You probably know that regular exercise is essential for maintaining good health. The same goes for our dogs.
Few dogs engage in regular activity. However, there are many sports and recreational activities. We tend to forget that getting enough exercise is as vital for our canine friends as it is for us. Exercise allows your dog to release stored energy. Not participating in regular activity can lead to bad behavior (destruction, barking, etc.) Exercise also helps maintain muscle tone and flexibility, while keeping them alert and stimulated.
Where to start ?
Most dogs need a 30 to 60 minute daily walk. Even if you have a garden, it is essential that your dog be able to go outside every day. It’s also beneficial for both of you and one of the great pleasures of having a canine companion. However, a daily walk, no matter how enjoyable, may not be enough to meet all of her physical and mental needs. The good news is that dog sports today are as fun, diverse and accessible as sports for humans. From agility to Frisbee, there are endless ways to maintain or improve your dog’s fitness.
Which dogs can play sports?
Before introducing your companion to a new sport, know that the physical and mental capacities of each dog are different. By his race, his age, his physical condition, his character, in short by his individuality.
All dogs can generally play sports once they have finished growing (so not before about 18 months). You can start soft activities on the flat before that age (so no jumping, no slalom for example).
One must also take into account the health of the dog. A veterinary check-up is always recommended. Your vet should be able to assess your dog’s muscle mass and tone. He must detect any health problem before choosing a sport that suits him.
Some dogs, such as the brachycephalic (squashed muzzle) breeds, may also not be naturally adapted to certain activities. For these dogs, intense running or overheating can pose a real health risk.
The most popular dog sports
There is a very wide range of dog sports. Most can be done in your garden, in the forest, in clubs or at a competitive level. Each sport offers different benefits to your dog and emphasizes certain skills or abilities.
While this list is not exhaustive, here are some of the more popular dog sports:
It is one of the most popular dog sports today. In this sport, your dog must complete an obstacle course as quickly as possible by following your instructions while you run alongside him. Obstacles can include different types of jumps, tunnels or even a swing. As the name suggests, this very complete sport develops your dog’s agility, flexibility and listening skills. Although it is particularly suitable for high energy dogs, such as the Border Collie, all types of dogs can practice agility.
This sport emphasizes endurance and speed. The idea is to run while being trained by your dog. This is particularly suitable for dogs such as the husky. But, it can be done with any dog, as long as they are fit and like to run. The equipment used for this sport is: a lap belt for the handler, a traction harness for the dog and a line that attaches the handler to the dog.
It is a recreational sport in which a dog harnessed (or several) to a cyclist. It is a great sport for active dogs who are already in good condition and like to run. This sport was originally designed to allow mushers to practice driving with their dogs outside of winter.
It is a sport that tests the dog’s ability to walk away from its owner to collect balloons and bring them back under indication to his human. It is a very enjoyable sport and is accessible to all types of dog since the size of the ball will depend on the size of the dog. We see a lot of sheepdogs in this sport, as it makes us feel like the dog is gathering a flock.
Stand-up paddleboarding with your dog is also fun and more and more popular. All you need is a board, yourself and your dog, plus a body of water large enough to paddle on. In this sport, you will undergo the real training and your dog will benefit from his ride on the water. However, it can be fun and stimulating for him to be in the water as well as giving him the opportunity to swim.
The cani-run is basically a lure race. A bit like greyhound racing, the dog is asked to chase a lure. But, to avoid developing the predatory instinct or to have better control over it, the cani-run is gradually taught to the dog so that it acquires self-control. The dog therefore learns to wait and give up the lure before finally being rewarded (Premack principle).
There are many other dog sports. Dogs shouldn’t just sit around and wait for us. They should be offered recreational and sports activities regularly.
There is a dog sport for each master / dog duo. And while a main reason for exercising with your dog is often to increase his level of exercise, you’ll find that spending time together is most satisfying. Whatever sport you decide to try with your dog, be sure to start slowly and gradually.