Dog Sports


Photo by Photo Lab Pet Photography |

Dog sports are a great way to bond with your dog and give your canine companion exercise and mental stimulation. From the unbridled fun of dock diving to the quirkier but thrilling sport of skijoring, dog sports offer a fantastic opportunity to build and enhance the unique relationship we share with man's best friend in a constantly evolving field of options.

Often when learning a dog sport together, you are actually learning positive training methods such as targeting, marker training and other reward based training techniques. Once you can train your dog to do agility or flyball, you can teach him anything.

Participating in a dog sport teaches you to understand your dog’s body language and how he reads and interprets yours, including your gestures and tone of voice. This will enhance communication and improve the bond between you.

Many dog sports are also combinations of several different skillsets and harness the power of dogs' amazing senses. For example, scent work can be a fantastic way to stimulate a dog's ability to learn through one of his most powerful attributes – his sense of smell.

Training Techniques:

Each dog sport has unique tasks to teach your dog. However, all training should be rewarding and there should be no physical correction or punishment. You want your dog to gain confidence and enjoy what he is doing.

Marker training is a way to let your dog knows the instant they 'get it right'.

  • A verbal marker such as 'yes', or sound such as a clicker is paired with a treat so that your dog associates the word or sound with something good.
  • Then the instant your dog 'gets it right' you say 'yes' or click followed by a reward.
  • Marker training is a great way to help your dog understand exactly what it is they did to get the reward.
  • In this way you can train more precisely by giving your dog this valuable feedback.
  • Targeting is used in dog sports to direct a dog where to go, be it in a heel at your side to jumping over a series of jumps in agility.

Your dog will be more successful at most dog sports if they have learned to pay attention to you even with distractions around, come to you in a distracted environment and basics of sit, down and stay.

Reward based training involves finding what motivates your dog. Often this is a food reward as pay for a job well done. However also always include the life rewards of praise, play and love.

What not to do:

  • Be careful not to put too much value on 'winning'. Remember your dog does not understand medals, titles or placement. Your dog is happy and excited because you are, not because of a title or a medal.
  • No matter how well your dog performs, always act like they are a winner rather than worrying about a score, time or title.
  • Never scold or punish your dog for making a mistake.

Remember that you want dog sports to be a fun, confidence building and bonding experience for you and your dog!

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