Do you own a purebred dog or a mixed breed? It used to make a difference in what activities were available for your pet. Not anymore! If you enjoy competitive sports, why not introduce your dog to one that you can do together? There are plenty of choices available, and the number of activities is steadily increasing. Conformation events, in which dogs are judged against their breed standards, will still be the domain of purebreds, but activities such as Agility, Obedience, Rally Obedience, Flyball, and many others are open to those without a pedigree.
The American Kennel Club sponsors many of these events, but there is often more than one organization that sponsors each type of event. Agility events, for example, are held by the USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association) as well. To learn more about these sports, visit the website of the AKC (www.akc.org) or search online for any of these activities.
Below are the basics of some, but by no means all, of the possibilities.
In Agility, competitors race against the clock as they direct their dogs to jump hurdles, scale ramps, burst through tunnels, traverse a see-saw, and weave through a line of poles in an obstacle course configuration designed to challenge a handler’s competitive and training skills. This is not only a fun sport for the competitors, it is exciting for the spectators as well!
Obedience trials are for dogs that have been trained and conditioned to behave well in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs. The dog and handler must perform specific moved off leash in a very defined manner. Sit, stay, retrieving an object, going over jumps, and other activities are judged on precision. Training for obedience competitions builds on basic obedience training.
Rally Obedience is a more relaxed form of Obedience. In Rally, handler and dog must follow a marked course with a specific move required at each station. In Rally, the moves do not have to be as precise as in Obedience, and this is a great way to have fun with your dog while he learns to follow commands.
If you like Dancing With the Stars, how about dancing with your dog? In Freestyle, dog and handler perform routines choreographed to music. Certain moves are required, such as spins, direction changes, and distance work, but as in ballroom dancing, creativity is rewarded.
For ball-obsessed dogs that like to run, Flyball could be the right game! In flyball, two teams of four dogs each race side-by-side over hurdles on a 51 foot long course. Each dog must run in relay fashion down the lane, trigger a flyball box that releases a ball, retrieve the ball, and return over the jumps. The next dog is released to run the course but can’t cross the start/finish line until the previous dog has returned. The first team to have all 4 dogs finish the course without error wins the heat. It’s fast, fun, and exciting!
And if you’re looking for outdoor events, consider Dock Diving, Lure Coursing, Field events, Earthdog events and Scent Discrimination. There’s a sport suited to almost any dog, and some even offer special categories for senior dogs. Canine sports are all about bonding with your dog, and HAVING FUN, so get out there and have some fun with your dog!