Dog Days of Summer Pet Tip: Enriching Your Dog’s Life
By Shawna Bostick, Friends of the Mustang Animal Shelter
We love spending time with our dogs. From cuddling on the couch to taking them with us everywhere we go, just spending time with them makes us happy. Taking a walk or going to the dog park are the typical go-tos for getting our dogs out of the house for some exercise and socialization, but there are many, many more options that you and your dog might find intriguing.
Here is an introduction to some of the fun activities that are available for people and their dogs. Although certain breeds of dogs may overwhelmingly populate some of these, most are open to any type or size of dog.
A fast-paced sport where the dog listens for commands to run an obstacle course. It is great for high-energy dogs of every size. It also helps build confidence in nervous dogs.
Teaching dogs to tap into their natural ability to track scent. They learn to follow a scent trail, and then indicate the object at the end of the trail.
A very fast-paced sport where dogs learn to work in a team of dogs to race, in relay fashion, over jumps, retrieve a ball, and race back over the same jumps, before the next dog in the team can complete the same task. Typically, this is done as a team of four dogs that race side by side against another team of four.
In simplest terms, dogs jump for and catch Frisbees, but for those that compete in this sport, it is much more exciting. Two basic types of competition focus on Distance/Accuracy and Freestyle, where you can see some of the top teams’ jaw-dropping and high-flying tricks.
A sport created for sighthounds, although any breed of dog can take part. It involves chasing a mechanically operated lure over a large area. Think of it as a dog chasing a rabbit through a field.
Volunteering with your dog at places like hospitals, libraries, assisted living centers and with hospice organizations. Before being able to volunteer, the dog and its human are tested and then certified with a therapy dog organization. Good therapy dog candidates are good with people of all ages and dogs of all sizes. They should be well-mannered and quiet with a relaxed temperament, even when in a stressful situation. Volunteering with your dog to bring happiness to people can be hugely rewarding.
Obedience and Rally Obedience
Beyond basic sit and manners training, this training refers to training toward a focus and precision at the competition level.
Teaching tricks and movements that are choreographed into dance performances between the dog and its human.
The dog uses its nose to find rats (in containers) that are hidden in a course of hay bales. The human must correctly read their dog’s signals, and then voice the location of the rats.
Dogs learn to respond to herding commands, and corral sheep, chickens, etc. Typically populated by herding breeds, like border collies, but any dog can learn to herd.
Created for terriers to work their instinct to track and kill vermin that hide underground. The prey, or rat, is protected in a cage at the end of a small tunnel, which the dog must navigate.
A newer sport imported from Germany that is similar to herding. Dogs take and follow commands to direct large balls through a goal.
For dogs that love to pull, harnessed dogs learn to pull weights or other objects.
Dogs jump distances into water to retrieve items. In competition, many dogs jump distances exceeding 20 feet.
Experienced trainers work with their dogs in tracking, obedience and protection. This is not for novice handlers, and you should never try to teach your dog any type of protection behavior without first having an experienced trainer’s supervision.
Most of these sports are available to interested participants locally around the metro and around the state. Some schools offer classes to get you started, but there are also local dog clubs that offer classes to the public. Clubs typically charge less than schools.
Dog sports and training with your dog can be a lot of fun, but there are other benefits too. Besides the obvious exercise and socialization for the dogs, this also gets us humans out of the house for some socializing too; it can be a great way to meet new people. The dogs are challenged physically as well as mentally, so many behavior problems that stem from boredom are helped if not eradicated by regular participation in these types of activities. Even some of the most basic obedience training can do wonders for building confidence in frightened and skittish dogs, really helping them gain the courage to come out of their shell. Perhaps most beneficial is the noticeable increase in the bond that you will build with your dog.
Whether participating in an event once a month, going to class once a week, or whatever you make time to do, you and your dog will enjoy the extra time together, and benefit from the experience.