Unusual Dog Sports to Try With Your Puppy

10 minute read By Lucy Hughes
Reviewed by: Pawrade Team
March 26, 2024

bikejoring on an orange tri-wheel with 3 dogs attached

March is a banner time for sports in America with hockey going puck wild, the NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament, and Opening day for baseball. But which unusual dog sports would you watch if they were broadcast on every outlet? 

Several dog sports are inspired by dogs’ work ethic, natural abilities, and how they were bred for specific jobs. For example, Terriers were used to flush out vermin from storage areas in farms and businesses, so they naturally do well at earthdog trials. Likewise, Australian Shepherds and Border Collies excel in sheepherding trials thanks to their instinctive need and ability to herd. 

A few decades ago, you would have a difficult time finding unique dog sports outside of agility competitions and other established sports. It wasn’t until recently and certainly the rise in popularity of social media sites that many of us were exposed to extreme sports for dogs we didn’t even know existed. 

Interesting dog sports serve several purposes. They allow you to bond with your puppy on a deeper level, satisfy your dog’s physical and mental well-being, work on common goals, and allow humans to socialize with others who have common interests. Learn about unusual dog sports, what makes them stand out, and the types of dogs suited for each of these fascinating competitions.  

Interesting Dog Sports One Paw Above the Rest

We’re all familiar with dogs running through tunnels, jumping over rods, and going up and down see-saws, but what about pulling humans on skis or even dancing in sync with a human in fantastic costumes? Check out these examples of lesser-known dog sports to see which one you and your puppy would love to try together. 

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Harness sports

Dogs and humans don’t have to be attached at the hip all the time, even if you have a “Velcro” dog that never wants to leave your sight. If your dog is strong and has energy and stamina, why not attach yourself to them via harness for a variety of pulling sports? 

Skijoring

Skijoring (pronounced skee-JOR-ing, a Norwegian word for “ski driving,”) is a winter dog sport where 1-3 dogs pull a handler on skis through a course. The dogs wear special harnesses, and humans use skis and poles to help power the team like in cross-country skiing. It’s a great way to keep dogs active year-round by tapping into their instinct to run while getting exercise for you as well. Despite having origins in mushing and sledding across the frozen Arctic tundra, skijoring is more accessible than people think, as you don’t have to go only to Alaska to participate.

You might wonder what type of dog breeds are suitable for skijoring, and the answer could surprise you. Cold-weather dog breeds that are powerful, agile, and have great endurance, stamina, and power to pull humans on skis quickly are best equipped to participate in skijoring. They also need a thick, weatherproof double coat that protects them from the harsh winter elements and serves as a thermal insulator by regulating their temperature. Dog breeds that succeed at skijoring include Samoyeds, Siberian Huskies, and Alaskan Malamutes. However, because skijoring courses are short and are not often only held in frigid temperatures over rough terrain, any dog that is over 35 pounds and loves to run in the snow showing endurance is a great fit at skijoring events such as Herders, Pointers, Setters, Retrievers, and Sighthounds.

Bikejoring and Canicross

Other variations of skijoring involving dog and human teams include bikejoring and canicross. In bikejoring, dogs pull humans on bikes using special harnesses that safely strap onto a bike. It requires training to master the technique, but it can be a thrilling dog sport. Canicross for dogs is where you strap your dog to your waist using a harness, belt, and special bungee cord. The goal is for you and your dog to run together as a team. Rather than drag you behind, your dog works with you so they are pulling while your feet are off the ground in motion.

Weight Pull

Weight Pull for dogs is a sport where dogs use a specialty harness to pull a weighted cart or sled a certain distance within a particular timeframe. Not only is it a great form of exercise but also a riveting competitive sport to watch dogs strive to be the first to cross the finish line. 

Weight pulling may seem tough on the dog, but it’s done with the utmost safety in mind. While weight pulling is physically demanding, many dog breeds excel in this activity. Breeds with a strong build, muscular physique, and high levels of endurance are typically well-suited for weight pulling. Some of the breeds commonly seen participating in weight pull competitions include American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Bullies, and Rottweilers. However, dogs of various breeds and sizes can participate in weight pull events if they meet the eligibility requirements and pass a health evaluation to ensure they are fit for competition.

Heelwork to music: Dog dancing

We’ve all danced along to the music with our dog’s paws or in our arms. What if you turned it into a full-blown dog sport? Sometimes cool tricks turn into full-blown choreographed routines. Heelwork to music, also called competitive dog dancing or canine freestyle, is where a handler and dog showcase a flowing selection of tricks set to music. Routines can even feature elaborate themed costumes.

Heelwork to music enthusiasts gather in competitions all over the world, but the coveted titles come from the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, England and the FCI Competitive Dog Dance World Championship each year. Rather than a “Dancing With the Stars” panel holding up numbers, judges use criteria such as choreography, musical interpretation, and the dog-human bond shown. Competitors train for months for the few minutes in the show. 

You don’t have to be a professional dancer to be a dog dancing team, just enthusiasm for the routine and experience. Dog dancing is for all body types and dogs, mixed or purebred. If you want to try your paws at dog dancing, you can start at home with a few simple moves. Teach your dog to spin in a circle, step between your legs, go around an object, give a paw, and roll over. Now choose a few to place in a sequence set to music, and you’ll be ready for the arena and podium in no time!

