There are a wide variety of dog sports available today, some of which you might not even know exist. We tend to think of dog sports as only for those who want to compete. And that's primarily what they were created for – to earn titles, ribbons, trophies, and bragging rights. But is that all they are good for? You might compete but not care about winning, or you might participate in the practice of the sport without actually ever competing. Either way, there are benefits beyond bragging rights.
Some of the sports are much more popular than others. Here are a sampling of the dog sports available today: agility, flyball, rally, competition obedience, tracking, K9 nosework, treibball, herding, disc dog, dock diving, earth dogs, freestyle, lure coursing, mushing/sled dogs, weight pulling, skijoring, and others.
A few of the benefits of participating in dog sports include:
- Burning off energy in constructive ways. If you have a dog bred to do a highly active job, then you know you need to find ways to burn off that energy so your dog does not drive you crazy or destroy your house.
- Not just burning off physical energy, but burning off mental energy or providing mental stimulation. I have met dogs who are getting plenty of physical exercise but still cause trouble because they are not getting enough mental stimulation. All dogs need opportunities to use their brains – some much more so than others!
- Enjoying each others company. Some sports are highly interactive between you and your dog. Some are not. Either way, if you both enjoy the sport, it's a great way for you to spend quality time together and have a shared activity you can do together. (Even if you are just the chauffer / social activities director!)
- Making new friends. What better way to connect with others who enjoy the same activities that you and your dog do! This is a great way for your dog to make new friends and for you to find others to practice your desired sport with outside of a class or competition environment.
- Learning more about your dog. If you look at the people who compete at high levels of some of these sports – take agility, for example – you will find dogs who are not always well-behaved at home or who used to cause lots of trouble before finding an outlet in their sport of choice. This gives people a chance to find out what their dog really loves to do, and you might discover that your dog has not been trying to drive you insane all this time. He just needed an outlet for that energy, drive or brain power he has stored up. It can really give you a new perspective on your dog.
- Learning to communicate more clearly with your dog. Again, let's take agility as an example. Or rally. Or freestyle. Any of the sports that require you to work as a team with your dog. There is nothing better to help you learn better communication than one of these types of sports. Ever watch an agility trial? If the dog is not performing the correct obstacle, take a look at the handler. It's often because the communication from the handler was incorrect – the dog was simply doing what he was instructed. It's a real eye opener sometimes when you realize how much better your communication skills can get when you have a sport to practice.
- Improving upon your dogs skills as well as your own. Choosing an outlet, whatever it is, is a great way to continue to build your dogs vocabulary and skills. Dogs in general love to work, but sometimes you need to find the right outlet that engages and enthuses them. Just as we must do when trying to find a profession or job that makes us happy!
- Having fun! Sometimes it gets boring do the same old things. Trying out a new sport can add some fun and variety to your training.
There are many benefits to finding a sport you and your dog both enjoy. If you don't have one, you might want to check some out and see if there's something you can both take up together – even if you never have any desire to compete.
Our Fun & Games Class is one good way to sample some different activities to see what you and your dog enjoy. Or find some local events to go and watch to find out more about them. Or look up some of the events online and find some youtube videos to watch to get a taste for them.