We know that dog owners boast better health and longer lives than the pet-less population, but what's the secret to achieving it? Dog owners know the importance of spending time with their companions, but sometimes the walk around the park or occasional frisbee toss become mundane. For those fanciers looking for a new hobby or more exciting way to spend time with their furry friends, companion sports may be the answer.
If you enjoy competing on a time clock and like the idea of alongside your canine companion, then agility may be the sport for you. As the fastest growing dog sport in the USA, here, you and your dog work as a pair to race through an obstacle course, complete with jumps and tunnels. Although you, the handler, do not have to weave through poles or balance on a teeter-totter, you go have to guide your dog through each obstacle and complete the maze. Although a great deal of time and training go into this sport, it is one that always boasts new exciting experiences on each run of competition.
If racing against time doesn’t suit you, but you know your dog would enjoy some of the same obstacle-course type of challenges, rally may be your calling. Rally blends obedience and agility, but moves more on the pace of the dog and handler team. This sport definitely is more laid-back, but it does still give that sense of fun and excitement.
Obedience is certainly the strictest of the three commanded sports; however, obedience can range from your basic puppy classes at your local pet supply store, to an orchestrated performance with what can be best described as mind reading. Here, your may companion learn every thing from basic “sit” and “stay” commands to retrieving, directed jumping, and even scent discrimination.
Tracking is a sport that relies most your dog’s sense of smell. Since a dog has a sense of smell that is approximately 100,000 times stronger than humans, allowing your dog to follow his nose can be rewarding for both you and your dog. Tracking allows dogs and owners to spend a great deal of time outdoors in all varieties of terrain. Here, dogs can prove their ability to even be used as search and rescue animals.
If poise and beauty are more your style, conformation may be the right companion sport for you and your dog. Here, dogs are judged on a series of breed-specific standards in which one may be lucky to be considered Best In Show. Owners may spend hours grooming and training their companions on certain ways to stand and move based on criteria judges are looking for.
If none of these sports fit your style, do not fear, there are still many more companion sports out there for your and your dog to enjoy: lure coursing, herding, water jumping, hunting trials, flyball, and field trials are just a few others that may peak your interest. Competition is a great way to get off the couch and away from the ho-hum of tennis balls and flexi-leads; but, it is important to understand that although there are great titles to earn and bragging rights to be had, your time spent with your canine companion is most important. Remember: you may love the training, love the action, and love the competition-- but at the end of the day, YOUR dog is always the one you want to go home with.