Taking part in dog sports can be a great way to be active with your dog, build a bond with him, and at the same time get rid of excess energy. Sports will also stimulate him mentally, and the real secret is to find something that you both enjoy.
Before you choose a sport to try out, consider your puppy’s breed and age. Some dogs have a higher energy level than others, while some might suffer from breed-related conditions, like hip dysplasia, that needs to be considered. Discuss your ideas with the breeder and your vet before you commence with any physical activities.
Choosing a sport
Keep in mind your dog’s natural ability to take part in a particular sport. Although dogs of the same breed can excel in a specific sport, your dog’s temperament might make him more of a coach potato, and chances are that he might not like the high-energy sport you have in mind. Maybe consider something like carting, dancing or obedience instead. Always make sure that your dog is enjoying the activity.
Also consider whether you want to take part in the sport just for fun and exercise, or if you want to enter competitions. Look for training schools in your area and find out more details about the sport you’re interested in, how much classes will cost and how much time you will need.
There are many disciplines to choose from, and we’re looking at four of them.
Agility is a high-energy sport where dog and handler run at speed to complete a course as fast as possible. Depending if it is agility or dog jumping, your dog will have to manoeuvre over, through and around jumps and obstacles, such as the seesaw, A-frame and dog walk. The handler runs with the dog and directs him around the course, which must be completed within a set time. The winner is the dog-and-handler combination with the least faults in the fastest time. Dogs are categorised according to their height, and the jump heights are adjusted accordingly.
Another discipline that requires lots of energy (on the part of the dog) is flyball. Two teams of four dogs each run a relay race over a line of four jumps – each team in their own lane. At the end of each lane is a box with a spring-loaded pad that releases a tennis ball when the dog presses on it. The dog catches the ball and races back over the jumps with the ball in his mouth. Once he crosses the finish line, the next dog is released, until all team members have run. The team who finishes first in the relay race wins the heat. The team with the highest score at the end wins the competition.
For more information and to find a club in your area, contact Liesl at email@example.com.
Dog dancing is less energetic than agility and flyball. You can choose what music you want to set your routine to, and therefore how energetic it will be. You can take part in ‘heelwork to music’ and ‘musical freestyle’, and the dance sequence is a combination of obedience exercises, heelwork or tricks that the dog has mastered, put together and choreographed to music. The music is chosen according to a theme, and the dog and handler also dress to fit the theme. This is a great sport to build a bond with your dog.
For more information, contact the South African Dog Dancing Association on www.dogdancing.co.za.
A dog sport that is great for canine fitness, muscle development and stamina, and that most dogs can take part in, is carting. The dog pulls a cart that is relative to his size through an obstacle course. Depending on the course, the cart might be filled or empty. To take part in the sport, your dog needs some level of obedience training.
For more information, go to www.thedogschool.co.za.
Would you like to read more about raising a dog? Order the latest South Africa’s Dog Directory online.