As a dog owner I’m constantly looking for things to do with my dogs that are both fun and stimulating. Having mostly border collies, a walk around the neighbourhood can get boring and although the beach has always been a favourite option the weather conditions aren’t always suitable. So what else is there to do?
Most people aren’t aware that there are a variety of dog sports available including Agility, Obedience, Dances with Dogs, Rally-O, herding and tracking. All these sports have clubs you can join depending on what discipline you are interested in. Clubs then provide instruction on how to train your dog to be able to participate in the activities.
My favourite is Agility; something I have been involved in for about fourteen years. Agility is fast and fun being particularly good for bored backyard dogs that have more energy than owners can provide exercise for, as well as much needed mental stimulation. You can learn the basics at one of the many clubs located around Perth and if you’re really keen you can go on to compete at Agility trials.
Obedience is something that all owners should take the time to get involved in to teach their dogs the fundamentals of good behaviour and help turn their dogs into a great pet. Obedience includes heelwork, stationary positions as well as retrieving and recalls; all things that are beneficial for our pets to be able to do.
‘Dances with Dogs’ is where music meets obedience. There are two categories; Heelwork to Music and Freestyle. Heelwork to Music is where you design a heelwork routine to a music track. Freestyle includes lots of amazing tricks in a routine to music only limited by your imagination. This sport is becoming incredibly popular and is amazing to watch.
Rally-O is a variation on obedience where you take your dog through a predetermined course with instructions at different points throughout the course. Rally-O is fast becoming one of the most popular new dog sports with it being slightly less formal than the existing obedience format.
Herding, as its name suggests, is using the working instinct of your dog to herd a variety of stock from sheep to ducks. Herding starts at a very basic level where you simply test your dog’s instinct but then it progresses to the dog working stock around a pre-set course. Herding caters for 30 different herding breeds including border collies and kelpies, two of the most common backyard breeds. I have always loved herding and all my border collies have spent time working sheep. There is nothing more exhausted than a border collie that has been out working stock.
Tracking is where you train your dog to use that amazing natural instinct, their sense of smell, to follow a set track to a reward at the end. Tracking is also great exercise, a fun day out and gives the dog something constructive to do.
All of the above, excluding herding, are open to all dogs irrespective of breed, size and shape. So even if you aren’t sure what breed your dog is, you can still join in and have a go. For more information, download the ‘Dog Sports’ factsheet from the Better Pets and Gardens website and for a list of the clubs around Perth, visit the Dogs West website.
Karen Phillips is the owner and trainer of Riot, the beautiful border collie that is the Better Pets and Gardens mascot. Karen has had immense experience and success with her border collies as well as little Cassie, the very fast papillon, and is currently involved as a trainer with the Agility Club of WA. Karen is also a regular expert on our Facebook page every Monday night.