Sports and Activities to Try with Your Puppy
Now the puppy classes are over and you and your dog have mastered the basic training exercises, it’s time to decide what to do next. Puppies who have been trained using reward-based methods love to continue to learn and do new things - plus activities you can do together will help to build the bond between you both.
It’s easy to think that your only options are to continue to do training classes and focus solely on improving your puppy’s obedience, but there are a whole range of dog activities and sports you could think about preparing your puppy for. So it’s worth taking the time to find something both you and your puppy can really enjoy and succeed in.
Have a go at dog agility
One of the most popular activities for dogs, both to watch and to compete in, is agility. This is a fun, competitive activity done off-lead that comprises of a range of obstacles such as jumps, tunnels, dog walks, and other pieces of equipment to either jump over, go through or walk along.
Both dog and owner need a degree of fitness, and while your puppy may be too young to jump, many agility clubs have a puppy class where you can learn to navigate some of the other bits of equipment, such as the tunnels and weaves and practice your basic control, ready to start more serious agility training when your puppy is older. Puppy agility is a great activity for dogs and will help to improve your control and build their confidence.
Try out flyball
Flyball is a far more energetic dog sport and is a competitive team sport run on a knockout basis. Two teams of four dogs compete at the same time, with the dogs running in turn down a lane of four jumps, collecting a tennis ball from a purpose-designed box at the end and running back over the jumps.
While it is a popular event at Crufts, fewer clubs teach flyball – partly because it needs specialist equipment, a lot of space and it is often done much more as a competitive sport than just for fun (and it can get very noisy!). Where your puppy may be too young to start until they develop more, you can still begin teaching recall commands to make them more responsive!
Heelwork to music
Often thought of as ‘dancing with your dog’, if you want to brush up on your puppy training, have fun, and to add in a bit of Strictly, then this could be the dog activity for you. Competitive Heelwork to Music involves working out a four-minute routine that comprises heelwork in various positions, mixed with a variety of tricks. It is usually performed in front of a group of judges. This kind of puppy training involves learning through play, improving your general control, mastering new tricks, and of course putting it all to music.
Even though puppies cannot begin HTM classes until they are one year old and they cannot compete until they’re 18 months, it’s best to start out when your puppy is still young. Begin by teaching them simple commands like twisting in and out of your legs and ensuring that you can remain in control of your puppy at all times, because this dog sport is done off the lead!
Work out with canicross
This is a fairly new dog sport which was only introduced into the UK in 2000. The name comes from a mixture of ‘canine’ and ‘cross country’ and the sport is exactly that - running off-road with your dog. The dog runs out in front following directional commands, while wearing a comfortable padded harness that is attached to a waistband of the owner by a 2m bungee line.
Canicross can provide a great workout for both you and your puppy and the use of directional commands can help your pup use their brains and build their confidence! To begin preparing your puppy for Canicross, first start by teaching your puppy to run on the lead with you. This will mean that by the time they’re old enough to compete, they’ll be ready!
Improve your teamwork with rally
This is the latest sport to be recognised by the Kennel Club and it’s like a cross between obedience and an obstacle course! It differs from obedience training in that dogs and their owners attempt a pre-set course with up to 15 signs along the route telling you what to do at each point. At the lower levels, these are all simple exercises done on a lead such as sit or turn, but get harder and are done off lead at higher levels.
To start off with rally, begin by training your puppy to do simple tricks and getting them used to the more basic obstacles you may face. It could be a good idea to start doing easy rally courses whilst out walking your puppy, then build them up as they get older!
These are just a few of the many dog activities and sports you can start preparing for with your puppy. If you would like more information, the best starting point is to talk to your local puppy training class, or look at the Kennel Club’s website to find an activity club near you.
As your puppy is still young, check with your vet before you start any new activity to ensure they are physically fit and mature enough to take on the new challenge.
If you’d like more information on puppies, why not check out our puppy advice content hub?