List of all dog sports at a glance
Here you will find an overview of different dog sports, so you can find the perfect leisure activity for you and your four-legged friend!
Regular physical and also mental activity is an essential part of our well-being, both for us humans and for our four-legged companions. But like us, not every furry nose is suitable for all dog sports.
Originating in Great Britain and inspired by show jumping, the fast-paced sport of agility requires perfect cooperation and – nomen est omen – a high degree of skill on the part of dog and handler. In the shortest possible time, the animal athlete must complete an obstacle course and be guided solely by the voice and gestures of his owner – here, too, aids such as treats, leashes or clickers are prohibited. The obstacles consist of hurdles, hoops, tables, tunnels, slalom, long jump and contact zone equipment such as seesaws and catwalks.
There are different courses depending on the size of the four-legged friend, so the sport is suitable foralmost all breeds – but caution is advised for very large, heavy or young dogs, as the numerous jumps put a lot of strain on the joints.
Companion Dog Sports
Companion dog sports include both agility and obedience exercises and thus provide a reliable basic training for any dog, where owner and mistress learn to work together through positive reinforcement without the use of aids such as treats or toys. The goal of obedience training is for the dog to be obedient and attentive to only the owner’s words and body language, to learn to walk on a leash and give basic commands, and to remain calm in distracting and stressful situations such as traffic.
From the age of 15 months, trained four-legged friends can take the appropriate companion dog test, which is a prerequisite for many other dog sports, such as competition dog sports, agility, obedience and tracking. Dog sports are suitable for all dog breeds and age groups (human and animal).
Coursing or sighthound racing is the typical racing sport for sighthounds, where the dogs chase an artificial hare trap and are thus spurred to peak performance. Since sighthounds in particular have a strong need to run races and cannot do so in urban areas, regular participation in coursing training is highly recommended.
Degility combines the best of the two dog sports agility and mobility: The focus of the training is on mastering an obstacle course, but without time and performance pressure. The focus is clearly on the playful development of the dog’s agility and ability to concentrate. Due to the individual adaptation of the course to the strengths and limitations of the dog, this sport is also suitable for older or otherwise disabled puppies.
The Service Dog Biathlon is (as the name suggests) also a competition for service dogs and their handlers. Together, they complete a six- to eleven-kilometer cross-country run that includes various natural and artificial obstacles and tasks such as jumping over logs, swimming, cycling, protection duty, and the controlled firing of a shot from a firearm. The course and tasks must be completed within a certain time, and mistakes are punishable by time penalties.
For civilians, there is a harmless variant in which a human-dog team can measure their cooperation: the dog biathlon. Here, too, a course of six to eleven kilometers with various stations has to be completed, but no protection service or shooting exercises are included. However, the cycling, swimming, jumping and crawling parts remain.
Originating in the United States, this activity combines elements of human dancing and dressage riding – in dog dancing, dog and owner work together to a piece of music to choreograph basic commands and tricks such as paw slalom, sleepy stretching, paw work, jumps and more, with little limit to creativity. In Dog Dancing, the hairy nose must respond to the owner’s slightest movements. Because the choreography is created individually for each dog, any breed, regardless of age or weight, can participate, making Dog Dancing one of the most accessible dog sports.
If dog and owner are not afraid of water, this sport originating from the USA could be something for you: Dog Diving or in English also Dock Jumping. The dogs jump from a platform with a maximum height of 60 centimeters as far as possible into the cool water to win – or just to have fun, which is guaranteed for both participants and spectators.
To motivate the dog, a toy is usually thrown into the water, and the cheers of the spectators help, of course. Each dog is given a series of jump attempts and a few minutes to gather his courage for the perfect jump. Since the wet element is easy on the joints, this activity is suitable for dogs of all breeds and weights and provides not only water fun for two, but also a valuable sense of achievement for the dog.
A new dog sport originating from the USA is also called Discdogging and works similar to Frisbee: A disc is thrown forward by the owner, the dog is supposed to chase the disc, catch it and bring it back to the thrower. There are different competition modes: in Freestyle, the Frisbee game is artfully choreographed to a piece of music; in Mini and Long Distance, the distance traveled and the way the dog catches the disc count towards the final score.
