Tag Archives: dog sports

Picture of a Black Brussels Griffon taking an agility jump to illustrate dog sports.

Have fun playing dog sports

Last week we encouraged you to have more fun with your dog. This week we’re going to give a (very) brief overview of some of the dog sports that are out there to play. Some, like Obedience and Agility, you’ve probably heard of. You may even have taken a class or two or seen a televised competition. Those are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s lots of different sports with vastly different levels of activity and training – for you and your dog.

Just off the top of our head we could come up with a dozen and a half. Our list may not be inclusive, but it provides a jumping-off point for you. There are so many things you could do to have more fun with your dog.

Dog Sports:

This is the list of dog sports we came up with – in no particular order but how we thought of them:

Obedience: Probably the most formal of the dog sports, and the one for people who don’t like surprises. Every level of obedience competition has a set group of exercises, always done the same way. This is for people (and dogs) who like attention to detail and no surprises.

Rally Obedience: Rally was introduced as a more casual introduction to Obedience, but has blossomed and become a popular sport all on its own. Like Agility, every time you perform a Rally course, it’s a different challenge, although the skills you use repeat. It’s a timed sport, at a walking pace. Most of Rally involves heeling in different configurations, like serpentines, or turns from 180 to 360 degrees.Your dog will also need to know “Sit!,” “Down,” “Stand!” and “Stay!”

Picture of a Black Brussels Griffon taking an agility jump to illustrate dog sports.
In his prime, Fran’s Tango loved Agility!

Agility: Running and jumping, with tunnels, climbing obstacles, and equipment that moves, like the see-saw. Agility is a fast-paced sport that requires you and your dog to think on your feet quickly. 

Nose Work: This sport takes advantage of dogs’ natural ability to detect scents in different environments with many challenges. There are four primary scents you train your dog to find in AKC Nose Work; Birch, Anise, Clove, and Cypress. It’s like a scavenger hunt for dogs. Your job is to recognize your dog’s signal when they find the hidden scent.

More to play:

There is a dog sport for everyone, even if you’re not a competitive person. Most people just want to have fun with their dogs. That’s something we can all agree on.

Barn Hunt: Also uses the dog’s natural instincts. In this case, to find rats (secured in a tube they’re trained for) hidden among bales of hay. It involves climbing, tunneling, and scenting. Your job, as in Nose Work, is to recognize when your dog finds the hidden rat tubes.

Lure Coursing: A sport for Sight Hounds, including the Italian Greyhound. Dogs chase a mechanized white plastic lure that’s pulled around a track. Sight Hounds are designed to run, and this sport lets them do what comes naturally!

Fast CAT: The “CAT” stands for Coursing Ability Test. This is a 100 yard dash that every dog can play. As in Lure Coursing, there’s a mechanized lure that the dogs chase. One dog runs at a time, so it’s just your dog against the clock. For dogs who love to run, this is a chance to show off their natural ability.

Disc Dog: For dogs who love to catch things and play fetch. There are all kinds of Disc Dog games, and, quite honestly, we haven’t researched all the ins and outs. But if you’re pretty good at disc throwing, and your dog loves to retrieve, this may be your dog sport.

Freestyle: also known as “dancing with dogs,” is for creative people who love music, dance, and playing with their dogs. The routines people put together are remarkable and impressive, but there’s plenty of room for novice handler/dog teams as well. 

Trick dog: Your dog can start earning titles and showing off with tricks we’d bet they already know. Can your dog “Spin!” ? or jump through a hoop? Those are just a couple of the 10 tricks dogs can perform to earn the Novice Trick Dog title. At the upper levels of the sport people choreograph entire stories to tell, with props, costumes, and a script. 

Enough for now?

Are you starting to get an idea of the vast number of choices available to you? We’re just getting started. If any of these sound interesting, do an internet search for that sport “near me.” You’ll get an idea of the dog clubs, facilities, and possibilities in your area. 

And if none of these sound like you and your dog, you can also look for:

  • Urban Ratting
  • Tracking
  • Flyball
  • Treibball
  • Dog Diving
  • Earth Dog
  • Weight Pulling
  • Canicross
  • Skijoring
  • Bikejoring

If there are some we’ve neglected to mention, please let us know. Dogs are wonderful companions and yours will be happy to be your partner in whatever adventures you choose. 

