Often when people think of exercising their dog, they think of walking, going to the dog park or hiking. But there is a wonderful variety of organized dog sports out there to consider as well and the good news is dogs of a types, sizes, and breeds can participate. Before getting involved in dog sports, it’s a good idea to take obedience classes to make sure your dog has good recall (comes when called) and knows basic commands such as “sit” and “stay.” Dogs that participate in dog sports should also be well-socialized and get along with both people and other dogs.
Dog Sports are a Journey, Not a Destination
The key to getting involved, and staying involved in dog sports is to realize it’s about the journey, not the destination. It’s about the fun of having a different, more structured play activity that your dog and you enjoy together and that will deepen your bond with each other. Too often, people will try a dog sport once or twice, realize it’s going to take time to master, and quit. But they don’t stop to think that “Gee, I had no fun chasing that dog disc because I didn’t catch it” said no dog, ever. Your dog is just happy for the attention, the activity, and exercise. Catching the disc is an added bonus. And the added bonus for you is a well-exercised dog that is more likely to be a dog with few or no behavioral issues. What we call “behavioral issues” are often what dogs call “I’m bored and need mental and physical stimulation.” This is not to say that the competition isn’t fun, too, it is; but if you’re only goal is winning, you’re missing the point.
Perhaps the most well-known competitive dog sport, agility is a fast-paced sport where you and your dog work together to master an obstacle course of jumps, tunnels, and walkways in a specific order in a race against the clock. Agility is a great exercise for both you and your dog. For those who choose to compete, there are two major leagues: the USDDA (United States Dog Agility Association, Inc.) and the NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council). To get involved in agility, with a quick Internet search, you’ll find a number of options in the Las Vegas area for beginning agility classes.
Dog Disc Sports
Dog disc sports are perhaps the easiest dog sports to get involved in because throwing and practicing with a disc is something you can do in your own backyard. Distance/Accuracy is the foundation of the sport and is a competition where a dog and handler score points by completing as many catches as possible on a field with marked scoring zones in an allotted time. Freestyle is also a timed event where a handler and dog perform a routine of tricks, throws, and catches to music using multiple discs. The two major leagues in dog disc sports are Skyhoundz and UFO. The Skyhoundz website offers training videos for sale. In the Las Vegas area, the Atomic Dogs club offers opportunities for dog disc practices and play.
Flyball is a dog relay race that involves four dogs and handlers per team. Dogs are taught to run a 51-foot course that features four hurdles spaced 10-feet apart. Fifteen feet from the fourth hurdle is a box that releases a tennis ball when the dog lands on the angled pad. The dog catches the ball and then runs back over the hurdles to the finish/starting line, where the next dog is released. The first team to have all four dogs complete the course with no errors wins. Flyball is a sport of milliseconds. There are two leagues, U-FLI (United Flyball League International) and NAFA (North American Flyball Association, Inc.). There is an active flyball community in Las Vegas. Contact information to learn more about teams can be found on the league sites.
Canine Freestyle (sometimes commonly called “dog dancing) is a choreographed musical performance by a dog/handler team. This sport involves training your dog to do a series of tricks such as walking backwards, jumping, weaving in and out of your legs and moving in sync with you. These tricks are then put together as a routine to music. The sky is the limit on dog/handler team creativity, as just about any move is allowed as long as it doesn’t put your dog or you in danger. To learn more about the sport or for those interested in competing, there are two leagues for canine freestyle, the Canine Freestyle Federation and WCFO (World Canine Freestyle Organization, Inc.). Classes are available in the Las Vegas area.
While these are perhaps the most well-known organized dog sports there are others including dock jumping, herding trails, lure coursing, rally obedience, and conformation. Whatever dog sport you choose, with patience and a positive attitude you’ll enjoy the benefits of a deeper bond with your dog.