Have you got an active dog that needs constant stimulation? Or are you looking for ways to bond with your dog more? If you answer yes to these questions or if you’re just looking for something new to do with your dog, you might want to consider starting a hobby with your dog. In this article I will talk about three competitive hobbies for dogs to get active with.
Dog agility is a sport where the dog is guided through a track consisting of various jumps and obstacles and both the speed and accuracy are measured during the completion of the track. In dog agility the handler uses voice and body signals to guide the dog, who runs off leash. No treats or toys are used which means that extensive training is needed to learn this sport.
In agility competitions the dog must complete the track in the correct order and the winner of the competition is the fastest dog with the least amount of mistakes. In addition to standard jumps, the track also contains various obstacles, such as the A-frame, seesaw, tunnel and weave poles.
During the performance both time and accuracy faults are recorded. A time fault will occur if the track is completed over the allotted time. Accuracy faults include missed contact, dropped or knocked bars on jumps, refusal to attempt an obstacle and the handler touching the dog. Each obstacle also has specific faults that can be recorded.
Agility training is best started with a dog that is more than one year old to avoid any harm on developing joints. To get started with training, find out about your local agility association as they likely will provide agility training.
What breeds are the best suited for agility? Any dog can definitely give agility a go, however, the most popular agility breeds include for example Border collie, Shetland sheepdog, Jack Russell terrier and Australian shepard. Some unsuccessful breeds include Great Dane (due to their low energy) and Dachshund (for obvious physical reasons). However, if you are very interested in agility, you can definitely give it a go with any breed!
Dog shows could be described as the canine beauty pageants. In dog shows purebred dogs are presented in front of judges and the dogs get judged on how well they meet the breed standards.
The overall idea is to find the best representation of a specific breed. Dog shows play an important role in dog breeding as breeders generally prefer to breed dogs that have done well in dog shows to ensure the puppies will possess desired traits of the breed.
The good news is that dog shows are available for any breed to attend. The only requirements are for the dog to be purebred and not desexed. In a dog show, a dog is presented in a ring by its handler and the dog is judged by judges that are experts of the breed knowing the breed requirements. Dogs are not only judged by their physical attributes, but also by their movement and temperament.
In dog shows multiple awards are presented with the most common being the best of breed and best of show. Best of breed is awarded to the dog that is considered to be the best representation of its breed and best in show is awarded to the best dog of the whole show, with this award being the highest distinction.
So what to do if you want to start showing your dog? This might vary depending on your location, but generally you need to register your dog with the local kennel club. Once you have done this, you can start enrolling your dog to dog shows.
Before participating in a dog show, it is a good idea to attend a few shows without your dog to get an idea of how your dog should be presented in the ring.
Obedience training means teaching your dog certain commands such as sit, down, stay and come amongst many others. However, if you have an obedient dog and competitive nature, you might be interested in obedience competitions. These are competitions where the obedience of the dog is tested. Generally obedience competitions consist of multiple levels that become progressively more difficult. New dog handlers will start at the very basic level and once they become experienced, they can move on to the more advanced levels.
In an obedience competition the judge will ask you to guide your dog to perform a set of commands. Importantly, the dog has to be off leash when these commands are performed. At the basic level the commands include for example sit, stand and recall. At the more advanced level new commands are introduced, such as retrieval of an item, jumping over jumps, scent discrimination (the dog has to retrieve a similar item that the owner has touched) and performing commands with no voice (signals only).
Each exercise has a maximum number of points and to pass a level a minimum number of points has to be achieved as stated by the rule book (this can vary country to country). The judges assess both the dog and the handler when allocating points.
So which dog breeds can attend obedience completions? The good news is that these competitions are open for any dog breed. However, the most successful breeds tend to be sheepdogs (e.g. Border collie, Shetland sheepdog), retrievers (e.g. Labrador retriever, Golden retriever) and shepard dogs (e.g. German shepard, Australian shepard).
It is good to remember though that dogs are individuals so breeds that are not generally considered obedient or easy to train can also excel in these competitions.
If you are interested in getting started in obedience competitions (or training to begin with), contact your local kennel club for more information,
Have fun and bond with your dog
Finally, if you decide to get started with a hobby for dogs, it is a good reminder to not take competing too seriously. Dogs are animals that want to please their owners, so even if you have an unsuccessful day, it is still important to praise your dog for doing its best. You should take the competitions as a bonding experience with your dog. Also, if you don’t succeed in one sport, you can always try another one.
If you have any questions about these dog hobbies or if you would like to share your experience, please comment below.
Wishing lots fun and active times and many happy barks and & walks!