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Picture of a woman and brindle French Bulldog heeling to illustrate do something with your dog

Do something with your dog

January is National Train Your Dog month. To get out there and do something with your dog. The timing sucks because most New Year’s resolutions are things that you really don’t want to do but think you should. January is when all the diet, fitness, and organizing commercials hit you in the face. Dog training isn’t a “really should but don’t want to” thing. Because if it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong. Dog training is a joy, not a chore.

So, you ask, what should you do with your dog? The answer is: it depends on your personality and your interests. As well as your dog’s age, personality, and fitness level. If you love running and your dog does, too, maybe try Agility. If you love precision and your dog adores routine, Obedience may be your sport. Or if you’re somewhere in the middle and like a good walk with some “tricks” or fancy footwork, Rally is your game.

There really is an array of dog activities for everyone. If you want to see your dog using their natural abilities, you might want to look into Barn Hunt or Scent Work. If your dog loves running fast and chasing prey, how about Fast CAT? There’s also sports for dogs who love catching flying discs, fetching stuff, and herding stuff. There are even tricks competitions and, for people who love music and dance, there’s Freestyle. 

You don’t even have to go anywhere, if you don’t want to. You can easily train at home and even enter virtual competitions. If you watch the videos of the Trick Dog competitors, you’ll probably think to yourself “That’s so fun! I bet we could do that!” You’d be absolutely right. Your dog can do that.

Attitude is everything

You have a dog because dogs are fun, affectionate, and smart companions. You love them and want them to have the biggest, happiest life. And we’ll tell you a secret – dogs who know “stuff” are more confident, happier, and better family members. They work with you as a teammate, and can take more responsibility for their actions. 

An additional side benefit is that making your dogs think and learn is more tiring for them than running miles or playing fetch. Remember how tired you got taking finals in school? Using their brains is not only fun, it’s also tiring. Your dog will definitely need a nap after a training session.

Picture of a woman and brindle French Bulldog heeling to illustrate do something with your dog

Our own training site, 2-Minute-Trainer.com, is called that because training sessions should be short, really short. Two minutes is extreme, five is more realistic. But for those few minutes, your focus is entirely on your dog. You get to escape from whatever else is going on in life. And your dog will thrive with your exclusive attention.

The first thing to do is change your mindset about the word “training.” Just the sound of it makes people think of sweating, repetitious drills, and other unpleasant things. It’s all about playing fun games with your dog that happens to have the side benefit of teaching them stuff. Don’t think “I have to go train now.” Think “I get to play games with my best friend now!”

Don’t be shy

Another very cool thing about playing training games at home. No one will ever know if you don’t do it “right,” feel awkward, or look stupid. Your dog is never going to tell anyone. And if you do take video (which you should), you never have to show it to anyone. You can watch it and see how darn adorable your team is.

If you go to a class, keep in mind that everyone there is in the same boat you are. If they’re not rank beginners now, it’s only because they started where you are and kept going. They kept at it because they saw what a difference it made in their dog. Everybody starts at the same point. The people who keep going are the ones who are seizing the chance to have a bigger, better life for themselves and their dogs.

You can get started today. Pick a game, any game. Try “Gimme Your Face” to start. You won’t need anything but and some treats

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There’s no people like dog people

Last Saturday I (Hope) was at the AKC National Championship Dog Show. Among the people we know, there’s a saying: “A bad day at a dog show is better than a good day at work.”

I’m not entirely sure about that since I love what I do, but it was a great time. There was something for everyone who loves dogs: conformation (the beauty pageant part), Obedience, Rally Obedience, Agility, and Dock Diving, “Meet the Breeds,” and shopping. Lots and lots of shopping.

Let’s go to a show!

If you’ve never been to a dog show, take advantage if you see one in your area. It’s a world unto itself, with its own language, customs, rules, and etiquette. The most important rule is never try to engage someone who’s about to compete with their dog. They’ll be nervous, and probably seem rude. But if you wait until they come out of the ring and start by saying how much you admire their dog, your reception will be much warmer. No one can resist a complement for their “kids!”

Technically, the Agility part, where I spent most of my time, was the Invitational – the top five dogs (and one “preferred” dog) in each breed are invited to compete. The top finisher in each breed is awarded the breed medallion. 

