A Quick Guide to Racing Dog Sports
Dog racing can be a highly challenging and competitive dog sport. It can also be a highly rewarding and fun way to spend time with your dog.
Racing dog sports test the full range of athletic abilities your dog possesses - speed, endurance, agility, anaerobic speed, and anaerobic endurance are all tested. Races may be over any distance from 200 meters to 5 kilometers - the only limit is what your dog can handle.
While it can be a very rewarding endeavor, it can also be quite time-consuming and expensive. To get into the sport, you'll need to decide if your dog is suited for the sport, consider joining a racing club, and assess your own fitness level, depending on the racing sport you choose. To get the most out of the initiative, you may want to hire a dog trainer for some specialized work. And then there's equipment - you'll need collars, leashes, treats, obstacles - the list goes on.
So, before you dive into it, let's take a look at some important factors about the sport and what you'll need to be successful.
What are Dog Racing Sports?
There are many different kinds of dog racing sports. Some involve the dog racing other dogs, while others involve you and your dog working as a team to race against other dog/handler teams. No matter which type of sport you choose, you'll be testing your dog's speed and endurance in a very competitive way.
What are the Different Types of Dog Racing?
Many of the racing sports that involve singular dogs are focused on racing a specific breed. For example:
- Dachshund racing
- Greyhound and Whippet racing
- Jack Russell Terrier racing
- Sighthound racing
- Terrier racing
In these sports, the dog's breed and build are important factors in determining what mix of speed and endurance they'll be most successful at. Once you know your dog's breed and type, you can investigate which racing sport is right for them.
If you want to race with a mixed-breed or non-sighthound cross, you can try agility racing. In agility racing, your dog will navigate an obstacle-strewn course and is judged on how quickly they complete the course. You'll need to know your dog's physical strengths and weaknesses, so you can build them up in areas where they excel and work on their weaker points.
On the other hand, if you want to race against another handler with a dog team, there are many sports that will fit this bill:
- Herding sports
- Hunting sports
- Obedience sports
- Protection sports
- Pulling sports
- Racing sports
- Tracking sports
- Water sports
The Physical Demands of Racing Dog Sports
Dogs racing exercises will demand your dog perform anaerobic speed work - that is, they run as fast as they can over a relatively short distance without stopping or slowing down. They'll also need to hone their anaerobic endurance, which is the ability to keep running at high speeds for a longer period of time.
Some breeds are prone to genetic disorders that can be brought on or exacerbated by sports training. These diseases include:
- Hip dysplasia in large dogs.
- Degenerative myelopathy in Dachshunds and small terriers.
- Epilepsy in greyhounds, other sighthounds, and whippets.
In order to keep your dog from developing these ailments, you should work with a vet and a dog trainer to ensure your dog is in peak physical condition and follows a safe workout routine. This will not only help keep them fit, but you'll also need to know if their breed is predisposed to these ailments so you can monitor them carefully for early signs of trouble.
How to Get Started
First, you must decide which sport you'd like to train for. If you're just getting started, the AKC and the Federation of International Canines offer an excellent resource for learning about each sport.
Once you've decided which sport you prefer, look at your dog's breed and figure out if they're suited for the event. If so, read up on the rules so you know what kind of equipment and training is required to participate.
Then find a club or group near you that participates in the sport - these organizations often exist as part of the national group for that sport. Contact them and find out if you can participate in a demonstration or trial run, so you can see what it's like before committing to compete.
Hire a Dog Sport Trainer or Train Yourself
If the sport you selected requires a lot of expensive equipment, such as herding or sledding, it may be more affordable for you to hire a trainer who can help you get started. Many trainers also offer lessons in general dog sports training and obedience skills. This is an excellent way to get started if your breed isn't identified with any specific sport, or if you'd like to try a different breed.
However, if your dog's breed is more commonly used in the sport you'd like to train for and it doesn't require expensive equipment, you can give it a try without hiring a trainer first. Make sure that whoever helps you train knows how to work with your specific breed so you can practice the techniques used in that particular breed.
Remember to take it slow when training for sports. Start with simple obedience tasks, like heeling on a leash and coming when called. Work your way into more complex skills like calling your dog off of an object or chasing after them when they retrieve something you've thrown. Doing this will better prepare both you and your dog for the physical demands of racing or other sports.
Most importantly, have fun! Racing sports are great for dogs and their owners because they help them stay in shape while giving them a stimulating workout. You'll enjoy watching your dog move as gracefully as they do when they're competing against other dogs too.
To learn more, we encourage you to give The Beacon Dog training course a try! In this course, you'll find easy-to-follow video instructions that will help you get started on the journey.