8 Unusual Dog Sports and Activities (Truly Odd)

Presented below are 8 of the strangest dog activities that we know of. Enjoy!

1. Canine Freestyle Dancing

What It Is: Canine Freestyle Dancing is a unique and creative dog sport that combines obedience, tricks, and dance, allowing dogs and their owners to perform choreographed routines to music.

This sport emphasizes the bond between the handler and the dog, showcasing their ability to move in sync with each other.

Who Does It:

  • Handlers of All Ages: From children to seniors, anyone who enjoys training and dancing with their dog can participate.
  • Dogs of Various Skill Levels: Both novice and experienced dogs can enjoy this sport, as routines can be adapted to match the dog’s training level.

Breeds Good at It:

  • Versatile Across Breeds: While any breed can participate, those known for their trainability, agility, and responsiveness tend to excel. Examples include:
    • Border Collies
    • Golden Retrievers
    • Australian Shepherds
    • Poodles
  • Individual Dog’s Personality: More than the breed, a dog’s enthusiasm for training, responsiveness to cues, and love for music and movement are critical factors.

Clubs or Associations:

  • World Canine Freestyle Organization (WCFO): A prominent organization that promotes the sport globally, offering titles, competitions, and guidelines.
  • Musical Dog Sport Association (MDSA): Focuses on the artistic and creative aspects of canine freestyle, encouraging musical and choreographic expression.
  • Canine Freestyle Federation (CFF): Known for emphasizing the artistic and creative side of the sport with a focus on the harmony between dog and handler.
  • Local Clubs: Many countries and regions have local clubs that organize events, workshops, and provide resources for beginners.

Getting Involved:

  • Classes and Workshops: Local dog training centers often offer classes in canine freestyle.
  • Online Resources: Videos and online communities can be a great starting point for learning basic moves and choreography.
  • Competitions: Ranging from fun, informal events to more structured competitions, there are various platforms to showcase talents.

Benefits:

  • Bonding Experience: Builds a deeper connection between the dog and the owner.
  • Mental and Physical Exercise: Provides mental stimulation for the dog and physical activity for both.
  • Community and Fun: Participants often become part of a supportive community that shares a love for dogs and dancing.

Canine Freestyle Dancing is not just a sport but an art form that celebrates the joy and bond shared between a dog and its handler.

It’s inclusive, allowing handlers and dogs of various abilities to participate and enjoy the rhythm and coordination involved in dancing together.

2. Flyball

What It Is: Flyball is a fast-paced, relay race sport involving teams of dogs. The course consists of a series of hurdles leading to a spring-loaded box that dispenses a tennis ball.

The dog must trigger the box, catch the ball, and then race back over the hurdles to the start/finish line. Teams compete against each other, making it an exhilarating and competitive sport.

Who Does It:

  • Dog Owners Seeking Team Sports: Ideal for owners interested in participating in team-based activities with their dogs.
  • Dogs with High Energy and Drive: Dogs that love to run, jump, and have a strong retrieving drive excel in this sport.

Breeds Good at It:

  • Any Breed Can Participate: While traditionally dominated by high-energy breeds, any dog that loves to run and fetch can compete.
  • Commonly Seen Breeds: Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, Australian Shepherds, and Whippets are often seen in competitive flyball due to their speed and agility.
  • Mixed Breeds: Also known as ‘All-Americans,’ mixed breeds are frequently involved and can be just as competitive.

Clubs or Associations:

  • North American Flyball Association (NAFA): The largest governing body for the sport in North America, organizing tournaments and maintaining official rules.
  • United Flyball League International (U-FLI): Another organization known for hosting flyball events and promoting the sport.
  • Local Clubs: Many regions have local flyball clubs that offer training classes and host local tournaments.

Getting Involved:

  • Flyball Training Classes: Offered by many dog training centers, these classes teach the basics of flyball.
  • Join a Club: Local clubs are great resources for training, socializing, and competing in tournaments.
  • Competitions: Local, regional, and national tournaments provide opportunities for competitive play.

Benefits:

  • Physical Exercise: A great way for dogs to burn energy and stay fit.
  • Mental Stimulation: Challenges dogs to focus, follow commands, and work as part of a team.
  • Socialization: Both dogs and owners get to socialize and be part of a community.
  • Inclusivity: Welcomes dogs of all breeds and sizes, making it accessible to a wide range of participants.

