5 Dog Sports to Keep Your Dog Active

Wondering how you can help your pooch burn energy? Do you think they’d be good at canine sports? There’s a sport for every dog, from agility to obedience trials.

Jun 3, 2024By Nikita Hillier
dog sports to keep your dog active

Dog sports offer a unique opportunity for both dogs and their owners to exercise, bond, and have plenty of fun together! From agility courses to earthdog tests, there are many diverse activities suited to every canine’s personality and physical limitations.

In this guide, we will take an in-depth look at some breed-specific sports, along with the basics of each.

1. Agility

border collie dog jumping through agility hoop
Image Credit: Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash

Agility is a fast-paced sport where dogs must navigate an obstacle course consisting of tunnels, jumps, weave poles, and much more. It requires speed, coordinated movements, and most of all, communication between both dog and handler.

Agility training involves teaching your dog to follow commands, build confidence with different types of obstacles, and refining handling techniques with the help of consistent positive reinforcement.

This educational and fun sporting activity helps to:

Agility courses also are great for exercising a dog's mind, giving them plenty of opportunities to learn and solve problems. Breeds with natural athleticism and intelligence excel in agility. These include Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Shetland Sheepdogs.

2. Earthdog Tests

dachshund completing earthdog test
Image Credit: Dachshund Club of NSW

Not many people know about this dog sport. Why? It mostly takes place underground!

Earthdog tests target terriers that were originally bred to hunt vermin in tunnels. Here, dogs must navigate underground obstacle courses to locate a caged “prey,” which is usually a rat. The competing dogs must do this within a specified time limit.

Small breeds, such as Dachshunds, Glen of Imaal Terriers, and Miniature Schnauzers are very well-suited for earthdog tests. This is because they have great tenacity and genetic prey drive to do exactly what is needed in this sport. Training for earthdog tests involves introducing your dog to tunnels and encouraging their natural hunting instincts in a safe and controlled environment.

3. Obedience Trials

man and small puppy doing training
Image Credit: Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Obedience trials essentially test a dog's ability to perform a series of commands with precision and reliability while listening to their owner. Some of the competitions included in these trials include recalls, heelwork, and various other engaging exercises that demonstrate both obedience and control. The better your dog performs, the higher the score.

During these trials, both the dog and handler work together to perform various obedience exercises that were previously discussed prior to the competition. Then, they are evaluated and scored by a judge. Better yet, it is never too late to teach your dog how to compete in obedience trials. Yep, even your older dog can still be trained!

Breeds that are known for their eagerness, intelligence, and drive to please absolutely excel in obedience trials. Some of these dog breeds include:

Training for obedience trials requires teaching dogs specific commands using positive reinforcement techniques. This involves associating a behavior with a positive response, such as a high value treat or verbal praise.

4. Dock Diving

labrador retriever dog dock diving
Image Credit: Whole Dog Journal

Dock diving, also known by enthusiasts as dock jumping, is a unique water sport where dogs run and jump off a dock. For dogs that love water and have strong retrieval instincts, it is a great outlet for all of their energy. Breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Belgian Malinois are naturals when it comes to dock diving.

Training for this sport involves building your dog's confidence on the dock, teaching them an easy-to-remember and reliable recall, and honing in on their jumping technique with the help of positive reinforcement and consistency.

While this sport is relatively new, many owners are taking their dogs out to give it a shot. The reviews are coming in, and more often than not, owners say their dogs are loving it! If you’ve never seen it before, we definitely recommend checking out some videos of dock diving on YouTube!

5. Tracking

chocolate labrador tracking scents
Image Credit: Veit Hammer on Unsplash

Many dogs excel at tracking-specific sports because of their amazing sense of smell. Yet, some dogs are definitely better at it than others! This sport tests a dog’s ability to follow a scent trail to locate specific items or targets. As above, this is a natural behavior for dogs, making it easily accessible to a wide range of breeds.

However, some breeds do very well in tracking sports due to their strong scenting abilities, prey drive, and determination. These breeds include German Shepherds, Bloodhounds, and Basset Hounds. Training for this sport involves introducing your dog to tracking by laying scent trails and gradually increasing the difficulty.

It also includes teaching the dog to independently follow trails and refine their skills via practice and positive reinforcement. It is an interesting sport that requires a great amount of skill, practice, and focus from both canines and their handlers.

There Are Many Dog Sports to Try

schnauzer dog running through tunnel
Image Credit: Angel Luciano on Unsplash

Dog sports are gaining a lot of traction. Not only do they lend to thrilling competitive events, but they ultimately strengthen the bond between dog and handler.

If you have any of the breeds listed above, why not give some breed-specific sporting events a shot? Even if you don’t have any of the dogs listed here, mixed-breed dogs excel at many trials. Their genetic makeup gives them the “best of both worlds” when it comes to competing.

Remember: dog sports aren’t about who’s the best. It’s all about showing up, participating, and having fun with your furry friend.

Nikita Hillier
By Nikita Hillier

Nikita is a huge animal lover who has grown up on a farm with many different animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cows! She has a lot of experience in the equine industry and is even in the process of studying for an internationally accredited Equine Sports Massage Certificate! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her beloved animals!