Dog sports can be a hobby or serious activity with many different events across Australia and the world. This can be a fun way to spend extra time with your beloved pooch. While any breed is trainable, certain breeds may be better suited to sports such as Jack Russell Terriers, Border Collies and Kelpies.
The Australian National Kennel Council is an organization that promotes canine sports as well as other areas such as breeding and showing.
There is a large range of dog sports. Some popular ones include:
Agility is a sport that is open to all breeds of dogs and involves the dog navigating a course of obstacles including jumps, tunnels, winding through poles and other challenges, with direction from their owner. It requires a reasonable level of fitness to participate and higher still for competition level. It is a sport that requires a good bond and communication between dog and owner and provides great mental and physical stimulation for dogs.
Getting through the course as quickly and efficiently as possible is the goal, with teamwork being required to navigate the course correctly and without knocking over poles, missing jumps, etc. If rushed, unbalanced or overexcited and losing focus, this is more likely, so some basic training and fitness is required to get started.
This activity can strengthen the bond and communication level between dog and owner as it works on their listening ability and creates the chance to problem solve, learn new tasks and commands. Teamwork between the pair is essential for success and is a good form of exercise for both partners.
All dogs can benefit from obedience training and obedience competitions take this to the next level, where a dog’s ability to listen to commands is tested. Not only do dogs need to be focused and pay attention to their owner, following the requested commands, they need to do this while ignoring all that is happening around them, including people, traffic, noises and other dogs. Commands utilised in these tests include basic commands like walking calmly, heeling by the owner’s side, staying, and coming when called, through to more advanced commands such as retrieving objects and jumping over specified obstacles.
Training for obedience trials has many benefits. It can strengthen the bond the owner has with their dog plus enable the family to have a well-mannered dog almost anywhere. Being able to take your dog to cafes and parks for example, and both dog and owner being able to relax and enjoy themselves without stress or anxiety, makes for a far more enjoyable time out. It can also help reduce behaviour problems like excessive jumping, barking and pulling on the lead by teaching your dog alternative ways to behave, how to be more responsive by listening to owners, and providing excellent mental stimulation. There is a lot of time spent training and working on communication between dogs and owners and this also works to improve their bond.
Endurance trials are not for the faint hearted and do require a good level of health and fitness from the owner and dog. It is a very rewarding experience and test of physical endurance, requiring a strong bond and good focus from dog to owner.
Given the physical demand of these trials there are generally some limitations on entry. For competitive trials in Australia the dog must be between 2 and 7 years old and must pass a vet health check 14 days prior to the trial. The test is usually carried out over 20km in 3 stages, those being 8km, 6km and 6km. Between each of these there is a short break during which time dogs will have vet checks to be sure they are fit to continue. Before the trial there is a preliminary vet check and a simple obedience exercise, which is also repeated at the end of the trial, after a 15minute rest and a final vet check.
Just like endurance training in people, this trial requires ample preparation to prepare owner and dog physically and mentally, so putting in the effort to do so in the months prior will enable a safe and fun experience (at least 1 – 2 months pre-competition is recommended depending on fitness level).
This exciting sport is a relay race between two teams of four dogs. Each dog is required to jump over four hurdles, trigger and retrieve a ball from a specially designed flyball box and then return to the start point of the lane. The first team with all four dogs to complete the run cleanly wins. Adult dogs of all shapes and sizes can compete with hurdle height being set to accommodate the shortest dog on the team. The sport first appeared in Australia in the 1980s after originating in the USA in the 1970s and has gained popularity since. Teams are encouraged to cheer the dogs on as they race, which makes some dogs run faster!
As with many of the activities discussed above, some basic training and fitness is required to maintain focus on completing the objective and listening to owners, especially with the distraction of competitors, their team dogs and other owners about. This is a fun and engaging activity with teamwork between owners and dogs.
This is an interesting activity available to herding breeds of dog and their cross breeds. It provides a great outlet to help hone and utilize the natural herding instincts of these breeds and provides a valuable form of mental and physical stimulation. It trains focus, listening ability under pressure (with the distraction of the livestock and excitement of the activity), allows them to work with their natural instincts and is a good form of exercise.
Dogs can work with a variety of livestock for herding training from classic sheep and cattle down to smaller animals like ducks. When training is started for herding, dogs need to demonstrate a basic instinct for the type of work and then progress up the chain of herding commands and direction, from simple to more complicated.
Tracking is something that all dogs can do, though some breeds are better suited than others. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, it’s a natural instinct for them to use their nose. This activity hones this skill as they follow a trail to find a reward at the end. Professional tracking dogs are used all over the world to help with search and rescue operations, used by the police department and even in the food industry to find delicacies like truffles.
Tracking is a very enjoyable activity for dogs as they get to use their natural instincts. Not only is it a fun, physical activity, it is also very mentally stimulating and enjoyable. Modern tracking activities and events are often setup, where possible, in more scenic locations, allowing trailers to get away from the daily grind into a more natural setting and enjoy the company of their beloved dog, amongst the company of other dog lovers outdoors.
And many more!
Check your local state website for more specific information about groups, clubs, training and official competitions and events.