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What sports can I do with my dog?

The stronger the bond between pooch and person, the more pleasure, satisfaction and delight can be taken in sharing your home and life with a dog. Sports, activities and training are fantastic ways to build this bond while developing your dog's fitness and obedience too.

Informative image: dog agility

What results is a healthy and happy canine companion. Guess who else benefits? Interactions of this kind often do the world of good for owners too - it's a great way to stay fit, meet like-minded friends and switch off from the day's stresses and worries. So what people/dog sports are out there? We have a selection outlined for you below.

Canicross

This relatively recent sport really is for the fitness freaks among us or anyone looking to get fit or shift some pounds themselves. Canicross is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors with your dog as it involves dog and owner running together off-road. Dogs are usually connected to you using a harness and a two metre bungee lead for safety and comfort, this lead attaches to the owner at their waist.

For anyone looking to get fit; it’s amazing how a running partner can boost your enthusiasm. When that partner is your dog, with that look of sheer happiness about them, it motivates you to run that little bit further for them as much as anyone. It’s easy to see how this sport is good for your dog physically, but it also exercises the brain too as they learn directional commands. The dog/owner relationship is strengthened as they look to you for instruction.

You can even get competitive with this one; there are leagues and races countrywide which are a great way to make new friends too.

Dog Agility

Another canine sport that works body and mind (for both dog and owner alike) is dog agility. Though the border collie is a classic contender due to their intelligence and athleticism, any breed of dog can join in the fun; you'd be surprised at the dogs that show a real flair for this sport. The Papillion, often mistaken for a lap dog, is one surprising character that you will likely see excelling at agility.

The variety and excitement of exercise to be had, running, jumping through hoops and over fences, gives your dog a full body workout. Tackling obstacles such as seesaws and tunnels also works the mind and brain. As your dog becomes more able to follow command around the course, you will usually notice that behaviour and obedience in everyday life is improved too. The bond between human and dog is developed as they begin to look to you for fun and instruction.

There are heaps of competitions and leagues out there and lots of training groups to attend. This one is especially social as dog owners gather to learn and support one another (or not, depending how competitive you are!).

Flyball

Aerobic exercise, hurdles, brain training and obedience, this is another great all round training sport. It is that little bit more accessible for any owner who is less able to get involved in exercise themselves. Train your dog to race down a line of hurdles, push a button that releases a tennis ball and retrieve the ball back up the line of hurdles.

Sound easy? There are many classes out there to help and many a competition too. This is a great socialising sport as you and your dog are teamed up into teams of four to compete. Any pooch will feel physically and mentally tired after a Flyball session and this is another activity that develops behaviour training and obedience that can be applied to everyday life too.

What else is there?

There are of course many other sports out there for dogs and their people to get involved in; if you fancy yourselves as the next Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire then why not take up canine freestyle? Or perhaps your collie excels at herding; this is a competitive sport too. And then there’s lure coursing for the sighthound fanatics out there, the options are vast.

Whatever activity to choose for you and your dog, the benefits can be many. Apart from the obvious impact that fitness and stamina have on physical health, exercise and mental stimulation can help prevent unpleasant behaviours associated with boredom as well.

It is important however, to consider any health constraints attached to the individual dog. Don’t overdo rigorous exercise in those who aren’t fit to do so. As with people, it is always best to build exercise up gradually and seek veterinary advice if ever you’re in doubt.