciting. The dog must follow the instructions of its 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.
If your dog is the type of pet that bolts outside, run as fast as he can after a squirrel, or likes to chase stuff, this is the perfect dog sport for him.
Your dog will chase a mechanically operated lure that simulates prey in this sport. 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 to simulate live coursing. The operator will ensure 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.
While it may seem like a beauty pageant, dog conformation is not.
In this sport, dogs are 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 produce puppies that meet the standard. Mixed breeds and spayed or neutered purebreds are ineligible to compete in conformation.
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 about giving your dog the right motivation to perform the correct command at the right time. A dog can practice Rally Obedience. The key to success is to properly train your dog to respond to all your commands and learn 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.
We love to surf here at Canine Bible. One of the most fantastic dog sports in our book. Dog surfing is a sport where owners train their dogs to surf on surfboards, skimboards, bodyboards, windsurf boards or bodysurf. This dog sport has been documented as early as the 1920s in the United States, and competition occurs in various coastal areas. Dogs will generally be judged on factors such as length of ride, the size of the wave, style, and maneuvers like tricks are a bonus.
Which Dog Sport Should You Pick?
Whichever dog sport you choose to practice with your canine companion, it is essential to remember that it is about creating a fun and rewarding experience for both owner and dog.
If your chosen sport makes your dog unhappy, stop and look for other alternatives. Bo ting 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.