What are Dog Sports and Is Your Dog Right For Them?

What are dog sports?


I remember the day in this picture vividly. I was at a demonstration with my local disc dog club. At the time, I had only recently started competing in disc dog, and I had limited experience in the world of dog sports. Clove, my dog, was only three years old. She was (and still is) a very sensitive soul. During our demonstration that day, I don’t think she caught a single Frisbee. She half heartedly went through the motions of our routine, but her spark and love of the game wasn’t there. She tried her best to work through it, not because she wanted to, but because I asked her to. That day, someone close to me told me that I should give up, that I would never be any good. Instead of believing them, I set out to prove them wrong.

Clove ended up being invited to disc dog world finals on four separate occasions, but each time we stepped on the field was like pulling teeth—her heart wasn’t in it.

It wasn’t until I brought a little border collie puppy home a few years later that I understood the error of my ways. Wren was crazy about playing with me and Frisbees from a young age—and when I say crazy, I mean CRAZY. It was like night and day compared to Clove. Wren truly loved the game. Clove was just playing the game to make me happy. It’s easy to see that Clove and Wren were—and are—very different dogs. To make sense of this, let’s take a look back at our post a little while ago about determining your dog’s strengths.

The three things we mentioned were:

Working Instinct

Is your dog obsessed with any one activity? For Clove, the answer is a no. She loves attention, food, and sometimes toys…but is easily distracted from one when you have another. For Wren, the answer is a resounding yes! Wren lives for her toys. I’m pretty sure she would jump off a cliff if I told her there was a ball at the bottom.


If your dog is trying to get to something she wants, what does she do? I feel like both girls are tied here. Clove has the smarts to wait until I go out of the room to counter surf and grab those raspberry squares she’s been eyeing. Wren is less food motivated, but will attempt what I call “border collie mind control” to get something she wants. I keep one of her favorite toys on the mantle when we aren’t playing with it. Daily, she goes into the living room and stares at the mantle and back at me, and back at the mantle, and back at me…


When playing with you, does your dog:

  1. Want you involved in the game by bringing the ball back to you or encouraging you to tug a rope with him.
  2. Take the toy and play by himself, destroy the toy, or completely ignore your attempts to play.
It’s no contest here, Wren is more biddable. I know I am nothing more to her than a living ball thrower, and she will do absolutely anything I ask of her to keep it that way. Clove is still biddable, though! While Clove has her own agenda at times, she certainly cares about me and what I want, as is evidenced by her performance on the disc field.

To summarize, Wren has a high working instinct, high cognition and high biddability. Clove has a lower working instinct, high cognition, and mid-level biddability. This does not mean that Wren is better than Clove in any way—just different. As a matter of fact, it is all too often that dogs with a high working instinct and cognition are just “too much” for your average home! The exact features that make Wren a superb candidate for sports for dogs make it more difficult for her to be a good pet. She needs a “job” to be truly happy.

Each dog has different strengths and weaknesses. Those strengths and weaknesses can interplay in different ways, resulting in several different personality types and near infinite individual quirks.

What are dog sports? Dog sports are any sort of organized activity you can enter with your dog. Dog sports will introduce you to new ways of training your dog and are—most importantly—incredibly fun! Don’t think dog sports are for your dog? Think again. It goes beyond the beauty pageants of the conformation ring. There are as many different dog sports as there are types of dogs! From agility to lure coursing to dock diving and everything in between, there is a sport for every dog, you just need to find the one that plays to your dog’s strengths and natural inclinations. Your dog doesn’t have to be a purebred to play either, in many venues mixed breeds are welcome and are some of the more talented pups competing!

Dog sports aren’t just about competing, they’re about the journey, the camaraderie with fellow dog owners, and above all, the bond built with your dog while working towards a goal. 

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