by Griffin Mancuso
When parents have an especially energetic child, they often put them in some kind of extracurricular to provide them with an outlet and give themselves an afternoon of peace. That child may take to a certain activity, like karate, swimming, baseball or chess. Dogs are pretty much the same.
My beloved, hyper Oscar Meyer and I joined Humboldt Disc Dogs back in September after I discovered them on Facebook. My main concern was the stories I heard of dog sport groups being very exclusive and impatient with newcomers, but that was thankfully not the case. We were fully embraced and offered tips for frisbee throwing and game strategy, and Oscar had a blast.
Little did I know, disc sports was just a gateway drug. We now participate in disc sports, Fast CAT, rally and are hoping to start barn-hunting in the spring.
Many dog breeds were originally created for a certain job. Border collies herd cows and sheep, bloodhounds use their sharp sense of smell to hunt and cane corsos protect their family and home. Most dog owners don’t have a need for a working dog, but their dog still needs an outlet for their energy and drive. Unfulfilled dogs often become restless, develop neurotic habits or resort to destructive chewing.
Even if your dog isn’t a purebred working breed, they can still find joy in dog sports. I have witnessed a 14-year-old chihuahua crush everyone in disc sports and a poodle-mix run in Fast CAT.
There are several dog sports to choose from, with most of them being created by the American Kennel Club. The “CAT” in Fast CAT stands for coursing ability test. A 100 yard course is set up with a motorized lure that runs down the middle to encourage the dogs to run. Despite the lure only being a plastic bag, dogs love it. Dogs, especially hunting breeds, are triggered by movement and will gladly take off after it. This sport is great for beginners since it involves minimal work from the owner.
Dock diving entails your dog running off of a 40-foot-long dock, catching a toy in the air and making a grand leap into a pool. Depending on the game, the goal can be for them to jump as far as possible or swim as fast as possible to the end and back.
Obedience and rally are two sides of the same coin and provide mental exercise for your dog. Obedience involves multiple different trials of demonstrating your dog’s ability to follow basic commands like sit, stay, on and off-leash walking, and so on.
Rally has you take your dog through a course of signs with different maneuvers and commands that your dog must be able to follow. The course is different every time, and the 322 available signs allow for infinite combinations. Rally is also a mental exercise for the owner, as it involves memorization and fast thinking in the ring.
Agility is one of the more well-known dog sports. You take your dog through a course of hurdles, hoops, tunnels and other obstacles as fast as possible. Herding breeds like border collies and Australian shepherds excel at this sport due to their speed and biddability, but any breed can enjoy agility.
Disc sports are newer and not involved with the AKC, instead created by an organization called UpDog. These games can involve some agility, catching the frisbee in different zones or a combination of the two. If you want to get into disc sports, practice your frisbee throwing. You’re gonna need it.
Most of these clubs can only be found through obscure Facebook groups, the occasional poster at a vet clinic, or word of mouth. Thankfully, I am benevolent and will share my wealth of knowledge with you.
Up in Humboldt, there are a few groups who do dog sports. Humboldt Dash and Splash hosts dock diving and the Lost Coast Kennel Club hosts agility, rally, Fast CAT (racing), and barn hunt. Humboldt Disc Dogs is in charge of disc sports.
One of the reasons younger people don’t participate in dog sports is the cost, but these sports don’t have to be expensive if you don’t want them to be. A Lost Coast Kennel Club membership is $15 and they only request a 5$ donation for Fast CAT practices. A Humboldt Disc Dogs membership is $10, and each practice and trial run costs $10. You can either buy your own supplies or borrow them at practices and trials.
The most fulfilling part of dog sports is getting to watch your dog have the time of their life. It’s a great opportunity to increase your bond with them and get them de-wiggled. There’s a unique joy in watching your dog get increasingly excited as they realize where you’re driving them and seeing their tail violently wag after a great run. For the rest of the day, they sleep like a rock.
If you have the means, I strongly recommend dropping in on a practice and seeing how your dog likes it. It may become your next addiction.