This dog sport is particularly suitable for dogs with a great urge to move and a pronounced play instinct; Discdogging is not recommended for large, heavy or young dogs, as the often daring catching maneuvers require high jumps that can damage the joints in the long run.
Dummy training originated in the United Kingdom and turns one aspect of waterfowl hunting (namely retrieving the shot prey) into an interesting game for all breeds of dogs bred specifically for this type of hunting, for example retrievers. Of course, no animal is injured or otherwise mistreated during dummy training! The “prey”, which must be found and retrieved by the dogs by marking, searching and leading, consists of a cloth bag filled with sawdust or plastic granules.
Dummy training fulfills the natural need of many dog breeds to participate in hunting in an animal-friendly way and thus offers breed-specific occupation and a playful exploitation of their intelligence – however, the load must be carefully calculated to protect the musculoskeletal system.
Tracking is primarily about nose work, using the dog’s naturally superior sense of smell to detect objects and tracks. The dog sport originated in the training of search, rescue and hunting dogs. Tracking itself involves a trail of damaged soil, trampled vegetation, and microorganisms that the dog is supposed to track and follow with its nose – this type of tracking is also known as mechanical tracking.
Mantrailing is a variation of tracking, but it is not a mechanical trail of ground damage that must be followed, but a real human scent trail. In people tracking, the dog must be able to distinguish between different human scents and focus on a specific scent trail despite olfactory distractions.
In sport, the dog must follow an artificially created track independently and steadily; particularly suitable for this are dogs with a natural hunting and searching instinct, whose biological needs can be well satisfied by the track and who make an all-round satisfied dog.
Invented in the U.S. in 1990, this team sport for two- and four-legged friends combines speed, skill and fun in a ball game. In flyball, two teams, usually consisting of four human-dog teams, compete against each other on two parallel tracks. At the start signal, the dogs must jump over various obstacles, independently operate a flyball machine that throws a ball, catch that ball, and take the same four obstacles again on the way back. Only then may the next dog run – it is a staggered race. The height of the hurdles is set for the smallest dog on the team – nevertheless, as with other jump-oriented dog sports, the mass and stress on the dogs’ joints must be taken into account.
Utility dog sport
Utility dog sports, also called versatility sports, require a four-legged dog to be just that: versatile. This sport is divided into three categories derived from service dog training – nose work by following a human foot trail, obedience and agility exercises such as basic commands and retrieving an object over obstacles, and resilience and protective service.
In these exercises, the dogs must prove that they can follow commands quickly and accurately and not lose concentration even when distracted. Self-confidence and will to work are absolute requirements for the dog, expertise and patience are an absolute must for master and mistress. Within the framework of this complex sport, the working dog test can also be taken.
Different breeds like the German Shepherd, the Malinois or the Airedale Terrier are suitable for the working dog sport.
Performance Herding is the dog sport parade discipline for all Sheepdogs – herding large and small flocks of livestock. During the professional competition, the handler herds a flock of sheep with the help of their sheepdogs. The individual tasks such as penning, driving over a bridge or in traffic, behavior in narrow or wide flocks and narrow paths, as well as penning are evaluated accordingly by the judges. Obedience, diligence and independence of the dog or dogs also influence the overall score.
For those who find the sport of agility too action-packed, there is a somewhat milder version: mobility training. Just like agility, mobility is about mastering an obstacle course, but (unlike many other dog sports) time and the fight for first place don’t matter. The obstacles are also suitable for gentle training, and the exercises without equipment are partly derived from physiotherapy, promoting health and mobility.
This means that even dogs with physical limitations can easily participate in mobility training. This dog sport promotes the joy of movement, self-confidence and trust in the owner and provides the dog with a rewarding mental occupation.
Mondioring is a subcategory of service dog sport with three subcategories: Obedience, Jumping, and Schutzdienst with internationally identical testing regulations. Obedience exercises include retrieving, refusing food, and placing an object despite distractions; jumping obstacles include normal hurdles as well as steep walls and long jumps. Special attention is given to the protection services category, which includes tasks such as defense against simulated attacks, defense of objects, and defense of handlers.
