If you and your dog are bored with the same old walk around the neighborhood or if throwing a ball has lost its spark, organized dog activities may be exactly inspiration the two of you need, advises Marden. Here are some things you might want to try.
Agility trials are one of the most enjoyable ways to exercise your dog, says Marden. These timed events involve directing your dog through a course complete with a colorful variety of plans, jumps, tunnels and other obstacles. “The training required practically guarantees that your dog will be in tip top condition,” he adds. Mixed breeds and purebreds can compete at events organized by the United States Dog Agility Association, United Kennel Club (UKC), North American Dog Agility Council and American mixed Breed Obedience Registry (AMBOR). The American Kennel Club (AKC) has events for dogs of all breeds registered with it.
In novice obedience, dogs are judged on their ability to “Heel” at all speeds, “Come” when they’re called, “Sit-stay,” “Down-stay” and stand for a judge’s examination. Advanced obedience trails include retrieving over hurdles, obeying hand signals, scent discrimination and more. The AKC trials are purebred only affairs, while all kinds of dogs can compete at UKC and AMBOR events. But, says Marden, even if you never compete, attending obedience classes and practicing what you have learned exercises your dog’s mind and body and often turns problem pets into great companions.
If your canine companion is a sighthound, she’s welcome in the physically demanding sport of lure coursing. When slipped (released) by their owners at the hunter’s “Tally-ho,” three hounds will race off to chase the lure. The lure changes direction several times over the 800-yard course and the dogs are judged on speed, agility, stamina, enthusiasm and ability to follow. “To keep them in peak condition, most lure-coursing enthusiasts run their dogs nearly every day,” says Marden.
The AKC herding trials are open to purebred dogs from traditional herding breeds. They are evaluated on their ability to round up sheep, ducks or cattle and bring them through gates to a pen. “This requires quickness, stamina and obedience, a combination to keep your dog in lean and hard condition,” says Marden.