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 Mary Marshall - Soul

Maybe Fido, and you, gained a few pounds chowing down on all the holiday goodies over the last few months.  Or maybe, you and your best friend just haven’t had the quality time together you would like lately.  Maybe you are just tired of being cooped up in the house over winter.

Instead of joining a gym and spending your hours looking at other sweaty people (yuck!), why not consider taking a unique, fun class together?  All of these canine sports are a great way for both of you to burn calories and for you to have the added bonus of quality time with your favorite pooch.

Here is a quick run-down of my top activities and what’s involved.  Do something different this spring!


Agility is a large obstacle course comprised of jumps, hoops, and various other configurations the handler (you) coaches his canine partner through; a timed event.  This is best suited for high-energy dogs.  You don’t have to join a club; there are websites devoted to showing you how to make a course in your back yard.


You don’t have to own a herd of cows to get your bowser involved.  There are clubs that procure flocks of sheep, goats, ducks and more for herding.  This is best suited for herding breeds, but I do meet an occasional mutt who hears the call of the flock.


Just like it sounds, this sport teaches your dog to use his nose to find hidden or lost objects.  This is the building block for bomb and narcotic sniffing dogs as well as search and rescue.  And, it’s not just for hounds!

Fly Ball

This is the sport for adrenaline-junkie dogs.  It is a short sprint event over a set course with a 180 degree, springboard turn at the back field before “flying” (thus, the name) home.  This is best for lightning-fast dogs that have good legs and hips; not the best choice for giant breeds.


WVM March 2014 Mary Marshall IMAGE SoulThis is a combination of agility and obedience where dogs, under the direction of their handler, will run segments of an obstacle course, interrupted by obedience drills.  This sport is good for dogs of nearly any shape, size or age, as long as they are in good health.

Search & Rescue

I recommend starting with a tracking class, to see if your Fido possesses a “natural” nose, as it is essential to a good S&R dog.  This is a vigorous sport for both dog and owner.  It is great exercise for both of you.  Because field terrain can be rough, this sport is best suited to medium and larger sizes.


You probably know what I’m talking about; you just didn’t know the correct name for it. This is protection dog training or “police dog” training.  It isn’t about making your dog a vicious killer; it is about discipline and responding to very specific commands, regardless of the situation.  Think of it as taking rough-housing to an extreme.  This is not recommended for small or medium dogs.

Field Trialing

This sport involves a dog’s natural hunting instincts.  There are various types of trials: some are for pointing targets, such as birds; others are for water retrievals.  Hunting breeds tend to be best suited for field work.


Another hunting-related sport, this is for dogs with strong chase instincts.  We tend to think of Greyhounds as race dogs, but that is because they are coursing hunters (they chase down their prey).  Races are only one type of coursing event; there are many others that the dogs find much more enjoyable.


Just like it sounds, this is a sport for dogs that love to dig.  And you thought that was a flaw?  Actually many dogs were originally bred to rout out vermin such as mice, rats, snakes and the like.  The shape of your dog’s body is a good clue to whether she was bred for earthing, as they tend to be low to the ground and long in the back (dachshunds, Jack Russells, many terriers).

 Walking /Running

Of course, if you don’t have time for a class, and you want something less structured, taking your pal out for a good, brisk walk or run is also terrific exercise for the two of you.  If your pet has a hard time keeping up, either due to size, age or health, a jogging stroller for pets is a great option for pets under 40 lbs.


Mary Marshall is an Animal Communicator and Consultant and she is the author of several books. 


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