Doing More with Your Dog in the Capital City

skijoring woman have fun in forest

by Michelle O’Dea

Dog adoptions soared nationwide through the pandemic, and Lincoln was no different. Shelters, rescue, and breeders all saw an uptick in the number of people wanting to adopt a new furry friend. Limiting outings with friends lessened, and we turned to ‘puppy love’ to ease our angst. This also spurred an opportunity to spend more time outside—with our new dogs! For many, being outside and walking their dog was not enough. They needed something to stimulate both them and their canine friends. 

Thus, pet sports are on the rise. From dancing with your dog to skijoring to dock diving, the options are nearly endless for activities you can do with your dog. 

The American Kennel Club offers many dog sports for competition, and your dog does not need to be a purebred to participate. If you’re wondering where to begin with dog sports, start with the characteristics of your dog from its size, to its breed tendencies, to what talents he/she shows you in his/her behaviors. 

Dogs that consistently use their noses, might be a good fit for scent work. You might be thinking of dogs that search out cadavers or accelerants used in a suspicious fire, and that is where the foundation of this sport comes from. Dogs are taught to seek out specific scents, such as birch, anise, clove and cypress; and if their nose helps them find the scent, they are deemed successful. This activity often starts indoors and then moved outdoors once the dog begins to show consistency in finding the scent. 

Another AKC scent sport is tracking, which is the competition form of canine search and rescue. A first-level competitor would be required to follow an up to 500-foot track that was created by a human and aged for 30 minutes to two hours. The track includes three to five changes in direction. The goal is for the dog to find the article left by the human at the end of the track. There are varying levels of difficulty for the more advanced scent-driven pooch. 

Does your dog love to run? Then you might try coursing. A Coursing Ability Test (CAT) is a sport where dogs only compete against themselves, not against each other. The dog is expected to chase a lure on a 300- or 600-yard-long course, and finish within 90 or 120 seconds, based on the size of the course. It doesn’t matter whether you pass or fail, as everyone has a good time, especially the dogs. 

Herding dogs have an instinct to move other animals, and sometimes even you, so it is a natural segue into competitive herding tests or trials. This sport is conducted in a pen with live animals such as sheep, cows or ducks. The dog must move the livestock by fetching and driving to move the stock to a predetermined location. Most herding dogs are bred to work, and often get naughty at home when they don’t have something to do. Competitive herding might just be the key to ensuring they are happy and healthy.  

While all dogs can compete, some just have natural abilities at certain activities. Terriers and Dachshunds are bred to do work underground, such as an Earth Dog test or Barn Hunt. Earthdog tests determine how good your dog is at hunting rodents underground. A Barn Hunt is a competitive sport where the dog and handler work together as a team to locate and mark rats hidden in a maze of straw bales. If you were raised on a farm, you know how destructive vermin can be, and what a blessing it would be to have a ‘ratter’ in your employ. 

There are other breed related sports for Beagles, Coonhounds, Sighthounds, Pointers, Retrievers, Spaniels and probably more! The possibilities are endless when it comes to dogs. 

Some canine sports are dependent upon weather. Dock Diving events, for example, are mostly held outdoors, unless an indoor dog pool is available. If you often find yourself at the lake, throwing a toy into the water for your dog to retrieve, this might be the sport for you. Almost any dog can compete in this sport provided they have a love for water, can swim, and have that never-ending drive to retrieve. This sport is a lot like the long-jump in human track competitions, however this is for your dog to jump into a long pool of water to retrieve his/her favorite toy. It’s a lot of fun, but just a warning, you may get a little wet too. 

A winter related sport is skijoring. Whether you want to spend time outside with your dog, or compete in a trial, skijoring is cross-country skiing with your dog. In competitions, this event requires one to three dogs, a pair of skis and a pulling harness. If you love to ski and your dog loves to run through the snow, this might be the best new activity for you both. 

Canine Agility is one of the most common competitive sports next to obedience. This is a timed event where the dog races through an obstacle course with your direction. Not only the dog gets a workout in this event as you are on the course right along with your dog and must be ready to provide him/her with the directional cues. 

Dancing with your dog? Otherwise referred to as Canine Freestyle, dancing with your dog might sound silly, but it takes a lot of skill, focus and practice. Any dog capable of learning obedience and tricks can become masters of the two, and four-legged dance. In this sport, the handler chooses the movements and the music. Your level of creativity is what makes the presentation of the dance spectacular. You’ll see a creative act often with costumes, and a dog who is obviously happy doing its performance. This is a sport you can start practicing in your living room until you’re ready to take your show on the road. 

These are just a few of the activities you can do with your dog. To get involved in canine sports, your first call should be to your local kennel club. If they do not offer the sport you are interested in, they should be able to point you in the right direction of somewhere that does. Also check Facebook groups for the sport you are interested in to make a connection. 

Lincoln has gone to the dogs, and we love it! 

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