Dog sports are hugely popular in Australia.
In particular, Queensland lends itself to wonderful conditions to pursue sporting activities with our dogs.
So, what’s the big deal?
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing your dog experiencing an activity that they love or are literally built for, that’s the big deal. Dog sports is about creating an environment that stimulates your dog’s brain and body in ways a regular walk or play may not be able to quite achieve.
Speaking from personal experience, participating in agility with Marlo and more recently Nose Work with both Chisel and Marlo (more about that later) has created a much stronger bond with my dogs than I could ever have realised.
It’s also an opportunity for me to spend one-on-one time with each of them. While I’m training with my dogs, the distractions of the day are forgotten – it’s all about us.
Depending on the personality of your dog, an appropriate sport can help use their excess energy, their brain and bodies in a way that improves their daily life quality. For example, Chisel, my little Miniature Fox Terrier is highly anxious. He struggles with even a simple activity such as a walk and can become very reactive. To see him during our Nose Work classes, he is calmer, far less reactive to other dogs and more independent from me!
What sports are there?
There are so many sports you and your dog can do. To name a few (and there are many more):
- Dock Diving.
- Nose Work (also known as Scent Work, though I believe the approaches to training can be slightly different).
- Lure Coursing.
- Trick Training.
What should I consider before I choose a sport for us?
Your dog’s breed & traits. Research what your dog’s breed was originally bred for. Does your dog portray these traits? If so, select a sport that will closely mimic their instincts, drive and personality.
Your dog’s conformation. Is he or she physically built for the sport you have in mind? Brachycephalic (snub nosed) dogs are not built for fast, athletic sports such as agility or lure coursing. In fact, it can be dangerous for them, whereas working breeds often naturally have the agility and pace for these sports.
Your dog’s health and fitness. This includes their musculoskeletal structure and maturity, their fitness (in terms of cardio and strength). Some sports have a high impact on joints. So much so that dogs will often need to be at least a minimum age before they start. A dog who is skeletally immature is highly susceptible to injury. For all dog’s, obesity, even just a little bit, can negatively impact your dogs ability to participate is some sports.
This is in green because it’s so important: Please learn from my misjudgment. Marlo was incredible at agility. She was smart, fast, fun and accurate. Her fitness and her weight were perfect, but her musculoskeletal structure was not. It was over time that the pressures and impacts of agility (and her habit of tearing through life with all cylinders blasting) that she started to struggle. These days, we have retired her from agility and enrolled her into nose work. This slower, low impact sport supports her body, works her brain, and we also spend a lot of home our time working on supporting and strengthening her body.
Your own health and fitness. Some sports are just as taxing on the handler as the dog. Consider what you can manage safely.
Regardless of the sport you choose for your dog, ensure that the training group or club you join are reputable – the care and focus on safety for their members and dogs should be first and foremost. Their training approach should be aligned with current recommendations – force-free and with positive reinforcement.
Where can I find a good training groups?
There are several great training groups and clubs around. Google can be your friend, be mindful to check reviews, visit the club during a training night (please contact them prior to doing this to ensure it is appropriate in these COVID times), speak with some of the club members.
Speak with your veterinary staff. You’ll find so many people who work in the animal care industry are also avid dog sport players. They’ll be able to make recommendations or at least point you in the right direction.
What else should I do before starting?
A health check up with your vets, animal physio or animal health profession.
Even when you start, remember to keep up all the good habits that makes your dog healthy, comfortable and strong. If you need me, you know where I am: