Outdoor Sports with a Dog – How to Strengthen Fitness and Relationship
Outdoor sports are great fun when dog and man form a team. This is how you train both, body and mind. We present very different kinds of sports, so you can select for each dog the right method.
Sports with dogs – What do I have to consider?
Of course, not every sport is suitable for every dog. In addition, you should consider the dog’s basic inclinations. It may be obvious that medium-sized, wiry dogs are more likely to be enthusiastic about long-distance runs than small dogs. Breeds that tend to be short of breath or suffer from joint problems should not be overburdened physically, but can also be challenged with head and nose work.
In addition, for humans and dogs it is important: Do not overdo it! We know this from ourselves: When you have finally made up your mind and decided to exercise, you start right away as if there was no tomorrow and the unavoidable sore muscles remain in your memory for a long time. Even dogs can get sore muscles and should therefore not be overstrained, otherwise they might associate training with pain.
Before you start, it is important to warm up – just like in humans – so walk slowly for about 15 minutes or start with a few exercises. In general, just take it slowly. Of course, it should also be kept in mind that the dog is not a piece of sport equipment, which means that the dog has to take its time during the exercise, sniff around in peace and quiet and also have a break now and then.
Watch out in the heat – the dog does not sweat (almost)
Important: Although it has been pointed out often, here we go again: A dog cannot handle heat as well as a human because he sweats much less. So he is at risk of a heat stroke to which he normally gives few signs only, which show that he is not well: Signs are: dark red to bluish tongue, whitish mucous membranes, and refusal. If so, please stop immediately, give the dog something to drink and perhaps cool it down. When you are cooling him, please DO NOT cool the head, but the paws or legs.
Please also pay attention to the ground. Tar can heat up a lot in the sun, even stony ground is not optimal. And when cycling, remember that the dog has to run every metre and not let the wind blow cool around his nose.
Basically we advise: Before you start a sport, talk to your vet about it. And when learning any sport, consult a professional. Here we present some special sports in brief. Please bear in mind that a lot can be done wrong in the execution, which can have a strong negative effect on health or learning success. Please be careful.
This sport is already well known, perhaps you have already tried it. It is about speed, skill and good communication between dog and man. The dog has to run through a course of approx. 150 m with maybe 20 obstacles and dexterity exercises, as quickly as possible. The human partner runs next to the obstacles and animates the dog with gestures and voice to master them correctly.
The dog runs in slalom, go over seesaws, crawl through tunnels or jump over hurdles or tyres. As the obstacles are more or less difficult for the dog to overcome and the dog must first understand what is required of him, the communication and teamwork between dog and trainer is the main focus. If everything goes well, it is a great feeling to have mastered the course without mistakes in a team.
Agility is not suitable for young dogs, older dogs or dogs with joint problems because of the sometimes high jumps which need to be performed. Please only try it with responsible training instructors
Here, everyone has an approximate idea of what might be meant. But please are not too hasty. The Dog Frisbee professionals will amaze you! It’s about more than catching a Frisbee, the professionals offer a whole choreography, lots of acrobatics, body tricks and much more in the Freestyle, Mini Distance or Long Distance versions. It is really a great experience to watch. If your dog is very eager to learn and maybe a ball junkie, and has no problems with the joints, you can give it a try. This sport is also suitable for small dogs, if you use professional guidance.
This sport is more familiar from dog videos on the Internet or from Lassie films. There the dog can open the drawer or free the child from the box. Or he learns to empty the washing machine. So it’s all about teaching a dog, with a lot of patience and as a team, tricks that are far removed from its natural behaviour. And some dog owners will be amazed at the talent their dog has for such tricks.
The ability of many dogs to work their noses is also astonishing. Man trailing originated from the training of search and rescue dogs and it is difficult to draw the line. The courses, which are often offered by dog schools today, are aimed at human-dog-duos who want to test or improve the abilities of the dog as a tracking nose.
The idea is to search for a human body over a greater distance, just by the smell which is caught in a worn T-shirt or similar. The dog picks up the scent, the person lets the dog lead and just makes sure that no accidents happen. Instead of searching for people, you can also have the dog search for treats or objects such as car keys or the remote control. A great activity for older dogs as well, but please train only under professional guidance.