The tasks are performed in an enclosed space, the dog does not wear a harness or collar and therefore must obey only to gestures and commands. Points are deducted from the total score for mistakes. Discipline, nerves of steel, concentration and good training are required from both the dog and the handler.
The term obedience, like the sport itself, originated in England and focuses on perfecting communication and fostering trust between dog and handler, as well as following commands accurately and quickly. Obedience exercises include basic commands as well as retrieving, scent recognition, laying down and positive social behavior. Dogs that are naturally inquisitive, eager to please and mentally stimulated are especially suited for this discipline and can adequately satisfy their mental needs.
Despite the similarity in the name, Obedience and Rally Obedience are two different sports: Rally Obedience combines elements of agility (hurdles, slalom and other obstacles) with elements of obedience training – the dog-human team must be able to run through a course equipped with boards and perform the commands and tricks required on the boards.
This training stimulates both the dog’s mind and body, as the course requires both high concentration and physical performance under time pressure. Positive reinforcement such as treats and praise are allowed and also encouraged, making it a particularly good introduction to the sport for beginners due to a quick sense of achievement.
Rescue dog sport
The rescue dog sport is dedicated exclusively to the training of rescue dogs, but from a purely sporting point of view and without any professional-paramedical training of the dog handlers or preparation for use in an emergency. As in mantrailing, the dogs must have a good nose and be able to concentrate well, but they must also be very socially compatible – even if the rescue of human lives is only simulated and they are not actually in an emergency situation.
In addition to tracking, area search, rubble search, avalanche search and water rescue are also trained, and obedience and agility exercises must be successfully completed.
Tournament Dog Sports (THS)
Dog sports, sometimes referred to as athletics with dogs or human sports, involve the successful completion of various dog sports disciplines such as Quadruple Match, Cross-Country, Combination Speed Cup (CSC), Knockout Cup, Shorty and Obstacle Course. The four-team competition consists of an obedience exercise, an obstacle course, a slalom, and an obstacle course; therefore, the dog must enjoy the exercise and obedience.
Requirements for participation are a successfully passed companion dog test and a certain minimum level of fitness and athleticism of dog and owner. The tournament program includes individual and team competitions.
Pulling dogs sport sled dog
Pulling dog sports is the generic term for all dog sports in which dogs perform the function of pulling animals. Individual disciplines include, for example, pulling a sled or wagon, alone or in a group with other dogs, as well as bikejoring (pulling a person on a bicycle) or skijoring (pulling a person on skis). This requires a lot of strength and a high level of fitness from the dogs, but also team spirit and the ability to concentrate; a good relationship of trust between dog and handler is also essential for a relaxed training experience.
However, there are also variants without a vehicle, where the human drives directly ahead, for example canicross or dog walking. In both sports, the dog is directly connected to the human by a leash, which is usually attached to a harness. The distinction is made solely by the length of the course and the speed: canicross is a more or less short cross-country run in which the owner is pulled by his dog; in dog trekking, owner/customer and dog undertake hour-long hikes, usually in mountainous terrain.
For each of these sports, good equipment that is easy on the joints is essential due to the high physical stress placed on the pulling dog: In addition to special pulling equipment, harnesses with shock absorbers and canicross harnesses, a panic hook, which can be released in an emergency with a simple handle, is also necessary to experience a beautiful and, above all, safe nature experience with your four-legged friends.
However, the following applies to all dog sports: Do not run in extreme temperatures! Moderate temperatures are ideal, especially for training with high physical stress, and ensure that neither humans nor animals are at risk of heat stroke or hypothermia. The right equipment is also important for smooth operation.
We hope that in this overview of dog sports you have discovered one or two variants that you would like to try out yourself with your beloved furry friend. Enjoyment of physical exercise and the promotion and regular exercise of mental skills are important for the physical and mental health of every four-legged friend and contribute to a better attitude towards life.