Which Dog Sport Is Best for Your Dog?

Have you ever wondered if your dog could compete in dog sports? There are many for dogs to try, let’s dive in and find one best for your dog.

May 12, 2024By Holly Ramsey
which dog sport is best for your dog

Training for a sport builds a strong bond between you and your dog and gives your dog something fun to look forward to. But, where do you start? Finding which dog sport is best for your dog is not difficult. Check out the different types of dog sports and see which one interests you and fits your dog’s natural abilities.

Research Different Dog Sports

dog running after ball in grass
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Before you jump in with your dog, take the time to research the different sports that interest you. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and United Kennel Club (UKC) host several dog sports. Find events near you and go in person to watch and ask questions. Dog sports are an excellent way for your dog to get the exercise it needs.

Most people participating in dog sports are happy to chat with newcomers after their dog is done competing. Do not bother people who are getting ready to compete, they and their dogs will need to focus. Some breeds excel in certain performance events over other breeds. For instance, you would not enter an English Bulldog in dock diving or a Pekingese in lure coursing. But a Greyhound would excel in lure coursing and a Whippet just may outjump most other dogs in dock diving.

Agility

border collie weave poles
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Almost any breed can participate in agility events, even mixed heritage dogs can join the fun. Giant breeds should not do competitive agility, instead they should use modified obstacles that are not hard on their joints.

Agility takes a lot of training and repetitive tasks as you lead your dog through a series of obstacles. As you and your dog become more comfortable with the course, you will pick up the pace and run the course as fast as you can. Dogs are timed in agility and the fastest time in your dog’s size division is the winner.

Flying Disc

disc dog challenge dog jumping
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Dogs that have a knack for playing fetch and love to jump will excel in flying disc challenges. Most toy breeds do not do well in flying disc challenges, overweight dogs or dogs that tire easily also do not excel in this sport.

Flying disc competitions are basically supercharged Frisbee where the dog is required to fetch a disc that is thrown by their handler. The dog should be able to leap into the air and catch the disc in mid-air. Competitive flying disc has several events to test accuracy, time, zoning, and distance, and there is even a freestyle event.

Dock Diving

dock diving retriever
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Dogs that love water and playing fetch will love this sport. Most breeds and mixed breeds can compete, puppies under six months should not do dock diving and several of the giant breeds should also avoid the diving pool.

Several organizations offer dock diving, making it an easy-to-find event for you and your dog. The handler will throw a toy or disc into the water and the dog jumps in after it. Dogs are judged on the distance of their jump.

Earthdog Trials and Barn Hunts

earthdog trial westie
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Terriers and small hounds such as Jack Russell Terriers, Cairn Terriers, Dachshunds, and Beagles, will excel in Earthdog trials and barn hunts. Large or giant breed dogs do not do well in these competitions. Earthdog trials were made for terriers and small hounds to race through tunnels to find a rat in an underground den. Do not fear for the rat, it is safely enclosed in a cage that the dog cannot open.
Barn hunts are similar in style but are above ground and your dog must search out the rat, also in a safe enclosure. While these events are considered non-competitive, you can earn titles in both and your dog is judged on how quickly they locate the rat.

Herding Trials

border collie herding
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Breeds that are inclined to herd, including Corgis, Heelers, German Shepherds, Cattle Dogs, and Collies are best suited for herding trials. While many herding dogs do have herding instincts, intense training is still needed to be competitive at these trials.

Young puppies and breeds not naturally inclined to herd should not partake in herding trials. Your dog will be around livestock, sometimes younger stock not used to dogs. Their athleticism may be put to the test when some of the livestock becomes unruly. Your dog will be sent into an enclosure and expected to round up the flock or herd and move them into a pen.

Rally Obedience

golden retriever rally obedience
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Sometimes called Rally or Rally-O, Rally obedience is great for almost any dog, purebred or mixed heritage. Dogs must work with their handlers and move through a course of at least ten numbered stations. Each station has a certain task that must be completed.

Dogs are judged on how quickly they respond to each command given and points are deducted for slow responses or failure to execute a command. Your dog can earn titles in Rally and is less physically demanding than agility.

Scent Work

dog doing scent work
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Hounds, especially scent hounds, will excel at scent work. Using your dog’s natural ability for tracking odors, scent work trials test your dog’s ability to find specific scents. Search and rescue and police dogs also use scent work as a way to train.

Playing games with your dog requiring them to find specific scents is a fun training method. Your dog will love playing games and you are strengthening their instincts. Dogs that do not necessarily excel in other sports may find scent work fun and exciting.

golden agility jump
Image credit: thesprucepets.com

These are just a few of the more popular dog sports you can do with your dog. Take the time to see well-trained dogs in action in each sport and talk to people participating in these sports. Also, take a look at what your dog loves to do. If they like to dig holes and search out vermin in the yard, Earthdog trials or barn hunts may be fun. If your dog likes water and playing fetch, give dock diving a try. The main thing is to have fun and enjoy the time being spent with your furry companion.

Holly Ramsey
By Holly Ramsey

Holly is a 2nd generation dog breeder/trainer and has over 25 years of experience with several different breeds. She enjoys working with her Japanese Chin and Rough Collies and helping her mom and daughter with their chosen breeds. Most evenings, Holly is hanging out with her daughter watching movies, crafting, or playing with the fur-kids.