Canine sports such as agility, noseworks, and flyball are excellent ways to keep you and your dog active, teach your dog confidence and control, and solidify your bond with your pet. They can be a great family activity, and children in particular often gain a lot of confidence and control themselves by training their dog for a sport.
I initially put my corgi Ty in agility because he was shy and fearful. By learning skills such as walking a dog walk or going over a teeter totter, he gained much-needed confidence. Meanwhile, my corgi Eve, who is a non-stop ball of energy and not afraid of anything, is learning patience and control in noseworks.
Classes for canine sports are offered in most cities, although some, like herding and treibball, can be a bit harder to find . While many canine sports appear difficult, most actually are not that hard to learn. Competition is also not required. Many people take classes without any intention of competing. But if you do like to compete, there are usually opportunities to do so even at beginning levels. Best of all, in most sports, any breed or mixed breed can take part!
Here are eight popular canine sports. Which one is right for you?
There is a Canine Sport for Everyone! 1 of 9
Agility 2 of 9
Agility is probably the most popular of canine sports. Dogs learn to navigate obstacle courses with jumps, elevated walks, A frames, tunnels, teeter totters and and weave poles. In competition, dogs compete against others at their ability level and height. As they progress, they can earn titles.
Agility is particularly good for teaching confidence and control. It also requires strategy on the part of the owner and improves communication between you and your dog. If both you and your dog are quite active, agility is the perfect sport.
Pictured here is my corgi Eve in her first ever agility competition.
Learn more at AKC Agility.
Photo Credit Puppy on a Roomba (with Sirius Pet Images)
Treibball 3 of 9
Treibball is a a relatively new sport in which dogs push exercise balls into soccer goals. Eight balls are placed on a field, and the owner directs the dog to push the balls into the goal within a set time period. The owner is confined to an area just around the goal and allowed to use verbal cues and hand signals to direct the dog to bring in the balls one at a time.
Treibball is particularly good for active dogs and dogs that have a herding instinct. It promotes some of the same communication and confidence skills as agility, but the owner does not have to be as physically active.
Learn more at the American Treibball Association.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Dock Diving 4 of 9
If your dog loves water, dock diving just might be your sport. Dogs learn to jump from docks or platforms into the water, and competitions are judged on distance and height.
Learn more at DockDogs.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Flyball 5 of 9
Flyball is a team sport that mixes aspects of agility with speed and retrieving. In a flyball competition, two teams of four dogs each race relay style down a 51-foot course of jumps. At the end is a box that the dog must trigger to release a ball. The dog then retrieves the ball and returns over the jumps. Once the first dog returns, the next is released until all four have completed the course.
Flyball often attracts fast, high-energy dogs, and is good for those who enjoy team sports and competition.
Learn more at the North American Flyball Association.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Noseworks 6 of 9
Noseworks is another relatively new sport. Dogs are trained in the same manner that police drug dogs are trained to detect and find scent. However, instead of searching for contraband, the dogs search for birch, anise, and clove scents. The dog learns to find scent that is hidden in rooms, in containers, and on vehicles, and then alerts their owner to the find.
Dogs tend to love noseworks. My own get very excited when I bring out the birch scent to play "hide and seek." Noseworks is also easily trained at home and does not require expensive equipment purchases, making it good for budget-minded owners.
Learn more at K9 Noseworks.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Disc Dog 7 of 9
In Disc Dog, or dog frisbee, owners throw discs for their dogs to catch and can compete in events involving distance and freestyle catching, in which the owner and dog perform tricks associated with catching the discs.
Fun to do and relatively inexpensive, disc dog is a good choice for many, especially those who have dogs that enjoy jumping and retrieving.
Learn more at Skyhoundz.
Photo Credit Sally Wehner
Lure Coursing 8 of 9
In lure coursing, a plastic bag or other object (the lure) is attached to a string and pulled over a large field. The dog then chases the lure. Lure coursing competition is limited to purebred sighthounds, but there is a pass/fail test run by AKC for all breeds, and many private operations allow any breed to come run a course just for fun.
No specific training is required to enjoy lure coursing. Instead, the natural instinct of the dog to chase the moving object is all that is required. I have taken my corgis lure coursing and my high-energy corgi, Eve, particularly loved it. If your dog likes to play chase, it will love running a lure course!
Learn more at AKC Lure Coursing.
Photo Credit: Stephen Routh
Herding 9 of 9
Herding involves herding animals into an enclosure. Generally it is best suited for herding dog breeds, who have the natural instinct to direct the animals. It is a rewarding sport that fosters communication between the owner and the dog. However, given that it requires space and livestock, it can be harder to find in metropolitan areas.
Learn more at AKC Herding.
Photo Credit: Arbutus
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