If you have an active dog on your hands, there are plenty of dog sports to consider that can help to burn off some of that excess energy. Some breeds are more active than others, and exercise is essential for their mental and physical health, and certain sports for dogs will provide more than plenty of it.

But delving into some type of canine sport is not only good for the dog, but it's great for the owner too. You'll get exercise and strengthen the bond with your pet, and can join a community of other like minded dog owners. Dog sports is growing in popularity with more and more dog lovers are delving into.

Not sure which sport is right for your pupper? Take a look at these 11 most popular options and see if any of them sound like the perfect match for you and your dog.

11 Best Dog Sports to Try with Your Pup

Flyball Dog Sports

1. Flyball

Dog flyball is a team dog sport where teams of canines compete against each other as they run a race course of hurdles. They race over the hurdles towards a box that has a spring-loaded pad that releases a tennis ball for the dog to catch and the dog then takes the ball back to their handler.

Each flyball team consists of four dogs that run the race in the relay, and the first team to have all four of the dogs return to their handler with the ball without errors on the course, win. Errors include things like dropping the ball or a dog starting their relay early. There is a North American Flyball Association for anyone interested in joining.

Any breed can take part in flyball; the only limitation is that they must be tall enough to trigger the spring-loaded pad at the end of the course that releases the tennis ball. Thus some small or toy breeds may not be a good fit, and medium size breeds are the best.

Dogs that are best suited to flyball are also dogs with the following characteristics:

  • They are fast!
  • They have exceptional agility and balance.
  • They love to fetch.
  • They aren’t easily distracted by other dogs.

Dog Agility Sport

2. Dog Agility

Agility is a sport where a dog works directly off the verbal commands, body signals, or movement of their handler to race through an obstacle course while performing specific actions required at each obstacle.

The aim in dog agility sport is to complete the obstacle course accurately in the fastest time. Handlers are not permitted to touch the obstacles or their dog, and a dog receives no treats or toys to lure them through the obstacles.

Any breed of dog can take part in agility; however, some breeds and mix of breeds are better suited than others. Some are even known as perfect agility dogs.

Canines that are best suited to agility are dogs with the following characteristics:

  • They should have excellent “drive”.
  • They must be capable of reading and interpreting owner’s commands accurately.
  • They are fast moving and have good stamina.
  • They must have good balance.
  • They have excellent hearing and vision.
  • The need to have good coordination.
  • They cannot be easily distracted.

3. Carting

Carting is a sport that has dogs pull a dog cart that is filled with various items like supplies or weights, or, in the case of “sulky driving”, a person. Carting uses a dog’s natural pulling instinct and gives the dog a great outlet for additional energy. A carting or “drafting” dog relies heavily on their handler, so this is a task that’s all about teamwork.

Many different breeds take place in dog carting; however, most frequently events are held by large breed dog clubs and may or may not limit entrants to their specific breed. Examples of these breeds include Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, Bernese Mountain dogs, and Mastiffs.

Dogs that are best suited to carting are those with the following characteristics:

  • They are physically healthy dogs.
  • They have a desire for pulling, carrying, and otherwise “working”.
  • They are coordinated.
  • They are not easily “spooked”.
  • Having strong musculature helps!
  • They have confidence and drive.

Canicross Sport

4. Canicross

Canicross is cross-country running with dogs. Although this sport began as a practice technique for mushing dogs, it soon became a sport of its own. A dog taking part in canicross is always attached to their handler with a harness, bungee cord, and a waist belt.

In some canicross teams, a handler may run with two dogs at a time. Different canicross events cover different distances and the aim is to be the team that finishes the event in the fastest time.

Since canicross dog sport began from mushing, many of the dogs that take part in the sport are Huskies and Malamutes. But since canicross became a sport of its own, any dog breed can (and does) take part.

Dogs that are best suited to canicross are those with the following characteristics:

  • They are agile.
  • They have great stamina.
  • They must have healthy joints and a healthy cardiovascular system.
  • They love running!
  • They have a great ability to work alongside their handler, for example, allowing their handler to set the pace.

Sled Dog Racing

5. Sled Dog Racing

A competitive dog sport that most owners are familiar with, sled dog racing is a winter sport that has a team of dogs work together to pull a sled that carries their handler through the snow. The team of dogs must complete the marked sled dog course and the team that completes the course the fastest is the winner.

For the most part, you will only see Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Samoyeds, Greenland dogs and American Eskimo dogs taking part in sled dog racing due to breed's history of familiarity with this practice. Yukon Quest is a popular resource for anyone interested in competing in sled dog racing.

Dogs that are best suited to sled dog racing are dogs with the following characteristics:

  • They have a strong stamina.
  • They are hardworking and persistent.
  • They are willing to work with a team and understand their place in a hierarchy.
  • They are friendly dogs.
  • They love to run!
  • They are well insulated against the cold!

The Sport of Dock Jumping

6. Dock Jumping

Doggy dock jumping, part of canine aquatics competition, known as “dock diving”, is a sport where dogs jump from a dock into a pool, lake, or another body of water. Depending on the event, dogs will compete for distance or height.

Any breed of dog can take part in dock diving or dock jumping, but they must have a passion for the water and (obviously) be able to swim. Dogs that are particularly good at swimming are often exceptional at this.

