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Schatz: Work like a dog: the world of dog sports

Dogs have been man’s best friend for centuries. We dress them up in jerseys on game days and make them our mascots, dogs fetch bats during baseball games, pick up tees on football fields and are sometimes even our halftime show entertainers. Despite all of this, man has not given dog athletes the support that they need. 

Thus, I will be presenting a guide to dog sports. And while you probably are thinking there can’t be that many, I am here to tell you that you are completely wrong. There are dozens of different sports, one for every type of dog. And while I would love to go into all of them, I have instead discussed my five favorites to watch.

5. Dock Jumping

Although dock jumping is not my cup of tea, there is no denying the impressive athleticism needed to score well in this sport. In this sport, a dog and their owner stand on a dock, the dog is then prompted to sprint and jump as high and as far into the water as possible. The current record is held by a seven year old whippet at 36 and a half feet. While any breed of dog is welcome to join in on the fun, the records are typically held by whippets and border collies. 

While this sport is incredible to watch the first, and maybe second time, this sport gets repetitive fast. However, it is definitely still worth the watch. 

4. Barn Hunt 

Yes, this sport uses live rats. However, the rats are cared for very well and are protected from the dogs. 

Barn Hunt originated, just like many other dog sports, with a practical reason. Terriers and dachshunds originally were bred to catch rats and other pests. In Barn Hunt, rats are placed in protective ventilated tubes, and dogs are asked to sniff them out. These dogs work fast, and within a matter of minutes they have found every rat in the area. 

While this sport is entertaining and interesting to watch, the quiet atmosphere is not my favorite. When compared to sports that are dominated by large dog breeds, you hear just how excited they are. These terriers are definitely peak athletes at their sports, but quite literally don’t have a loud bark behind their bite. 

3. Herding

It comes to no surprise to anyone that herding is dominated by border collies. While there are other breeds who compete and do well, border collies saturate this competition and almost always take home the gold. 

Herding trials are scored based on their test level, course type and livestock type. The course types are divided by which aspects of herding they are focused on: versatility, control or movement of livestock in an enclosed or unfenced area. The animals can range from sheep to ducks. 

What I love about this sport is the wide variety from course to course. Animals are put under immense pressure and must listen to the slight changes in their handlers’ whistles to know what to do. 

2. Flyball

This sport is most definitely filled with the most athletic dogs —whippets and border collies dominate this sport

There are four hurdles in a line, with a flyball machine at the end. The dogs, one at a time, will race and jump over the hurdles, before triggering the flyball, catching it in their mouth, and racing back over the four hurdles. At this point, the next dog will run and do the same exact thing. 

In basic terms, it is a relay race. However, these dogs are incredible, and many times the final results come down to the wire. You might be thinking, why would I want to watch dogs run back and forth for a few minutes? I promise you, after one or two watches you will be entranced. There are times I would sit and watch flyball for hours, every race is different from the next. 

1. Agility 

This is by far the most entertaining of any dog sport. By the guidance of their owners, dogs are prompted to follow a set of obstacles in a race. This includes jumping over hurdles, running through a tunnel, balancing on a see-saw and, of course, weaving and bobbing. Each division competes the same course, yet depending on the size of the dog, the race appears completely different. 

Like so many other dog sports, border collies have found great success in the agility contest. Among the most famous is P!nk the border collie. Dogs and handlers train for months to be able to have flawless runs. 

Agility is amazing because you see how different each breed of dog performs. Larger dogs are not as precise and they seem to not have full control of their limbs while smaller dogs seem too small for their own good. Whatever the size or breed, agility is entertaining for all. 

So, next time you are flipping through the channels looking for a game to watch, don’t forget about your furry friends.

Contact Olivia Schatz at oschatz@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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