Flyball is not only a sport that provides intense physical exercise but also fosters a sense of teamwork and community among dogs and their owners. It’s a thrilling and enjoyable way to engage dogs in a high-energy activity while strengthening their obedience and agility skills.

3. Dock Diving

What It Is: Dock Diving is an aquatic dog sport in which dogs jump from a dock into a pool of water. The sport is judged on either the distance or the height of the jump. It’s a thrilling display of canine athleticism and is a great way for dogs to enjoy water play.

Who Does It:

  • Water-loving Dog Owners: Ideal for owners who enjoy water sports and want to involve their dogs.
  • Dogs with a Passion for Water: Breeds that love swimming and jumping are naturally inclined towards this sport.

Breeds Good at It:

  • Naturally Suited Breeds: Retrievers (like Labrador and Golden Retrievers), Spaniels, and other water breeds are well-suited due to their love for water and strong swimming abilities.
  • Size and Breed Variety: Dogs of all sizes and breeds can participate, as the sport is more about enthusiasm for water and jumping than breed.

Clubs or Associations:

  • North America Diving Dogs (NADD): One of the primary organizations in the U.S., offering titles and hosting events.
  • DockDogs: A global organization that hosts dock diving events and competitions with different divisions for varying levels of experience.
  • Local Clubs: Many areas have local clubs where dogs can train and participate in local events.

Getting Involved:

  • Training Facilities: Many dock diving facilities offer training for beginners.
  • Attend Events: Watching competitions can be a great way to get a feel for the sport.
  • Join a Club: Clubs offer a community as well as resources for training and competing.

Benefits:

  • Great Exercise: Provides excellent physical exercise and is particularly good for joint health due to the low-impact nature of swimming.
  • Cooling Activity: Perfect for hot days, as it allows dogs to cool off while exercising.
  • Bonding Experience: Strengthens the bond between dogs and their owners through shared activity and training.
  • Inclusivity: Welcomes a wide range of breeds and sizes, making it accessible to many.

4. Treibball

What It Is: Treibball, also known as “herding ball,” is a modern dog sport where dogs must herd large inflatable balls into a goal.

It simulates the traditional work of a sheepdog, requiring dogs to use their nose or shoulders to maneuver balls across a field and into a designated area, typically a soccer net or designated pen.

Who Does It:

  • Owners Seeking Non-Traditional Activities: Ideal for dog owners looking for a unique and mentally stimulating activity for their pets.
  • Dogs with Natural Herding Instincts: While originally designed for herding breeds, any dog with good training and a willingness to learn can participate.

Breeds Good at It:

  • Herding Breeds Excel: Breeds like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Corgis often excel due to their natural herding instincts.
  • All Breeds Welcome: Non-herding breeds can also participate and do well, as the sport focuses on obedience and communication skills rather than innate herding ability.

Clubs or Associations:

  • American Treibball Association (ATA): Provides guidelines, training resources, and competition information in the United States.
  • International Organizations: There are various international groups and clubs that promote Treibball in different countries.
  • Local Training Groups: Many local dog training centers and clubs now offer Treibball classes and practice sessions.

Getting Involved:

  • Find a Training Class: Start with a class to learn the basics of the sport and how to train your dog.
  • Practice at Home: You can practice Treibball in your backyard or any open space with the right equipment.
  • Participate in Competitions: Join local or national competitions to test your skills and have fun.

Benefits:

  • Mental Stimulation: Challenges a dog’s mind and improves problem-solving skills.
  • Physical Exercise: Provides a good physical workout, especially for a dog’s coordination and agility.
  • Bonding Opportunity: Enhances communication and strengthens the bond between the dog and its owner.
  • Great for All Ages and Breeds: Suitable for dogs and owners of various ages and abilities.

5. Lure Coursing

What It Is: Lure Coursing is a sport that simulates the traditional pursuit of prey. A mechanically operated lure is rapidly moved around a field, mimicking the unpredictable movements of prey.

Dogs chase the lure over a course that can include turns and straightaways, showcasing their speed, agility, and hunting instincts.

Who Does It:

  • Sighthound Owners: Initially designed for sighthounds, it’s especially popular among owners of these breeds.
  • High-Drive Dogs: Ideal for dogs with a strong chase instinct and love for running.

Breeds Good at It:

  • Sighthounds: Breeds like Greyhounds, Whippets, and Salukis excel due to their innate prey drive and speed.
  • Open to All Breeds: Many organizations now offer lure coursing for non-sighthound breeds, allowing any dog that enjoys chasing to participate.

