Dog Sports: Fitness Exercises for Dogs
That’s where the exciting world of dog sports comes in! Your dog can take part in a large number of new and exciting sports designed just for them – and they’re loads of fun for you, too. Some of these sports might require special accessories or a particular venue, but if you have some creativity you can train at home too.
Not all dogs’ sports are about competition – they’re also a great way for your dog to meet others and for you to socialise as well. However, some dogs do recognise that they’re competing and really enjoy it – especially when they win! For breeds that require a lot of exercise, dog sports can burn of all that excess energy and promote great health too.
There are loads of sports you can try with your dog, so we’ve put together some of the most popular. Happy playing!
Dog agility is a very popular modern sports for dogs, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: the training and testing of your dog’s agility skills, as well as the way your dog responds to your commands.
This canine sport first appeared at Cruft's in 1977, where it began as a small hurdle race for dogs. It was a hit with the dogs taking part, as well as their owners, and the sport became a runaway success – literally so, in the case of some mischievous and overexcited participants!
What is dog agility?
- In dog agility, your dog moves through an obstacle course with your guidance.
- Dogs run off lead, so your only controls are voice and body language, requiring some exceptional obedience training.
All that moving around will help keep both of you fit, and your training skills will improve every time you practise. If your dog is taking part in a competitive event accuracy and speed are important factors, but if you’re just having fun all the skills they’ve learned will still be useful – even if they insist on running under the hurdle rather than jumping over it!
You can find out more about dog agility and related nationwide events on The Kennel Club website.
Most dogs love playing flyball – and when you’re a spectator, it’s easy to see why this dog sport is so popular!
What is flyball?
- Flyball is an obstacle race involving two teams of four dogs.
- In the game, dogs from each team spring over a series of jumps (usually four), run to a box, activate a catapult machine with their front paws, catch the ball that flies out and race all the way back to the start.
- The team that finishes first wins, but no matter who comes out on top there’s no doubt that everyone has loads of fun.
In flyball there are lots of interesting techniques your dog can learn from you. As well as having to clear the hurdles, your dog needs to keep a smooth approach and land well to cover the maximum amount of distance in the least time possible. A tight turn at the catapult box can mean the difference between winning and losing, so there’s lots of fun to be had training, too. If your dog loves to catch balls and run at full speed off the lead, just imagine what they can do in a flyball race!
You can find out more about flyball on The Kennel Club website.
Dog obedience is a more relaxed sport that doesn’t involve lots of high-speed chasing, but it does mean your dog will stretch their levels of concentration and motivation – and yours, too! As the name suggests, it’s all about your dog’s obedience and their training.
What is obedience training for dogs?
- This popular and useful dog sport involves basic commands such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘heel’, and retrieving things when asked.
- If your dog becomes good at this, you can move to more challenging things such as giving your dog commands from a distance or asking them to ‘stay’ for longer periods of time.
- It’s not as fast as some dog sports, but it’s just as challenging in different ways – which you can see as your clever dog tries to ignore all those tempting distractions, focusing instead on your commands.
You can find out more about obedience training and events on The Kennel Club website.
Dog diving is a relatively new dog sport, and it’s perfect for all those pups who love to splash around in the water. Hugely popular in the US, where it began as ‘dock diving’, dog diving is now a big crowd pleaser at UK exhibitions and events.
What is dog diving?
- The sport involves canine competitors taking it in turns to dive off a ramp into a pool of water to retrieve a toy.
- Quite simply, the winner is the dog that jumps the furthest.
And don't worry about the dogs taking part: you can see the fun they have in the wagging of their tails and the enthusiastic way they launch themselves into the water!
Flying disc is another favourite in the world of dog sports, although you'll probably know it better as playing dog Frisbee in the park. Chances are you’ve already played a game with your dog; at its simplest, flying disc is about you throwing the disc, and your agile dog running and catching it.
The sport got its start in the early 1970s, when Frisbee was a popular sport for humans. The definitive moment came in August of 1974 when US college student Alex Stein jumped the fence at a nationally broadcast baseball game with an amazing dog named Ashley Whippet! Ashley astonished the crowd with eight minutes of catching flying discs, running at 35mph and leaping nine feet in the air to catch them as they flew. The stunt was so novel that the baseball game was stopped, and commentators continued to announce the action to a hooked audience. Alex was eventually escorted off the field, but a new sport had been born!
What is flying disc for dogs?
- If your dog plays competitively, the ‘catch and retrieve’ event is the main part of the sport.
- In a timed round (usually of about a minute), teams of one dog and their owner attempt to make as many throws and catches as possible.
- Teams score the most points for long throw and catch combinations, but in other versions, some freestyling might be involved – so look out for some serious party tricks!
If your dog loves a good game of throw and catch, or they’re good at jumping and catching things mid-air, this might just be the sport for you.
Heelwork to music
You might know this fascinating, rapidly-expanding sport better as 'dog dancing'. Involving cooperation and coordination, this sport is great for dogs that love a bit of team work. And the best part is, you have just as much involvement as they do!
What is dog dancing?
- In dog dancing, you teach your dog to weave around you, as well as displaying other skills.
- These skills come together in a routine that your practise together, often to music.
- Speed and punctuality aren´t important, but success is based on the way you and your dog work together.
With weaving and other skills incorporated into a routine, you really are ‘dancing’ with your dog, making this relaxed yet skilled pastime a great way to spend time with your pet.
You can find out more about heelwork to music at The Kennel Club website.
Before you settle on a sport, why not have a go at a few to see which ones your dog likes best? Whatever you settle on, and regardless of whether you go to a club or practise in the garden, you can be sure of a fantastic time – and your dog won’t be able to wait for the next fun session.