Those that are best suited to dock jumping are dogs with the following characteristics:

  • They have a love of water.
  • They are a strong swimmer.
  • They are agile and able to jump well.
  • A strong drive to follow a toy, fetch a toy or retrieve.
  • They must have great endurance.

7. Tracking Trial

Tracking trial is a dog sport that encourages pets to use their sense of smell to follow a scent trail. This talent used to be widely utilized in fox hunting, but it has since been honed by utilizing scent bags since fox hunts have been outlawed.

These days tracking trials are most often used as practice to train dogs for search and rescue work and for scent tracking in the case of missing persons or fleeing criminals, but they are also performed as a competitive sport.

Any breed of dog can take part in tracking trials, and some breeds are better suited to it, for example, hunting dogs and scent hounds.

Dogs that are best suited to tracking trials are dogs with the following characteristics:

  • They have a strong sense of smell.
  • They have a strong drive.
  • They have great stamina.
  • They work well with their handler.
  • They work for praise.
  • They are not easily distracted.

Schutzhund Sport for Dogs

8. Schutzhund

Schutzhund is a sport that was developed from a trait assessment test for dogs that were to be used in police work. Schutzhund is very demanding work and tests a range of characteristics including dog's ability to follow scent, agility, strength, obedience, endurance, and protective instinct.

While Schutzhund work began as temperament testing for German Shepherd dogs, other breeds may be Schutzhund trained as well. Most of these dogs will be related to the German Shepherd or have a similar physical strength and drive.

Dogs that are best suited to Schutzhund are dogs with the following characteristics:

  • They are determined and dedicated to working.
  • They are courageous and protective.
  • They have an excellent sense of smell.
  • They excel in obedience and follow instruction well.
  • They have a strong drive.
  • They have excellent hearing and vision.
  • They are physically strong.
Disc Dog Canine Sport
Stanislaw Tokarski / Shutterstock.com

9. Disc Dog

This sport is also recognized as “Frisbee Dog” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Human handlers throw a flying disc and their dog catches and returns the disc. It may sound simple, but it requires great communication between a dog and their handler.

There are various categories of disc dog competitions. Some events measure distance and others allow freestyle choreography to see just how well a handler and their dog can work together. There's even a USDDN federation – an International Disc Dog Organization.

Any breed of dog can take part in disc dog work, but most often the dogs that enjoy the sport most are sporting breeds and herding breeds. The most frequently seen breeds in this sport are Border Collies, Australian Cattle dogs, and Australian Shepherds.

Dogs that are best suited to disc dog work are dogs with the following characteristics:

  • They have great reflexes.
  • They have a love for fetch and retrieving.
  • They have a strong bond with their handler and excellent communication skills.
  • They are very focused.
  • They are agile and have good stamina.
  • They are coordinated.

10. Rally Obedience

This dog sport utilizes obedience skills, and requires a dog to move through an obedience course with between 10 and 20 stations. In some ways, it's similar to canine agility sport and competitions but is less about physical abilities and more about extremely accurate obedience understanding and demands.

Each station requires the dog to perform a designated obedience command (they can be encouraged by their handler) and upon completion, they must heel to their handler as they move to the next station. The aim is to complete the course in the best time with the least number of penalty points.

Any breed can take part in rally obedience, although for AKC rally obedience, only AKC purebreds and mixed breed dogs registered with the AKC Canine Partners program are permitted to take part.

Dogs that are best suited to rally obedience are dogs with the following characteristics:

  • They have a strong desire to please.
  • They have a knack for obedience and advanced obedience.
  • They excel at agility work.
  • They are able to focus their excess energy and are not easily distracted.

Sheepdog Trials

11. Sheepdog Trials

This competitive sport relies on dogs with a strong herding instinct and a solid grasp of obedience. Herding requires a handler to communicate commands quickly and efficiently with their dog – usually using whistle commands or short verbal commands – providing instruction for herding sheep around a field, around gates, around enclosures, or around fences.

Depending on the sheepdog trials, some events only permit herding breeds to take part while others allow any breed to join the competition. I recommend you check the site of United Kingdom's International Sheep Dog Society for more tips and resources on this canine sport.

Dogs that are best suited to sheepdog trials are dogs with the following characteristics:

  • They have a habit of driving, heading off, or otherwise directing livestock or people.
  • They are fast moving and have good stamina.
  • They learn quickly and are compliant while still being in control of their livestock.
  • They MUST have good balance.
  • They have excellent hearing and vision.
  • They have a “strong eye” that is used to “stare down” and elicit compliance from other animals.

Don’t See the Right Fit?

Don’t panic if you don’t see a good fit for your dog on our list of dog sports for active dogs – there are many more to choose from. Start by considering what skills your dog has; not just what they are good at, but what do they enjoy?

From there, consider what motivates your dog. Are your dogs prey driven? Are they food oriented? Use this information to put together a profile for your pooch to make it easier to determine what type of sport or activity is right for them.

READ NEXT: The Science-based Guide for Feeding Athletic Dogs

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11 Most Popular Dog Sports

Patrick has been a long-time dog adopter and currently lives with his two dogs - Tarzan and Loki - in Brooklyn, NY. He is a certified dog trainer, writer on all things dogs, animal shelter volunteer, freelancer researcher of animal sciences and aspiring author.