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Mark L. Baer/MLBaer Photography

Are you looking for a new activity to share with your dog? Well, look no further than dog sports. Participating in dog sports will build the bond between you and your dog, helping you become a better team. It’s about more than winning ribbons and earning titles. You’ll work towards shared goals, show off new skills, and, most of all, have fun with your dog.

There are a wide variety of dog sports to choose from. When making your choice, think about your dog’s skill set, heritage, and activity level, as well as the amount of time you have to devote to training. Our dog sports quiz is one way to help you narrow your choices, but don’t forget about the lesser-known sports. The following five dog sports are increasingly popular, fun, and open to all dog breeds, both purebred and mixed.

Test Your Teamwork With AKC Rally

AKC Rally may look like it’s all about obedience, but at its core, it’s a test of teamwork. During an AKC Rally trial, you and your dog will navigate a course of 10-20 signs. Each sign indicates a different obedience skill to be performed, such as sit, down, or a turn. Working with your dog on your left side, you both move through the course completing each skill. Your performance will be timed, but rather than speed, the goal is teamwork and having your dog under control at all times.

This sport is a great intro to other dog sports because it strengthens skills and increases communication. Plus, scoring is not as rigorous as in traditional obedience. But what dogs are best suited to AKC Rally? Any dog that can walk on a leash and knows basic manners like sit, down, and stay can start training. If your dog enjoys learning new obedience skills and works well with you, you can expect to do well in the Rally ring.

907 MACH PACH RACH3 Mrl N Dfl Whatever It Takes, Cocker Spaniel, Handler: Mary Lindquist
David Woo ©American Kennel Club

Hit Top Speeds With Fast CAT

Does your dog amaze you with incredible running speed? Have you ever suspected your pet could break records? Then maybe Fast CAT is the sport to try. It’s perfect for dogs that love to sprint like the wind. CAT stands for coursing ability test, and Fast CAT specifically is a timed 100-yard dash. Rather than a race, the dogs run one at a time, chasing a lure to encourage top speeds. Dogs like Greyhounds have been known to reach speeds over 36 miles per hour. Even the tiny Chihuahua has been clocked at over 19 miles per hour.

Fast CAT doesn’t require special training or equipment. It’s one of the few sports where all you need is your dog’s natural instincts. Unlike lure coursing, any breed or mix is eligible to compete, and any dog at least 12 months old that loves to run is a great candidate. If your dog is a blazing-fast squirrel chaser, a spot in the top 20 rankings might be in your future.

Mark L. Baer/MLBaer Photography

Sniff Out Hidden Smells With AKC Scent Work

Is your dog’s nose always on the ground? Perhaps smells are your pet’s biggest distraction. Rather than fighting with your dog’s nose, embrace it with AKC Scent Work. This sport lets your dog use that powerful sense of smell to play a fun game. Based on the work of professional detection dogs, in AKC Scent Work, dogs search for hidden cotton swabs soaked with essential oils. As the handlers don’t know the locations of the swabs, they must trust the dog to lead the way.

Although this sport is perfect for scenthounds, like Beagles and Bloodhounds, any dog is welcome to get involved. What dog doesn’t like following a scent trail? If your dog has a good nose then you can expect to excel in this sport. It’s also great for boosting performance in other nose-driven sports, like tracking or Barn Hunt. Plus, as dogs learn to trust their nose and instincts, it can help build confidence in shy dogs and boost the dog-owner bond.

David Woo ©American Kennel Club

Work the Homestead With Farm Dog

Your dog may do well with obedience at home or in the city, but how about on a farm? With the distraction of other animals, the behaviors that seem so easy at home can be quite a challenge. That’s the point of a Farm Dog Certified test. During the test, which is carried out in a farm environment, your dog must perform 12 exercises typical of a farm dog, such as being close to livestock, jumping over logs, or staying on top of bales of hay or straw. There’s no herding involved, but the test assesses your dog’s aptitude for farm work by looking at self-control, confidence, and trust in the handler.

This sport would be excellent for self-assured and intelligent dogs who’ve mastered obedience in their home environment. The extra farm-related distractions can present a fun training challenge. But don’t rule out anxious dogs. Teaching a dog to conquer tests like walking over unusual surfaces or approaching livestock can boost a dog’s confidence.

Trick dog demonstration by The Amazing Eskies in the Demo Ring at AKC Meet the Breeds, January 28-29, 2023, Jacob K. Javits Center, New York, NY.
©American Kennel Club

Learn Fun Feats With AKC Trick Dog

What if your dog loves the fun and mental exercise of training but has mastered basic obedience? What’s left to teach? How about tricks? From your dog’s perspective, it’s all tricks anyway, especially with positive training methods. AKC Trick Dog has turned “roll over” and “high five” into a sport. With five levels of trick dog titles, the only limit is your imagination for dreaming up new tricks and routines.

Trick Dog is great for intelligent dogs that like to be the life of the party. Showing off new skills and routines is a great way to impress family and friends. But shy and anxious dogs can benefit from trick training, too, since they don’t have to participate around other dogs. They simply need to demonstrate their tricks in front of a Canine Good Citizen evaluator. Learning new behaviors can also build your dog’s confidence as they discover they can conquer new challenges.

Related article: How Much Mental and Physical Exercise Do Puppies Need?
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