Please note: The dog breathes differently when sniffing, the mucous membranes are dried out and the body temperature rises by 2 degrees due to nasal work. Therefore please always have fresh water with you and do not practice for more than 10 minutes at a time. Nose work is also “work”.
We are not talking about speed or fitness, but about obedience, divided in four performance classes. The basic training begins relatively simple with “sit”, “place” or whatever you want to call it. Then the training should be increased. Basically it is about executing commands perfectly and – attention – at a greater distance. The dog should execute the commands only by hearing a voice or seeing a sign. He should only move again when it is announced by humans. Obedience and a very good human-dog relationship are therefore crucial.
This is all about the dog running ahead and pulling the master. He is not only allowed to pull, he is supposed to. The person behind can either walk, jog or run, which is called Canicross. The advanced version is when the person is riding a kick scooter (maybe with larger tyres), which is then called a Dog Scooter, or an all-terrain bicycle, which is then called a Bikejöring. There is also the classic sled dog sport or Skijoring.
The basic idea is that the dog is not pulling alone, but man and dog cover a distance through nature together. Since the dog is usually faster than the human, the dog is allowed to pull and thus relieve the human. When the dog no longer has so much strength left, the human relieves the strain on the dog, e.g. by letting the human accompany the dog on a scooter or bicycle or by slowing down when running.
The important thing with all three options is to have the right equipment so that the dog’s health does not suffer. To distribute the pulling load well, a special pulling harness is important, plus a special leash with a rear shock absorber so that not every jerk reaches the other partner undamped. With the Canicross, the leash is attached to a waist belt directly on the athlete (so the athlete has his hands free), this belt should be specially padded on the back, and there is also a panic hook to quickly release the leash from the waist belt in an emergency.
With DogScooter and Bikejöring the leash is attached to a special device on the sports equipment, so that the leash cannot get tangled in the wheel and the dog always has enough distance to the wheel or scooter without being endangered.
If you enjoy it, join in
One can imagine that the sled dog sport is more suitable for the classic Nordic dog breeds, as they somehow have running and pulling in their blood. But be careful in spring and summer! The Nordic breeds have a lot of undercoat and do not cope so well with our high temperatures. As a rule of thumb, please do not go on tour if the temperature exceeds 15 degrees Celsius.
Also all other breeds of approx. 20 kg weight can take part very well, they usually have enough power to pull a person (up to about 80 kg) on a bike or scooter. And even smaller dogs can have a lot of fun at the Canicross, where you are normally on rough terrain. The main thing is that you have fun as a team! In any case, please ask an experienced professional for an introduction and also consult your vet, because the pulling dog sport goes strongly on the hips of the dog, so the dog should be in perfect health.
Basically, you should combine endurance training with head training, because only then can a dog be fully appreciated and used to full capacity. Please make sure that you do not train a “racing machine”. It is worth considering that the dog is usually better trained than the master, when the distances become longer and longer … ;o)
In any case, we wish you lots of fun as a team in all activities!
Nutrition duri ng sports activities
If your dog is physically active all the time or a few days a week (head and nose work also counts), he will need more energy. Fats and oils are very good sources of energy. They provide twice as much energy as carbohydrates and proteins. Fatty acids are a very good source of energy for endurance performance, as they provide energy for a longer period of time. Carbohydrates are ideal as a quickly utilisable source of energy. The protein content of the feed should only be increased slightly.
Tips on nutrition
- Supplement the feed with good oils (cod liver oil, salmon oil, algae oil and also saturated fatty acids such as coconut oil).
- The organic potato flakes, organic millet flakes and organic rice flakes of the Kreativ Mix are very good sources of carbohydrates. They are digestible and easy to digest.
- The vegetables and fruits are also energy sources. Our dried vegetable flakes of the Kreativ Mix are particularly high in power and vitamins.
- In order to slightly increase the protein content, each variety of our menus can be supplemented with the pure meat tins of the Kreativ Mix. In this case, you can choose more fatty varieties such as duck, turkey, chicken, and the poultry varieties also contain carcass as a source of minerals.
- Additional nutrients can be found in our organic herbs for dogs.
You are not yet familiar with the Kreativ Mix or would like to try this individual variety?
We have already summarised instructions and recipes for the Kreativ Mix for you in other blog articles: