As we start the new year and the new decade, you may be making plans and setting goals for your future. Don’t forget to include your dog! Here are a few ideas for activities you could try together. You probably won’t have the time – or interest – to try all of them, but why not make a commitment to try one or two this year. Your dog will thank you for it!
So, here are the 10, in no particular order:
1. Teach an old dog new tricks
Your dog can learn new tricks almost no matter how old he or she is. Sure, older dogs may require more time and patience – and you may need to be a little less ambitious about what you try; but if you know what drives your dog, whether that be food, a favourite toy, or cuddles and attention, you can work on a new trick.
If you’re stuck for ideas, try searching YouTube.
If you and your dog are more the social types, you’ll love flyball. It’s relay racing for dogs! Teams of four dogs (and their handlers) compete against each other. Kind of like playing “fetch” on steriods 🙂
Watch our flyball story to see for yourself:
Training your dog to “sit” or “drop” at home is one thing… doing it in front of a bunch of other people, dogs, and distractions – and being judged on it – is another challenge altogether! Developing your working relationship with your dog to this level will benefit both of you, and give you confidence that you can keep your dog safe under a wide range of conditions. Contact your local obedience club for details.
4. Doggy Dancing (Canine Freestyle)
If you’ve never seen Doggy Dancing, it might sound pretty loopy. In reality it’s just advanced obedience work, performed to music. Loads of fun and impressive to your non-doggy friends, too. See our story on Doggy Dancing for more info:
Now this one definitely isn’t for everyone. But if your dog has “herding” ancestry, whether it be Border Collie or German Shepherd; or something a little more unusual like Hungarian Puli or Norwegian Elkhound, you might want to try your hand at herding ducks, geese, or sheep. Herding is a fabulous way for your dog to exercise its instincts and breeding; not to mention a great way to hone your communication with your dog.
For more info, you could do worse than starting at the Dogs Victoria Herding info page.
If your dog is of the small, terrier-type or otherwise tunneling persuasion – for example a Jack Russell, Dachshund, or Border Terrier, here is a great way to test its instincts. Your dog must navigate its way through a series of man-made tunnels and find its quarry. Could also be handy if you have a rodent problem at home! More info at the Dogs Victoria Earthdog page.
Whether you have a Husky, a Malamute, or any healthy medium-sized dog, you can give sledding a go – even if you don’t live in or near an area which receives snowfalls. In snowless areas or the off-season, you can use a scooter! Your local Malamute, Husky, or Mushing/Sledding club would be a great place to start. See also our Malamute story from back in December 2007:
Sure, you might throw a frisbee for your dog occasionally at the park; but did you know that Canine Frisbee is actually a proper sport? That is to say, it has rules and a championship structure, and you can play it with other people and dogs? For more info check out Canine Disc Australia.
9. Therapy dog
You already know how much joy your own dog can bring you. When you’re not feeling the best, a few minutes with your dog often helps to take your mind off your problems. Well why not share the health benefits of your dog with others? Dogs have plenty of love to go around. After going through a training and accreditation process, you’ll be able to take your dog to places like nursing homes and watch the smiles he or she brings to the faces of the residents. Contact a therapy dog organization like Delta Society for more info.
One of my favourites, for sure! Agility is essentially showjumping for dogs. It’s high-energy for both handler and dog, and exciting and spectacular to watch. Dogs are timed performing a series of maneuvres including jumping through a tyre, going through tunnels, weaving between poles, and walking over a see-saw. The courses become more difficult as dog and handler advance through the levels. For more contact your local agility club – but first check out the agility story we did back in 2007:
…Well hopefully at least one of those activities appeals to you, and you’ll give it a try this year. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!