Does your dog need some activity, but the typical dog sports such as agility or rally just do not tip your teeter?
While some dogs love the challenge of agility or rally or other organized dog sports, these sports are not good for all dogs. Some dogs can’t handle the class environment and proximity to other dogs, some dogs get bored of the same obstacles over and over again or some have aging joints that can’t handle the speed and impact of the exercises. Often, owners can’t afford the equipment and memberships to keep playing. Summer is the perfect time to get off the beaten path and try something novel!
If you are an adventure seeker, here are some options for you and your pup! Many of these sports offer great calorie-torching, energy-expending, brain-activating engagement for your dog, and some are super for reactive dogs, as they can be done alone or in a larger space.
Sled-pull / Urban Mushing / Carting:
Many dogs love to pull, so why not put that drive to good use? Your dog gets to run, you get to ride… for once he works harder than you do! For dogs living in snowy climes, sled pulling is a great option, but any dog can pull, not just the northern breeds. For dogs that don’t have the option of pulling on snow, the same techniques can be taught using a bicycle or adult size scooter.
Sled dog training requires an appropriate pulling harness, such as an Xback harness or carting harness. The harness will have appropriate padding and distribute the weight of what is being pulled evenly on the dog’s body without causing injury. Do not use your dog’s walking harness. A gang line or tow line is also needed, and a bike helmet and safety equipment are recommended. For slower pullers, carting is an option, where dogs pull a cart but at a walking speed.
Pulling sports should only be practiced when temperatures are under 55 degrees. Note, pulling sports may be too strenuous for short nosed dogs.
Treibball (pronounced Try-ball) or “push-ball” is a sport that originated in Germany. In Treibball, your dog learns to go out into a playing field and push balls, one by one, back to the goal area. The dog needs to control the direction of the ball by pushing with nose, shoulder or tops of paws. The game requires nothing more than inflatable fitness balls and an enclosed yard. The sport is low impact for both the handler and dog, making it a great retirement sport for former agility dogs. In Treibball competitions, dogs work one at a time, so mildly reactive dogs can participate, too.
Parkour, also known as “urban agility,” is a new physically and mentally taxing sport that originated in France. Human participants challenge themselves to use environmental objects as obstacles and creatively transverse the space using them – going over, under, around by jumping, leaping or crawling. While the human version can be a vigorous workout, the dog version doesn’t have to be. Dogs learn to engage with objects in nature, developing mental confidence and physical fitness. Handlers develop their “parkour eye,” or a new way of looking at the environment to see what obstacles can be used for sport. Parkour turns a boring walk around the block into an exciting and fun game. A harness with the leash attached to the back should be used for the dog’s safety.
Geocaching is a fun recreational activity that can be done with a dog or without. geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt with a GPS. Caches are hidden all over. Some consist of a notebook and pencil only, where the finder logs name and date found, then re-hides the cache for the next finder. Other caches contain little trinkets or prizes that are meant to be taken by the finder and replaced with something else. Geocaching need not be strenuous, but it can turn the average hike into a scavenger hunt. Before beginning, do some research on geocache etiquette, because there are rules about using land that is not your own, staying safe, and of course, not littering.
As with all dog sports and activities, please check with your veterinarian to evaluate the health, fitness, and suitability of your dog for your chosen activity.
Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs’ problem behaviors.
Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.
She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.