Still More Fun and Games: Dog Sports Part 2

Some weeks ago, I offered a run-down of some of the most popular dog sports available in the U.S. today. Of course, the list was nowhere near comprehensive, and even with this installment, I know that there will be others left to cover. Nevertheless, here are descriptions of a few more of the popular (or should I say “pupular”?) dog sports available today.

Traditional Obedience is perhaps one of the oldest competition activities available for dogs in the U.S. While the foundation includes heeling, stays and recalls, in the more advanced levels, retrieves are included, as well as finding scent articles and jumping over hurdles. Originally only open to purebred dogs, the American Mixed Breed Obedience Registry changed all this in the late 1980s. More recently, the AKC opened up all of their performance competitions (not conformation) to mixed breeds, allowing anyone to compete via their Canine Partners program.

Down-Stay is an important cue in many sports (photo by Tonya Jensen)

Carting is another option that can now be enjoyed by virtually any healthy dog. Carting competitions include pulling the carts through obstacle courses that include gates as well as requiring the dog to back up, stay and move forward with the cart attached. Sometimes called “dryland mushing”, carting is also used to keep sled dogs in shape during the warmer months.

Skijoring, is like sledding without the sled! While most popular in colder climates, it can also be enjoyed anywhere there is snow during the winter. Skijoring is a sport where dogs pull their humans, who are on cross-country skis. Typically, a person will have between 1-3 dogs pulling them. The beauty of this sport is that both human and dog(s) get a great deal of exercise. Most skijoring competitions are between 3 and 12 miles long, though there is one race of nearly 100 miles held in the Yukon every year.

Another high-octane sport that originally only allowed specific breeds is lure coursing. While the AKC competitions are open only to sight hound breeds such as greyhounds and whippets, many local clubs have opened up fun runs to other breeds in recent years. In lure coursing, the dogs follow a lure – often a plastic bag – that is moved along the ground on a zip-line of sorts. For any dog that loves running and chasing (and what dog doesn’t!) this is a great option for exercise and fun.

If you are interested in some more intense training, there is the century-old sport of Schutzhund, and its relative, French Ring Sport. Both of these sports combine obedience with protection work, and in both cases, the dogs must first pass tests of sound temperament prior to being eligible to compete at any level.. Schutzhund was originally developed in Germany in the early 1900s, and literally means “protection dog.” Modern Schutzhund dogs are tested for their abilities in tracking, obedience and protection. In French Ring Sport, the dogs must pass a variety of tests including obedience commands, finding, holding and barking at a decoy (hidden person) and other aspects of protection work.

Regardless of the sport that you choose, it is important to take into account not only your dog’s temperament and aptitudes, but your enjoyment as well. For, whatever sport you choose, if you are enjoying the work, your dog will be much more likely to be enjoying it as well!

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