Though sled dog and bully breeds excel at weight pulling, all breeds willing to pull can participate in cart-pulling. Dogs are separated into classes by weight and each dog wears a padded harness that distributes the load across the dog’s shoulders to minimize injury. The dog is then hitched to a cart or sled which he pulls a short distance in varying conditions. The sport, which celebrates the heritage of the working dog, is promoted by both the International Weight Pulling Association (iwpa.net) and the International Sled Dog Racing Association (isdra.org). Freight harnesses and carts are required for training, but it’s conditioning and the dog’s level of interest in pulling towards the finish line that are key to fun and enjoyment of the sport.
Our four-legged companions were the original “Downward Doggers,” so perhaps it’s not such a leap to modify your practice to include your furry friend. Doga, or yoga for dogs, is more about interaction than physical action. What do you need? A yoga mat and an open mind. Dogs of all sizes, breeds, and energy levels benefit from doga, a practice that strengthens the animal-human bond. Want to get started? Order Amy Stevens’ Yoga 4 Dogs DVD (yoga4dogs.com).
If bonding is what you’re after, try treibball. It’s a cinch for the herding breeds, but dogs of all sizes and breeds are welcome to give it a go if they’ve got the focus and propensity to take instruction. The sport started in Germany as a way for energetic dogs to work off their physical and mental steam. The problem- solving sport then found its way to North America, its popularity spurred by the way it promotes teamwork between dog and guardian and impulse control in dogs. Using her nose, your dog must drive eight balls into a goal in 15 minutes with only your cues as instruction. The handler chooses the order in which the different coloured and sized balls are directed into the net. It’s like precision sheep herding. Start with the basics: a fitness ball, 20-foot long line, a goal-like enclosure of some type, and a six-foot staff to help guide the balls. Then, check out the American Treibball Association (americantreibballassociation.org) for information on classes and competition.
Are you an avid skier? Share the snowy fun with your fourlegged companion through skijoring, a sport in which you cross-country ski harnessed to your dog. Popular in Scandinavian countries, the sport is catching on in North America. It requires a belt for you, a special harness for the dog(s), and a bungee line to connect you. (Find your gear at canadog.ca.) Skijoring can be done with one to three dogs, and is a suitable activity for nearly any dog over 35 pounds. Though athletic breeds like pointers, northern breeds, setters, and retrievers are obvious candidates, any willing dog can participate because you control the speed and power. Skijoring is mostly done just for fun, but if you’re the competitive type, organizations holding races range from North America’s ISDRA (isdra.org) to the European Sled Dog Racing Association (esdra.net). The International Federation of Sled Dog Sports (sleddogsport.net) holds a world championship race every two years.