You may know that my breed is French Bulldogs. And through the years I’ve gotten to know many other French Bulldog owners. Our dogs aren’t renowned as one of the most athletic breeds, or one of the smartest, but those of us who choose to play sports with our Frenchies have become a rather tight group. 

Cheer squad

5 dog people holding french bulldogs

There were six Frenchies slated to compete, but one, unfortunately, was unable to come at the last minute. All the rest, all five, were there for every single for everyone. Cheering, recording, sympathizing, supporting. And that’s why I love being part of dog sports. 

I was there as “kennel help.” Another Frenchie person actually brought an entire entourage of four. Two had no one helping them – except for their Frenchie “peeps” who stepped up and were there.

Meet more dog people

We’ve said it many times and will repeat it forever – dog people are among the finest on the planet. And a welcoming community as well. If you’re ever feeling the need for a home away from home – get involved with a dog club or group. 

You can start with taking a class at a local club. Finding one may be as easy as saying “Okay, Google!” Or “Hey, Siri!” Resolve to spend your time doing things you’ll enjoy with like-minded people. Resolve to have some fun with two- and four-legged friends. 

Dog shows explained – Rally and Agility

All dogs can compete in dog sports –  any size, breed, mixed breed. All dogs are welcome. Although all require some training to be successful – and to compete safely.

Rally and Agility are more active, fun-to-watch dog “sports.

Rally Trials go with Obedience Trials, but Rally is the faster, louder, little sibling of Obedience.

A couple similarities between Rally and Agility – both have a set “course” the dog/handler team must follow. Both allow the “handlers” (people part of the team) to “walk the course” before competing. Both are timed. Both allow you to talk to your dog while competing. Both are fun!

Rally Obedience

Getting involved in Rally is probably the easiest transition into dog sports. At the first level of competition (Novice), everything the dog has to do are variations of the regular “sit, down, stay, heel” commands. The Rally Novice course is performed entirely on-leash and there are only between 10 and 15 signs, or behaviors, that the team needs to complete.

French Bulldog Dax in Rally competition.

Dax competing in Rally Obedience.

Rally courses are laid out so they’re easy to follow. The signs are always on the person’t right-hand side, and they have instructions like “Turn Left” or “Halt. Walk around dog.”

Once you’ve seen a couple of teams go through the course, you’ll start to know the pattern of the course and know better how the team is doing, if they’ve completed the signs correctly, and begin to truly enjoy the teamwork and fun of it.

As you progress through the levels of Rally (Intermediate, Advanced, Excellent, and Masters), the behaviors on the signs get increasingly difficult, the dogs compete off-leash, and the wonderful teamwork of the experienced competitors and their dogs truly begins to shine. It takes quite a bit of training to do side-by-side spins with your dog!


Agility is the running, jumping, climbing, obstacle-course-racing part of dog sports.

Agility is the one that may look like it’s just an all-out race, and in some aspects, it is! The trick to agility isn’t to get your dog to run – all dogs can run. Or jump – most dogs can jump. It’s to do all the “stuff” in the right order at the fastest possible speed.

Most of the obstacles involved in agility are jumps. There are also tunnels a few yards long, the “dog walk” which is a one-foot-wide board four feet off the ground, weave poles (12 for the upper levels, six for Novice dogs), a seesaw, an A-Frame that towers over five feet tall, and the “Pause table” – which brings the run to a complete halt for five seconds. It shows that the chaos of the agility course truly is under control.

Boston Terrier Booker on the Agility seesaw

Booker on the agility seesaw.

Every trial features a different course, created by the judge, that has the obstacles in a different order in different patterns. There are rules the judge has to follow in creating courses, like the distance between obstacles, what order they can be in, etc. The obstacles are numbered. Competitors “walk the course” for eight minutes before their competition class begins.

Agility is also the sport where it’s most important to find a good instructor – it can be dangerous for the dogs if done incorrectly. And for the people.

Everybody (and their dogs!) can do it!

Everyone who wants to find a place to play with their dogs can find dog sports to suit. Find more information about all our favorites on the American Kennel Club website.

Explore them, find out which one(s) you enjoy, get out there and have fun with your dog. You’ll meet some of the best people in the world – dog people!