Clubs or Associations:

  • American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA): One of the oldest organizations dedicated to lure coursing, focusing on sighthound breeds.
  • AKC Coursing Events: The American Kennel Club offers lure coursing events for both sighthounds and other breeds.
  • International Groups: Various international clubs and organizations cater to lure coursing enthusiasts around the world.
  • Local Clubs: Many local dog clubs offer training and events for lure coursing.

Getting Involved:

  • Training: Start with basic recall training and exposure to the lure in a controlled environment.
  • Join a Club: Local clubs provide opportunities for training, socialization, and competition.
  • Attend Events: Events range from casual practice runs to formal competitions.

Benefits:

  • Physical Exercise: Offers intense physical exercise, improving a dog’s speed, agility, and endurance.
  • Mental Stimulation: Engages the dog’s natural hunting instincts in a safe and controlled environment.
  • Socialization Opportunity: Dogs and owners can socialize with others who share similar interests.
  • Suitable for Various Levels: From casual runs for fun to competitive trials for more serious enthusiasts.

6. Nose Work

What It Is: Nose Work, also known as scent work or detection training, is a canine sport that mimics professional detection dog tasks.

It involves training dogs to locate a specific odor (such as essential oils) and alerting their handler to its presence. This activity takes advantage of a dog’s natural scenting abilities, turning it into a fun and rewarding game.

Who Does It:

  • Dogs of All Backgrounds: Suitable for dogs of any breed, age, or temperament, including shy or reactive dogs.
  • Owners Seeking Mental Stimulation for Their Dogs: Great for owners who want to engage their dogs in a mentally enriching activity.

Breeds Good at It:

  • All Breeds and Mixes: Every dog has a keen sense of smell, making nose work suitable for all breeds.
  • Particularly Beneficial for Scent Hounds: Breeds like Beagles, Bloodhounds, and Basset Hounds may excel due to their inherent scenting abilities.

Clubs or Associations:

  • National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW): The founding body for the sport, offering titles, trials, and educational resources.
  • AKC Scent Work: The American Kennel Club’s version of the sport, with slightly different rules and classes.
  • Various Regional Groups: Many countries have their own organizations for nose work, each with specific guidelines and competitions.

Getting Involved:

  • Classes and Workshops: Many dog training centers offer classes in nose work, starting from beginner levels.
  • Practice at Home: Simple scent games can be practiced at home to develop skills.
  • Competitions and Trials: For those interested in competition, there are events ranging from fun matches to more formal trials.

Benefits:

  • Mental Stimulation: Engages the dog’s brain, providing a good mental workout.
  • Builds Confidence: Particularly beneficial for shy or anxious dogs, as it encourages them to explore and make decisions independently.
  • Low-Impact Activity: Suitable for older dogs or those with physical limitations.
  • Strengthening Bonds: Enhances the communication and bond between dog and handler through teamwork.
  • Inclusive Sport: Accessible to all dogs, regardless of breed, size, or age.

Nose work is a versatile and inclusive sport, offering a host of benefits both for the dog and the owner. It taps into a dog’s natural abilities, turning their love of sniffing into a structured and rewarding activity.

Whether for fun or competitive engagement, nose work is a fulfilling way to enrich a dog’s life.

7. Earthdog Trials

What It Is: Earthdog Trials are a canine sport designed to test the working ability and instinct of small terrier and dachshund breeds.

In these trials, dogs navigate underground tunnels in pursuit of a scent trail that leads to a caged rat (the rat is unharmed and protected during the trial).

The sport mimics the historical use of these breeds in hunting and vermin control.

Who Does It:

  • Owners of Terriers and Dachshunds: Specifically designed for small, earth-working breeds like Terriers and Dachshunds.
  • Enthusiasts of Working Dog Skills: Ideal for owners who are interested in maintaining and testing their dog’s natural instincts in a controlled environment.

Breeds Good at It:

  • Terrier Breeds: Jack Russell Terriers, Border Terriers, Cairn Terriers, and others known for their vermin-hunting skills.
  • Dachshunds: Traditionally used for badger hunting, they are well-suited for navigating tunnels.
  • Small to Medium Earthdog Breeds: Other breeds that fit the size requirements and have a strong hunting drive.

Clubs or Associations:

  • American Kennel Club (AKC): Offers Earthdog tests and titles for eligible breeds.
  • The Kennel Club (UK): Hosts similar events known as Working Terrier Trials in the UK.
  • Local and Regional Clubs: Many regions have clubs dedicated to Earthdog training and trials, offering practice sessions and events.

