Written by: Rebecca Welters of Pawesome Kitty
Regardless of your dog’s age, breed, and preferences, some physical activity is essential to keeping them enriched and in good shape. While some will take well to off-leash excursions at your local dog park, others are more inclined to become impressive athletes.
If your dog is part of the latter, then yes—it is possible for them to participate in many recreational activities! However, there are a few things to keep in mind diving into the world of dog sports.
Tips for Introducing Your Dog to Sports
Most dogs are natural runners. Some are even avid swimmers. However, not every pet will acclimate well to a particular activity. Below are a few tips for introducing your dog to recreational sports.
Meet with Your Veterinarian
While you may not think it necessary, even younger, more agile dogs should undergo veterinary clearance before playing a sport. A physical exam is especially critical if your dog is prone to developing joint issues such as patellar luxation or brittle bones.
Some dogs are also genetically predisposed to cardiovascular or lung conditions—something you’ll want to look out for if you plan to keep them regularly active.
Know Your Dog’s Physical Limits
While younger dogs make excellent candidates for canine athletes, older ones may no longer be in the running—literally. If your dog is aging, you may want to consider less demanding sports such as nose work or obedience rather than agility.
Train the Basics
If you plan to turn your dog into a star athlete, they’re going to need to know the basics. Commands you’ll want to familiarize them with are:
Mastering these commands will make it easier for your dog to comprehend a sport and also reinforce safety.
Find a Place to Practice
Naturally, dog sports will require ample room for your pet to run, leap, and even swim. In most cases, practicing in your backyard should suffice—you can curate an agility course or buy a dog pool.
If you are an apartment-dweller, consider taking your dog to the park or beach. However, public spaces may not be the most conducive for learning. Fortunately, there are many studios and trainers with dedicated spaces that you can book ahead of time.
What Sport Should Your Dog Try?
When it comes to picking a sport, there is no shortage of options for your dog to try their hand—or paw—at. Below are just a few to get you started.
If you are parenting a more active and responsive breed such as a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, agility is the way to go. This exciting sport involves hurdles, tunnels, balance beams, and more obstacles that keep your dog challenged.
Dogs fond of the water will love spending afternoons at the beach surfing. While ambitious, surfing is an excellent way to reinforce balance and give your dog a dose of much-needed melatonin!
You’ll be surprised to know that dogs make excellent canine caddies on the golf course. They even make a clever assistant to your GPS–what dog doesn’t love a ball?
The Bottom Line
If you’re keen on exercising your dog beyond its daily walk, why not give sports a try? Engaging your dog in a recreational sport can do wonders for their health with careful preparation and veterinary clearance.