Did you know that there are all sorts of dog sports that you and your dog can compete in like barn hunt, Fast CAT, field trials, scent work, obedience, and more. And now is a great time to get your dog involved. It is never too late. In fact, in an upcoming podcast series, we are going to be doing something cool that we call Walk and Wag where we showcase a different dog sport each week on our podcast that is specifically designed to be listened to while you are out on a walk with your dog. How cool is that?
Hello and welcome to Dog Works Radio. I am your host Michele Forto and I am also the lead trainer of Alaska Dog Works. Here we help you build a better relationship with your K9 buddy. The name of our company was designed to imply that we specialize in working dogs, like service, therapy, protection and more but did you know that we have competed in several dog sports too. If you have followed us for any amount of time you know that we are dog mushers and Robert has competed in competition obedience and weight pulls and more. Well…on today’s podcast we will talk about how you can get your dog involved in sports too.
Could the dog lying beside you on the couch actually be an athlete in the making?
If you start researching how to get involved in dog sports, you’ll often see lots of young dogs training, so you might feel like you’re behind if you have an older dog. But the great thing about dog sports is that they’re very welcoming and accessible to dogs of any age. In fact, the majority of dogs who compete in sports at the national level are senior dogs (7 and older).
Ready to get started? Here are some great ways to introduce your older dog to the world of dog sports.
Contrary to the old saying, you absolutely can teach an old dog new tricks, and you absolutely should. Our dogs thrive on interaction with us. Dogs love to play and learn new things and it’s never too late to start. So instead of just sitting on the couch or putting your dog in the backyard, spend some quality time brushing up on basic manners and obedience, teach a new trick, or even sign yourselves up for an introductory class at your local dog training facility. You can start by earning your Virtual Home Manners title.
Talk to Your Vet
If you have an adult dog, or a senior dog who has been fairly sedentary for a while, it’s always a good idea to schedule an appointment with a veterinarian before beginning training. Discuss the activities that you are planning to get involved with, and gather information from your vet about activities to avoid or be careful with.
If your dog has spent most of their life going on occasional walks but not otherwise doing much, you may want to start by building their desire to learn and engage with you. Begin with activities and rewards you know your dog likes or is interested in. If you aren’t sure what kinds of treats your dog likes, it’s helpful to experiment with different options. The goal is to find treats that will be “high value,” meaning your dog doesn’t just like the treat but loves it. Use these treats when practicing new skills and teaching something new to build motivation for training and learning.
Regardless of what activity, sport, or skill you and your dog are beginning to explore, keep your training sessions short and fun. Learning is hard work mentally and potentially physically as well. Your dog will need to build up attention span and endurance for training. Be sure to end each training session on a positive note. The idea is that you don’t want to be drilling skills repeatedly. Instead, leave each training session with your dog wanting more—not feeling tired or overwhelmed.
It’s essential to build drive (also known as engagement) and excitement for training. Some dogs will have more or less drive naturally but it’s also something that can be developed in any dog. If your dog likes toys, it’s great to bring playing with toys into your training sessions. Use the chance to play ball as a reward when teaching new skills. Ask for a cue your dog already knows and then throw the toy or release your dog to tug on the toy. Chase and tug games incorporated into training can be very helpful with building engagement and focus, as well as overall drive and enthusiasm for working with you.
Make Everyday Activities Fun
Another fun and easy way to start to build drive, engagement, and learning is to turn everyday activities into engaging training sessions. Instead of just putting your dog’s food in a bowl and walking away, you can start to incorporate training activities into mealtime. To start making meals more exciting as you are preparing your dog’s breakfast or dinner, cue a few tricks your dog already knows and reward with part of the meal or put the bowl down. By using your dog’s meal to work on new tricks or skills, you’ll be building training routines into your day, and build your dog’s enthusiasm for learning.
Get Started in Sports
Have you watched dog sports on TV or online and wished you and your dog could be out there having fun together? You can! The wonderful thing about dog sports is that there really is a sport/activity out there for just about every dog and handler. A great first step is to train your dog for the new Virtual Home Manners and/or the Canine Good Citizen Test. These are appropriate for adult dogs who are in need of a bit of a refresher on basic obedience, which will be useful in any sport you pursue, and a good entry point into training and competing with your dog.
Once you’re ready, find the best sport for you and your dog. Reach out to local clubs, attend events, find a mentor, and have fun.
It’s one of the best ways to deeply bond with your dog. It’s great exercise. And it just might be one of the most personally rewarding endeavors of your life.
It’s the world of canine sports and events, and it’s open for all dogs to enjoy, including mixed-breed dogs.
Something special happens between owners and their dogs when they train for an event. As you and your dog develop the skills necessary for each sport – and then demonstrate what you’ve learned – you experience a sense of accomplishment like no other. With your dog beside you at each turn, you become a true team in every sense.
Participating in canine sports is often not just about winning ribbons or trophies, either –although a healthy competitive spirit doesn’t hurt. Most dog owners say the many personal rewards keep them coming back event after event. And we often hear that the friendships with other dog owners developed at these events are as meaningful as the events themselves.
There are plenty of opportunities to get involved in sports and events, as more than 22,000 events are held each year. Whether you just train for fun or actually compete, we guarantee that you’ll feel a sense of pride at seeing your dog in their “happy” place, showing off new skills and accomplishing incredible goals — together.
Important Terms to Know
Before you get too far, it’s important to understand a few key terms that often confuse newcomers but are commonly used in canine sports and events:
- Trial means “competition.”
- Conformation is the official word for “dog shows.”
- If you get really into canine sports, you might call yourself a “fancier.”
- Competitors are called “exhibitors.”
How to Begin
If you haven’t seen a canine sporting event in person, go to one, or several, to familiarize yourself with what happens in the ring, and to experience the energy and camaraderie.
Then get involved with your local AKC Club. Not only do they offer invaluable resources and training classes, but you’ll also meet new people with similar interests who are more than willing to share their knowledge and lend a hand.
Find the Right Sport
There are many canine sports to choose from, and many people participate in more than one. But when you’re just starting, it can be hard to decide which one to try first. Start by assessing your dog’s appearance, health, and temperament:
- Think your dog is a perfect example of their breed? Try showing your purebred dog in Conformation. There are links to all these sports on our website. Or you can always just search “dog sports” on Alaska dog works.com
- Is your dog highly energetic? Do they enjoy running and responding to instructions? If so, Agility could be a great fit.
- Has your dog mastered basic commands such as sit, stay, and heel — and seems eager to learn more? Try Obedience.
- Is your dog a scent sleuth? Can they find their food or toys by smell alone? Try AKC Scent Work.
- Does your dog like doing obedience work in a low-stress environment? Have you never competed before? AKC Rally is a great place to start.
- Does your dog have an instinct to chase? Is he speedy? Try running the Coursing Ability Testor Fast CAT.
- Will your dog follow a scent no matter where it may lead? Do they work well independently? Try
- Think your dog has a natural instinct for livestock? Herding is a sport for purebred dogs bred to herd, and the Farm Dog Certified Test is for all dogs.
- Do you have a small Terrier or Dachshund? Have the vermin in your yard met their match? Earthdog tests might be for you. Barn Hunt taps into these instincts and is for all dogs.
- Is your dog a sighthound? Lure Coursing may be just their speed.
- Is your dog a Pointing Breed, Spaniel, Retriever or Hound? Explore the rich tradition of Field Events.
- If you have a Coonhound, you know it. Does your dog run whenever given a chance? Are they an explorer? Do they have high bursts of energy and then crash? Find a Coonhound event near
- There are others too like mushing, bikejoring, canicross, weight pulls, rally, and more!
What You Need to Compete
Generally speaking, to compete in an AKC sport or event, your dog must have an AKC number. Whether your dog is an AKC-recognized breed, mixed breed, or a breed not yet recognized, there is a path to acquiring an AKC number so that you and your dog can compete in sports. Choose one of the following:
- AKC Registration Number– This number is provided to a dog owner via a registration certificate received from the previous owner or via a puppy registration paper given to the new owner by the breeder.
- Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL)– If a dog is purebred but an AKC registration number is not possible, owners can apply for a PAL number
- AKC Canine Partners Number– This number is given to either mixed breed dogs or purebred.
- Foundation Stock Service®(FSS) Number– This number is used for breeds whose status is currently in the foundational stage of being recorded into our registry and requires a copy of the dog’s pedigree.
- Your dog must be physically sound and up to date on all inoculations and health check-ups.
- Spayed females and neutered males are eligible to participate (except in Conformation and select Performance events).
- Depending on the sport, females may not be allowed to participate while in season.
However, each sport has its own rules and regulations, so be sure to familiarize yourself before you get started.
So, this is just the beginning! Like I said at the top of the show, stay tuned to our upcoming Walk and Wag podcast series, which will be specifically designed to listen to while you take your dog out for a walk. How cool is that? Please subscribe to our podcast so you will never miss an episode.
Have you competed in a sport with your dog? Which one? Let us know in the comments section or on socials. Just search dog works radio.
Oh, and one last thing. Did you know the best thing you can do for our show is to tell your family and friends how to listen? Who knows they may just become a rabid listener just like you.
I am Michele Forto for Dog Works Radio and First Paw Media. See you next time.