There are a wide variety of activities that are available for dogs and owners to participate in at all levels of experience. Activities are a wonderful way of extending your dog’s training by providing multiple opportunities and new challenges to keep your dog fit and alert. They range from gentle to strenuous to even being able to train your dog to assist your community by becoming a therapy volunteer or search and rescue dog. Committment ranges from the occasional day preparing for and attending a companion dog show to more intense levels for community service.
Many areas have a local dog club where you can train alongside others and perhaps participate in a more formal scheme such as the Kennel Club Good Citizens Awards. Please ensure that you use a trainer who is a qualified professional and who uses non-aversive training methods.
There is a useful guide here to finding a trainer, but this is an American site so UK qualifications will be different to those mentioned.
Please remember that new things may frighten or tire your dog so introduce your dog gradually, making sure that both you and your dog are fit enough for the selected activity before you start. If you are trying a new activity for the first time or going to a training club, ask to observe a session with or without your dog so that you can gauge whether it will be suitable. Ideally, trainers should offer an induction session without your dog so that you know what to expect.
The links below list some activities and the organisations that run training and events. The sites listed are completely independent of DogsNet. DogsNet.org and CReDO have no responsibility for any content on external sites including any advice, activity or purchases that may be made as a consequence of following a link.
Please contact us if you would like to add an activity or if you would like to provide feedback.
Canine agility pits dog and handler against standard obstacles arranged in a course which the dog must complete accurately and against time. It developed from a novelty demonstration at Crufts as a variation on equine show jumping and is now an internationally organised competitive and fun sport. Dogs and handlers need to be mentally and physically fit and dogs need to be fully mature to avoid injury to growing joints and musculature. In competition, dogs are divided by height and often age.
Cani-X (pronounced “canny cross”) is effectively cross country running with dogs which developed from mushers training of sled dogs. One or two dogs are attached to the handler via a bungee and a waist belt.
Companion shows developed alongside pedigree show classes to enable non-registered and mixed breed dogs to compete. Shows are often charity fundraisers and vary hugely in content and quality. Some judges are trained and experienced with shows run to Kennel Club rules, but many are not, with celebrities often being invited to judge as a draw to attract competitors and classes run as novelties rather than judging conformation or temperament.
Field trials were established to test the ability of gun dogs to flush, quarter, point and retrieve game but are now run as a competitive sport in its own right, held during the shooting season. The first competitive trial was held in England in 1865. Trials are run by societies in specific areas or for specific breeds and simulate conditions on walk-up or driven shoots. Unlike non-competitive field tests for gun dogs, field trials demand more of a dog than may be required on a typical day’s shoot such as longer distances for retrieves and greater discrimination on retrieves.
Flyball developed in Southern California in the 1960s and 1970s. The first tournament was held in the US in 1983 and competitions are now held internationally. Dogs run along a straight course over a series of hurdles, operate the ball box at the far end, retrieve the ball and return over the hurdles to the handler. The hurdle height is determined by the smallest dog on the team.
Hoopers is a low-impact sport that was invented in the US in 2017 and came to the UK a year later. It is similar to agility with competitions run on four levels: Starters, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Masters. Dogs are measured at registration and compete at an appropriate height level. The equipment comprises hoops, barrels, mats and tunnels and the handler must instruct the dog from a distance to navigate the course.
Hunting in the UK is undertaken using packs of with beagles and basset hounds, bloodhounds, harriers, mink hounds and foxhounds regulated by the respective associations under the auspices of The Hunting Office. Mounted packs can be followed on foot and some footpacks allow guests and members to follow accompanied by an on-lead companion dog. Please check with individual packs as to whether companion dogs are permitted.
The first conformation show for dogs was held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1851, with the first ever Kennel Club (now the UK Kennel Club) being established in 1873. Many other soon followed and showing is now an international activity. Qualifying shows are held all over the country, with the major annual event being Crufts in March, attracting more than 20,000 competitors. Only dogs registered with the UKKC with proof of ancestry going back at least six generations are eligible to compete.
Rally is a cross between orienteering and obedience. Competitors move between up to 17 signs which indicate the obedience exercises required over a curse that takes up to 5 minutes to complete. Levels 1 and 2 are on-lead and off-lead for Levels 3-6. Competitors start with 200 points and deductions are made for errors and inaccuracies. Dogs are placed in each competition, but must achieve at least 4 qualifying scores under different judges in order to progress to the next level.
Search and Rescue
Search Dog Associations in the UK, Isle of Man and Eire are represented by The National Search and Rescue Dog Association which determines the standards by which search dogs are trained and qualified. NSARDA trains and qualifies search dogs and handlers to find persons that are believed to be missing, may have drowned, may be in a collapsed building
or may be deceased in response to requests from the emergency services. Member associations are charities that co-ordinate the training and deployment of volunteer dogs and handlers. Search Dogs are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and operate in all weather conditions. It usually takes a minimum of 2 years to become a dog handler after qualifying as a Search Technician or Team Leader in a lowland area or being proposed by a Mountain Rescue Team of which you have been a full-time member for at least 12 months.
Therapy dogs are defined in the UK as dogs that are used to benefit people in a therapeutic way, taking part in visiting programmes and/or structured activities as part of a therapeutic programme or practice. Therapy dogs are not considered to be assistance dogs and may be accepted onto a programme following a relatively minimal temperament assessment.
Tracking and Scentwork
Competitive tracking dogs and handlers are assessed on their ability to work happily as a team, follow a track left by a human, locate a small number of articles left on the track and locate a hidden person or items of clothing. Levels progress from Foundation to Level 3. A dog awarded 2 Intermediate Level 2 awards is then designated as an Expert Tracking Dog. Once 3 Expert Tracking Dog awards have been obtained, the dog becomes a Qualified Tracking Dog and is then eligible to compete at Level 4 (mixed terrain tracking) and Level 5 (wilderness pursuit tracking).
Scentwork is similar in that it requires a dog to find and alert on up to 24 hidden, scented objects indoors and outdoors. There are 8 levels of progression awarded in 3 levels of trial. The number of entrants and trails may be capped according to the requirements of the venue.
Hound trailing started in the 18thC and was first organised as a sport at the beginning of the 20thC in Cumbria. Trailing takes place over moorland, fields and fells with the hounds following a trail made of paraffin and oil of aniseed. Pupies are trained form the age of 6 months onwards and all participants must register their dogs with the Hound Trailing Association.
Treibball is a competitive sport which originated in Germany in the early 2000s, with the first competition occuring in 2008. The handler directs the dog using whistles, verbal or hand signals dog to drive 8 large exercise balls into a goal within 15 minutes.
The handler must stay within a defined area that is several feet beyond the goal.
The dog and handler team are scored on co-operation and style in a similar way to field trials. Herding breeds are particularly adept at this sport.
Traditionally, the Italian dog the Lagotto Romagnolo is the only breed defined as a truffle hunter, although original bred as a water retriever. There are two species of truffle that are native to the UK and they can also be cultivated. A truffle hunting workshop can not only be a fund day out but an excellent introduction to scent work.