@americankennelclub When it comes to discs, Gengar wants to catch ‘em all 😏🥏 #thisisakc #discdogsoftiktok #discdog #bordercollie #akconespn ♬ original sound - Pokémon Company Int’l

Disc dog

How many of you enjoy throwing a Frisbee for your dog to run after and catch, leaping to spectacular heights to achieve the prize? Congratulations - you’ve participated in the sport of Disc dog (also called Frisbee dog). The human partner throws a disc, and dogs are scored on distance and catching with categories for freestyle techniques and other methods. Some are straightforward throws, while others could be an obstacle course dogs must complete before catching the throw. Dogs that love to run, jump, and listen to their handlers are excellent candidates for Disc dog, such as Border Collies, Mini Australian Shepherds, Blue Heelers, Jack Russell Terriers, and more. 

People have always been tossing toys to dogs, but Disc dog as a sport developed in the 1970s with a Whippet named Ashley who gained attention performing impressive catching tricks from local events to the White House. The Frisbee Dog World Championships were held for the first time. The sport has had a few refreshers over the years as it has now grown across the world from local clubs to international events. 

Disc dog records are quite impressive. Sully the Border Collie holds the record for the most times to catch a flying disc (frisbee) over 10 meters by a dog in three minutes, and handler “Frisbee Rob” McLeod holds both the Canine MTA World Flying Disc Federation World Record of 11.13 seconds for the “longest time for a flying disc to be aloft before being caught by a dog,” breaking the previous record of 10.59 seconds, and the “longest throw to a dog with a dog disc at 116.5 yards” among others. 

Treibball

Treiball for dogs, also called pushball, is a low-impact dog sport where dogs push large balls into a goal maneuvering around obstacles, manipulating objects, and following cues from their handler. Treiball taps into dogs’ herding abilities in a fun environment, so dogs with natural herding instincts succeed in Treiball. Distance, time, and the number of balls on the course determine the winning dog-person team. 

Competitions are divided into categories based on the level of difficulty. Participants can rise through the ranks of pre-novice, novice, intermediate, advanced, and expert levels with each level facing increasingly more difficult challenges. There are also teams, pairs, and even urban herding divisions as well. Owners start with basic puppy training commands like Sit, Stay, and Come, and build skills from there to eventually having your dog navigate a course while pushing balls into the goals.

Lure coursing 

Lure coursing, also called “Fast Cat,” is a dog sport where dogs simulate the unpredictable experience of chasing prey through a course as long as 600-800+ yards by chasing a mechanized lure usually made from plastic, faux fur, or cloth. Twine wrapped around pulleys are driven by DC motors. Rags attached to the twine simulate prey. The course includes quick turns to mimic the prey changing directions during a chase situation. One might assume the fastest hound is the winner. However, dogs can earn points when judged on endurance, athleticism, and enthusiasm, determining how well they follow the lure. 

Lure coursing today is very different from what it used to look like. Tombs in Ancient Egypt show that racing with lean hounds was popular 4,000 years ago. The 1800s were a darker time in lure coursing history as lure coursing turned from a hunting sport to a competitive sport held at a track. Dogs were kept only for racing and faced tough lives and forced “retirement” when they were past their peak. Real prey like rabbits were once used as lures. However, animal activists and dog breed enthusiasts began developing mechanical means of luring that did not rely on a track or terrible animal welfare practices in the 1970s. Today, there’s a vibrant community of lure-coursing enthusiasts who gather in trial and test competitions to build stamina and camaraderie. 

Sighthound dog breeds are usually the dogs that participate in lure coursing competitions. They are designed to track down prey using their sight, agility, and speed. Sighthounds share a specific body build to help them in their pursuits. Their deep chests hold large, powerful lungs, their long legs and flexible backs propel them forward, and of course, their eyesight and smelling ability are ahead of the pack. While sighthounds are the most common type of dog, other breeds like Corgis and terriers can also succeed. You may even get to meet some of the rarer sighthound breeds that are not commonly found at dog parks. Some examples of sighthounds you may see in lure coursing competitions are: 

  • Greyhounds
  • Italian Greyhounds
  • Whippets
  • Irish Wolfhounds 
  • Afghan Hounds 
  • Basenji
  • Saluki 
  • Azawakh

Pick a Champion Winner at Pawrade

No matter which unusual dog sport for puppies catches your eye, there’s nothing more rewarding than that first little spark where your dog starts understanding your sport. It encourages you to keep going to achieve great things with your puppy. 

At Pawrade, we think all of our puppies for sale are champions in their unique way. If you’re looking for a companion, whether you participate in extreme dog sports or just want to cuddle on the couch, Pawrade has your perfect four-legged friend ready. We can’t wait to tell you more about our secure puppy adoption process to help you find the #1 Winner in your life.


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Lucy Hughes

Lucy Hughes has been teaching and writing professionally for half her life. She has a passion for helping people choose a puppy and lead an exciting life with their new furry companion. She enjoys spending quality time with her family and her beloved Golden Retriever, Bowie.

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