By LAUREN NELSON
After the polar vortex brought in wind chills of -55 degrees at the end of January, it’s safe to say every pup is ready to stretch their legs and embrace spring with fresh and fun things to do. Searching for new activities for dogs to get involved in can be tricky as they range from dog-sports to simply finding mind-stimulating games to give dogs on a rainy day. Whatever the activity level of your furry friend, there’s sure to be something here they can happily put their paws into.
High Activity Level:
Flyball is a new, unique, fast-paced team sport for dogs. The relay-style race is a perfect match for all healthy, high-energy dogs regardless of size, age or breed.
The sport goes like this. There are two teams made up of a minimum of four dogs. These two teams race side by side down a course of four jumps that are set to five inches below the shoulder height of the shortest dog on the team. Once they complete the four jumps, they get to a Flyball box. The box holds a tennis ball that ejects when the dog hits the front of the box. The objective of Flyball is for each dog to go over the jumps, hit the box, catch the ball and return over the jumps as fast as they can with the handlers remaining behind the start/finish line. Each dog takes a turn running the course and the round is complete when all four dogs have passed the finish line with no errors. The win is determined by the fastest team who completes three out of five heats.
The first step to entering the Flyball world is to first schedule and examination of your dog with your vet. It’s important to make sure they don’t have any underlying conditions that might be triggered by the impact of the sport. After the all-clear from the vet, command and obedience training is key.
Flyball encourages the improvement of focus and motivation and is different from agility because it requires teamwork between all dogs and handlers on the team. To be successful, they all must work together throughout the entire challenging, complex and fun sport. Other activities high-energy dogs excel at and require handler interaction and training are agility, disc training and dock diving.
Moderate Activity Level:
Canicross is cross country running with a dog companion and is dog-powered. The dogs are harnessed and attached to the human, and they work as a team to complete the race. The human acts as the driver, directing the dog where to go from behind the lead using voice commands. It’s an easy, low-impact sport for both dogs and humans. It also provides a method to get a human and a canine fit but works the dog’s mind and allows them to use their brain in a work mode. Any breed is welcome into the sport as long as they are fit, healthy and able to run distance.
Low Activity Level:
Dog puzzles and games are a perfect fit for low-energy dogs who prefer to be more stationary. Interactive toys are designed to help keep dogs working, challenge them mentally and get their heart pumping. Every dog is different, which is why different personalities and breeds may dictate the most successful puzzle or game. Regardless of the toy that works best for each dog, the bottom line is that an occupied mind makes a happy dog. Some of the highly reviewed puzzles and toys include the Dog Tornado Puzzle, Treat Maze, Bob-A-Lot and the Dog Brick Puzzle.