You and your dog have a unique bond, perhaps one only you share. Long gone however are the days of just simple walks and feeding being the only way to bond with your canine companion. Now there is so much more to do than 40 years ago when “man’s best friend” simply relied on having a place to call home and a family to love them. Yes, dog sports! It’s time to unleash the inner athlete in your dog, bond with them in ways you never imagined, and help them live happier, healthier lives.
No doubt you’ve seen or heard of agility in some form; there’s countless videos on the internet including chicken agility. For dogs, agility is a fun interactive sport for a dog and their handler. Agility can help your dog out by staying fit to help keep that excess weight off and you can even participate in the winter as there are often indoor classes or trials in many areas. Additionally, it helps your dog learn to focus their attention on what they’re being told the next obstacle is. Different obstacles or games can teach your dog patience, how to take commands from a distance, and coordination. Your dog can start training before they reach adulthood with the only restriction on the jumping as a means to not cause joint development problems. And no worries for your senior companion, guidelines are set in different classes as safety is always a priority. For purebred dogs, there is agility through the AKC, CKC, and UKC but for all the other wonderful dogs there are other sanctioning bodies such the the AAC here in Canada. Check out the practice agility video of Rudy & I below.
Everyone knows what obedience is right? Come, sit, stay! Not in this context…imagine elevating obedience to a competitive level in what some people might describe like pairs figure skating in the Olympics. Rally obedience (rally-o for short) involves a series of designated commands that both dog and handler must coordinate their movements. Some commands are performed at a distance while others are done at close range. Rally-O will help your dog build focus and trigger their brain to work which can help relieve or delay some of the signs of cognitive dysfunction (similar to Alzheimer’s). The AKC, CKC, and UKC have versions of rally obedience, while here in Canada we are most familiar with CARO. Keltie has earned a few titles already because of lots of practice like the video here.
You’ve seen these dogs working before. The skilled ones can find almost anything…drugs, bombs, even money. While your dog won’t be finding those types of things, you can train them to sniff out other things (most commonly an essential oil like wintergreen or pine) for competition. As an added bonus, this can be done year round, even in colder climates. Classes can be taken in person but also may be effective in an online format – this is all our own dog Rudy has learned with. Scent detection is a great activity for dogs who have anxieties especially around other dogs because it is done in isolation. Additionally, it helps trigger parts of the brain that will keep them sharp and focused. Here’s one of Rudy’s scent detection lessons in action, car searches (much like that might do a country border crossing).
Which should you do?
It’s a great time to be a dog and a dog owner! There is so much opportunity to get out, try new things, and help your dog live a happier and healthier life. I encourage you to try one or more of the activities above just for fun. If it doesn’t work out there’s always flyball, dock diving, lure coursing, barn hunting, musical freestyle dance, or just having a pet and letting them enjoy puzzle toys from time to time. It may take some work and not every dog or handler will fit in with a particular sport. So what are you waiting for?? Try something new!
Disclaimer: Blog posts may contain some opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers.