Dog sports are one of the best ways to have fun with your Aussie. They can not only help to give your dog the proper exercise and promote good health, they can also help to build a stronger bond between dog and owner as you work together to complete a course, win a game or meet an objective. All breeds can participate in sports, as can dogs of all ages. There truly is something for everyone in this amazing field.
The best part about engaging in sports with your dog is that it can be so very simple. Most dogs love to be active. They instinctively want to run and jump and expend energy. They also have a strong instinct to please their owners so they are usually eager to learn new commands and hear your praise when they do well. Of course some breeds, like the Australian Shepherd, are particularly adept at sports but really just about any breed can find its niche.
And there are a wide variety of dog sports to choose from, almost as many as there are breeds of dog. Some sports involve direct human and dog interaction, with the dog operating on command from its handler, while others are for the dogs only. Some are just engaged in for fun, while others involve highly regulated competitions with strict rules that often draw crowds of spectators or are even occasionally televised.
Some sports are tailored more to specific breeds, such as track racing and sled racing that don't generally attract Australian Shepherds. Track racing, which can draw large crowds and even involve betting, is usually reserved for Greyhounds and other breeds built for speed, while sled racing is the venue of Huskies and Malamutes who are used to spending long hours in frigid temperatures. Let's get back to sports that are better suited to Aussies...
Sabine Glässl / stock.adobe.com
In the world of dog sports one of the most common is agility training. This can appeal to a wide range of breeds, but is particularly suited to Australian Shepherds, Border Collies and other breeds known for being command driven. These breeds also can be found competing in herding trials, showing off their innate skill at gathering and herding sheep, cows and other animals.
On the more recreational side of the spectrum are sports like dock jumping, disc dog, flyball, and treibball. These are sports that allow any type of dog to show off his natural athletic ability or just have a good time running around without as much worry about timing and accuracy. Dogs who love the water will be eager to jump as far as they can from a dock and what dog doesn't love chasing and catching a Frisbee?
Canine dressage is similar to the equine version, with dogs completing a variety of choreographed moves. There are also dog sports like lure coursing, tracking, and retrieving which are particularly geared toward hunting dogs who are used to stalking and landing their prey. Of course, you may just opt for hiking or jogging with your dog in order to get both of you a workout.
No matter what your interest or your dog's physical capabilities, there is almost certainly a sport that will suit your taste. Why not look into the possibilities and see if there isn't some way that you can get your best friend some activity and have some bonding moments at the same time? Any dog can be a sporting dog with the right motivation!
The skills that you and your dog acquire through training can be further developed or refined by competing in a number of different sports. In this section you can learn about such popular sports as flyball, treibball, skijoring, lure coursing and dock diving, among others and how they are linked to agility training skills.
Flyball involves teams of dogs racing through a series of jumps with a ball that can be released with a spring loaded lever. Once the dog releases and catches the ball, it must then race back to its handler and the next dog on the team then heads onto the course. The team is finished when all of the dogs have crossed the finish line. This sport not only focuses on speed and agility but also the ability to follow basic commands.
Treibball is based on the herding instinct and involves maneuvering a series of large balls into an area the size of a soccer goal. Handler and dog must work together to get all of the balls into the target area in the allotted amount of time. With treibball it is particularly easy to determine the link between dog sports and agility, as the communication necessary to work the balls is exactly the same as that used to navigate an agility course, often using only hand gestures or a series of whistles.
For dogs used to doing heavier work, skijoring is one of several sports that involves mushing, similar to that used in dog sled racing. In this particular instance instead of a sled, the dog is pulling a person on skis. In other variations dogs can participate in "dry land" mushing, pulling a cart or even a mountain bike.
Christian Müller / stock.adobe.com
Of course, the connection between dog sports and agility isn't all about communication. Speed is a big element and this is the main factor in lure coursing. Here dogs race across a field in pursuit of a mechanical lure. The lure can be programmed to take a circuitous route similar to the behavior of natural prey. This particular sport will be best suited to sight trained dogs but an affinity for lure coursing can be developed by any breed.
Aside from these types of sports, dock diving, dog frisbee, and canine freestyle are other areas that can often be the next step up from agility training. Whether your dog is refining his jumping skills by diving off a dock into water, retrieving Frisbees thrown at a variety of angles and speeds or running through a freestyle course, he'll surely benefit from the speed training and communication learned through agility work.
Another idea that can can be a lot of fun and is often overlooked is dog scent training or nosework. Use your dog's natural inclination and ability as a positive activity to enhance your training program.
This gives you just a small idea of the exciting world of dog sports, but if you want to know more, then simply check out the following pages and you'll find lots of interesting details. You may find a whole new type of activity that you can engage in with your dog that will stimulate you both physically and mentally.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers events in these and many dog sports. Look into the exciting possibilities of dog sports and then get out there and start having fun!
Have Dog Training Questions?
Check out these introductory dog training videos...
Get Australian Shepherd Info, Website Updates, Special Offers, and Cartoons...
You'll also receive a free copy of the ebook
My Everyday Dog Training Tools
by professional dog trainer Daniel Abdelnoor, "Doggy Dan"