Top 5 sports to try with your dog
There’s nothing wrong with taking your four-legged friend to the park for a game of fetch – but it can get a bit boring. The great thing about clicker training is how quickly dogs learn to react. Once you’ve mastered the art of training with treats, you’ll find that it’s easier than ever to try new and exciting activities with your dog. Why not give one of these fun hobbies a go?
If your dog loves catching balls, they’ll love flyball. This is a fast-paced team sport where groups of four dogs compete in a relay competition. Setting out at a sprint, each dog takes it in turns to leap over a series of four hurdles, then hit a box. This will activate a mechanism that shoots out a tennis ball. The dog jumps to catch the ball, then returns to the start, carrying the ball in their mouth.
This fun, fast-paced sport is particularly popular with collies, but different-sized obstacles can be used, making it suitable for dogs of all sizes. A great training technique is essential: you’ll need to teach your dog to jump over the hurdles, instead of going around them, and to hit the box that leads to the ball being released. Use grain-free dog treats as a healthy positive reinforcement technique to get your pooch ready for the big league!
2. Dog agility
You’ve probably seen showjumping at the Olympic Games. Well, dog agility is the canine equivalent of that famous equestrian discipline. As handler, you’ll lead your dog around a series of obstacles, which must be completed in the correct order. Your dog will have to jump over barriers, pass through tunnels, and balance and beams and see-saws.
Precision is the key to successful dog agility. To succeed in this sport, you’ll need to have a very close bond with your dog. They’ll be looking to you for encouragement as you make sure they overcome each obstacle in the correct order, making contact with certain points where necessary. Positive reinforcement dog training is the best way to keep that bond tight and ensure that you’re both having a great time in the agility ring.
If you and your pet are both in need of a good workout, then canicross is for you. You will need some special equipment for this one: get yourself a canicross harness, which you fasten around your waist like a belt. The other end of the harness is attached to your dog. Get outside, find a safe spot, and then just start running.
This is a sport that’s made for big, powerful breeds that love to run. In particular, huskies – with their strong instinct to run and pull – excel at canicross, which is a great way for both pet and owner to get fit! Canicross competitions take place around the country, over distances of 2km or 5km.
4. Heelwork to music
Better known as doggy dancing, this discipline has shot to fame over the last few years thanks to some high-profile TV performances! Owner and dog work together to perform a routine set to a musical accompaniment. Some experienced handlers even work with two or more dogs at a time.
If you and your pooch are no Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, don’t worry! All of the most successful heelwork to music trainers swear by clicker training. Start off by teaching your dog a few simple tricks, and you can gradually build up to a full routine.
5. Working trials
This sport is tailor-made for German shepherds, though all dogs are welcome to participate. Basically, working trials are the civilian equivalent of police dog tests. Competitions take place outdoors, and dogs will compete in three different sections. First, the nosework trial tests the dog’s ability to follow a track set by a stranger, recovering articles along the way. Next, there’s an agility section with three obstacles, and finally, in the control trial, handler and dog must work together to complete a number of obedience challenges.
A well-trained dog is essential if you want to succeed in this discipline. You’ll need to spend a lot of time working closely with your dog, particularly for the control trial. Your dog must be able to retrieve a dumbbell that you’ve thrown, stay in the down position even with you out of sight, bark on command, and remain steady when exposed to the sound of gunshots. This is truly the gold standard for an obedient dog, so be sure to train well before taking part!