Canine sports at a glance


Here is a brief overview of some canine sport disciplines you can do in South Africa:

Agility – Contact and non-contact agility fall in this category. Contact agility is a fun sport with obstacles including jumps, weave poles, tunnels and contact equipment that the dog walks on. Non-contact agility is similar, but equipment is replaced with jumps only. Gamblers and snooker are two fun game variations of agility, each with its own rules.

Blocking Search – A dog and his handler must find four tennis balls inside a grid measuring 20m by 20m. The team with the fastest time wins.

Canine Good Citizen – A programme to promote trained and properly socialised dogs. Tests cover various training and obedience exercises. The Bronze Level consists of 13 tests. Once your dog achieves this, you move on the Silver and Gold Levels.

Carting – The dog is trained to pull a cart through an obstacle course. The size of the cart is relevant to the size of the dog. Carts may carry a load or be left empty.

Dock Jumping – Long jump for dogs from a platform (dock) into a body of water. The handler usually throws a toy to start the jump, but dogs do not have to retrieve it.

Dog Dancing – Musical Freestyle (any movements) and Heelwork to Music (dog and owner dance as one team according to the music score).

Field trails – Gundog field trails are designed to find the best hunting dogs who find and point game birds or quarter, flush and retrieve them. Each section is specialised and runs its own trials.

Flyball – Two teams of dogs run a relay race over a series of jumps to a ball box at one end. The dog hits the catapult with his forepaws to release the ball, and then races back to the start of the race. The next dog is then released.

Flying Disc – Also called Disc Dogs, the dog is trained to catch a Frisbee tossed by his owner. In competitions, the distance of the handler’s throw and the dog’s successful catch will determine the winner.

Jumping – Another part of agility where the jumps are placed higher than with non-contact agility. The competition includes a ‘jump off’ where round winners move on to the next section of the competition.

Mountain Dog Challenge – Dog and owner run or walk a hiking trail. Handlers enter the competition according to their age. The dogs must be on lead or harness and the team who achieves the fastest time wins the challenge.

Obedience – All canine sports are based on your dog’s ability to learn commands and be obedient to them. Puppies start from basic obedience training and continue through different levels of training.

Schutzhund – Originally developed in Germany as a test for working ability in the German Shepherd Dog, Schutzhund is now a popular canine sport. The word means ‘protection’ and the sport focuses on developing these traits in the dog and measures its stamina, endurance, tracking ability and ease of training. There are three levels. Other working dogs breeds can now enter.

Sheep Herding/Sheepdog Trials – Competitions are held to find the best herding dogs in the country. Training a sheepdog starts at puppy level but the dogs are only introduced to sheep at around eight months of age.

Sixty Weave Pole Challenge – 60 weave poles are placed on the course and the dog must complete them in the fastest time.

Sled Dog Sports – Dryland sports for sled dogs – includes mushing (caniwalk, canicross, bikejoring, carting) weight pulling and backpacking.

Tracking Trials – An activity where the dog is trained to find people or objects by using his sense of smell. Items like a toy, article of clothing (or the handler) are hidden in various locations and the dog will need to find it and, possibly, retrieve it.

Treibball – A relatively new sport in SA. The dog works off-leash and listens to the owner’s commands. He uses his nose or shoulders to drive large balls into a pen (herding balls, not sheep) within the prescribed time.

Working Tests – A fairly new discipline for Retriever owners. They are an artificial simulation of what happens on the shooting field. The tests were actually used in the hunting off-season to keep training current but have now become a popular sport in their own right.

Working Trials – Dogs are trained in many of the same disciplines as police dogs. The dog is taught to be an obedient companion and will learn heel, sit, retrieve, stay, jumping over objects and using his scent to find objects.


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