There was a time that if you wanted to involve your dog in a sport or competition you had limited and few choices. Times have changed and the options now are numerous.
Dog sports generally either have a lot of involvement from a human handler giving direction such as agility. Others need little or no involvement from a human handler such as Greyhound or whippet racing. So, here are my pick of dog sports that you may not be aware of.
This is a relatively new and fast-growing dog sport that is based on the traditional roles of certain breeds, typically terriers, of eradicating rodents and vermin on farms and in barns. Of course, other breeds apart from traditional ratting dogs are more than welcome to participate.
The traditional ratting or rodent dogs fall loosely into two categories:
Dogs that go underground often referred to as earth dogs which are normally smaller breeds such as Cairn Terriers, Border Terriers, Jack Russel, and Dachshunds. The Dachshund is traditional a badger hunting dog from Germany. These breeds also hunt vermin above ground.
Dogs that operate above ground where size doesn’t matter as much but are generally small to medium in size. Many of these breeds were used during the industrial age to hunt vermin in factories and cities and were even used in the trenches during World War 1. The Yorkshire terrier was a very popular breed for this in the fabric factories as they were small and could fit into small spaces in and around the machinery and didn’t damage the product as cats were found to do. Other popular above ground vermin dogs where pinchers and schnauzers.
How does Barn Hunt work
Barn hunt is open to any dog that can fit through an 18-inch high tunnel entrance which is around the size of a bale of hay. Dogs locate rats that are safely enclosed in aerated tubes that are hidden in a hay bale maze. The event is divided into three different height divisions. It is based on time to complete the task and is not necessarily held in barns. Quite often events take place outdoors with a fenced off area.
If this is a sport that you think would appeal to your dog, and if they are a terrier or traditional vermin breed it differently will, you can get more information at
Dock jumping or dock diving as it is often referred to is fairly self-explanatory. This is a canine sport in which dogs run the length of a dock and leap as far out into the water as they can. They have a toy thrown just out of reach and it looks amazing.
If your dog loves water and loves to retrieve then this is the sport for them. There are full competition events available for dogs to participate in this sport. Of course, if you have access to a dock or launching area your dog can dive from, you can just do it for fun yourself. Of course, safety is important, so ensure the water is deep enough and free of any obstacles such as branches and put a lifejacket on your dog if they are not a highly competent swimmer.
How does Dock Jumping work?
In official events, there are generally three categories that dogs compete in which are longest distance, fastest retrieve and highest vertical jump as well as a fourth category of a combination of all three disciplines totaled together. The rules and format of this discipline may vary dependant on the particular event or organizing body.
Dog surfing involves dogs that are trained to ride a surfboard, bodyboard, skim board, either alone or with the assistance of a person and also includes riding on a windsurfer or paddle board with a person. Dogs riding surfboards has been documented as far back as the 1920’s in California and Hawaii.
How does dog surfing work?
In official dog surfing competitions, scoring and judging criteria is based upon the dog’s overall certainty on the surfboard, size of the wave and the length of the ride. Dogs either ride the board themselves or may do tandem events where there are two or more dogs on a board or a dog with a human. If this seems like something your dog and you would like to try, grab your surfboard, paddle out and make the drop.
Dog scootering involves one or more dogs pulling a human rider on an unmotorized kick scoot. It is similar to mushing or dog sledding without the snow but with fewer dogs and using a scooter instead of a dogsled.
The dogs are harnessed with a gangline attached to the scooter the same as in dogsledding. The gangline has a bungee cord component to it to smooth out the jarring from speeding up and the takeoff.At this stage, there are not a lot of official events but the sport is gaining popularity and we should see more events in the future.
This is the powerlifting of the dog world. Dogs pull a cart or sled. A specialized harness is used that evenly distributed the weight over their body to avoid injury.
How does Weight Pulling work?
Dogs use their body strength to pull increasingly heavier loads of concrete or bricks. Each round is timed over a set distance, usually around 16 feet. The dog handler stands in front of them and encourages them to pull. They are not allowed to have any physical contact with the dogThe dog that pulls their cart the required distance in the fastest time wins. This sport has had some controversy with critics saying it is cruel to the dogs even though it is usually done by breeds that have been bred to pull carts. Also, the harnesses used are specially designed to minimize the stress on the dog’s body.
When you think about dog racing you probably think of Greyhounds. Running fast with the wind in their fur isn’t just for the hounds. Other dog racing sports include terrier racing and Weiner racing. Dachshund racing or often referred to as Weiner racing is all about the fun and are quite often part of a fundraising event.
Races are run either over 25 meters or 50 meters and many of the competitors, especially at the more informal events, are family pets. The dogs run swiftly down the course to a waiting owner with treats or toys. Often many of the competitors choose to visit with other dogs or go back to the owner that released.
The winner is the first to reach the finish line, but winning or not even finishing results in everyone have fun. The terrier racing seems to be a little more serious and boy can those little dogs fly. Terriers can also complete in Terrier Hurdle races which is the small dog equivalent of the Steeplechase for horses.
Lure coursing is a sport that has dogs chase a mechanized artificial lure that is attached to a pulley. It is derived from ancient lure sport where sighthound breeds would chase live prey.
Nowadays it is not just for sighthounds and any dog that has a high prey drive and loves to chase can compete. The course has many twists and turns to simulate chasing an escaping rabbit or prey and is spectacular to watch these dogs in full flight and showing there cornering skills.
Of course, this can be a demanding sport with all the sharp turns putting a lot of pressure on the dog’s joints and tendons. If you are wanting to give this a go find a local club that has access to the mechanized lure machine. Otherwise, you and your dog can give a go yourself by getting out the fishing rod and tie a plastic bag or lure to it.
Here was my pick of the lesser known dog sports you may not have heard of. Feel free to comment any more that I may not have heard off.