Getting Involved:

  • Training Classes: Start with basic training classes that focus on encouraging and developing the dog’s hunting instincts.
  • Join Earthdog Clubs: These clubs provide opportunities to train in a tunnel environment and participate in mock trials.
  • Participate in Trials: Once trained, dogs can enter official trials to earn titles and recognition.

Benefits:

  • Instinctual Engagement: Allows dogs to use their natural hunting instincts in a safe, non-harmful way.
  • Mental and Physical Exercise: Provides a challenging mental and physical activity, improving fitness and problem-solving skills.
  • Bonding and Training: Enhances the bond between the dog and its owner through training and teamwork.
  • Preservation of Breed Traits: Helps in maintaining the historical and breed-specific traits of terriers and dachshunds.

Earthdog Trials are not only a test of skill but also an excellent way to honor and engage with the historical purpose of these breeds.

It offers a structured and humane way for dogs to exercise their natural instincts, providing both mental stimulation and physical activity.

For owners, it’s a rewarding way to connect with their dog’s heritage and natural abilities.

8. Barn Hunt

What It Is: Barn Hunt is a relatively new canine sport that tests a dog’s ability to hunt and find rats (which are safely enclosed in aerated tubes) in a barn-like setting.

The sport is set up in a course made of straw or hay bales, creating tunnels and climbing challenges.

Dogs must locate the rat tubes among decoy tubes within a set time limit, demonstrating their scenting ability, agility, and speed.

Who Does It:

  • Owners Interested in a Dog’s Natural Hunting Abilities: Ideal for those who want to engage their dogs in a scent detection and hunting game.
  • Dogs with a Keen Nose: While originally inspired by the traditional roles of rat-catching breeds, any breed or mix can participate.

Breeds Good at It:

  • Terriers and Dachshunds: Historically bred for vermin hunting, they often excel in this sport.
  • All Breeds and Mixes Welcome: From toy breeds to herding, sporting, and even non-hunting breeds, any dog that enjoys scent work and exploring can participate and do well.

Clubs or Associations:

  • Barn Hunt Association: The primary organization in the United States that governs the rules, regulations, and titles of the sport.
  • International Groups: Various international clubs and organizations offer similar types of scent work and hunting games.
  • Local Clubs: Many local dog clubs and training centers offer Barn Hunt training and trials.

Getting Involved:

  • Training Classes: Classes teach dogs how to navigate the straw bale course and hone their scenting skills.
  • Practice Sessions: Many clubs offer practice sessions to familiarize dogs with the course and the hunt.
  • Competitions: Dogs can compete in Barn Hunt trials, working their way up through different levels of difficulty.

Benefits:

  • Mental Stimulation: Provides a great mental workout, engaging a dog’s natural scenting abilities.
  • Physical Activity: The course offers physical challenges like climbing and tunneling.
  • Safe and Humane: The rats used in the trials are kept safe and are not harmed.
  • Inclusive Sport: Suitable for dogs of all sizes, ages, and breeds, making it accessible to a wide range of participants.

Barn Hunt is an exciting sport that combines a dog’s natural scenting and hunting instincts with the fun of problem-solving.

It’s a great way for dogs to engage in an instinctual activity in a safe and controlled environment, offering both physical and mental exercise.

For owners, it’s a unique way to bond with their dogs and enjoy a community of like-minded enthusiasts.

BONUS: Musical Canine Freestyle

What It Is: Musical Canine Freestyle, often simply known as Canine Freestyle, is a creative and artistic dog sport that combines obedience training, tricks, and dance.

Dogs and their handlers perform choreographed routines to music, showcasing the bond, coordination, and training of the dog. This sport allows for a great deal of creativity and expression, as routines can vary from storytelling to purely artistic performances.

Who Does It:

  • Diverse Range of Handlers: Enthusiasts range from casual dog owners to serious competitors, all united by a love for music, dance, and their dogs.
  • Dogs of Any Breed and Size: While certain breeds may have a natural aptitude for the precision and responsiveness required, any dog that can be trained and enjoys performing can participate.

Breeds Good at It:

  • Highly Trainable Breeds: Breeds known for their trainability and responsiveness, like Border Collies, Poodles, and Golden Retrievers, often excel in this sport.
  • All Breeds Can Participate: The key is the dog’s willingness to work with the handler and learn routines, rather than any specific breed traits.

Clubs or Associations:

  • World Canine Freestyle Organization (WCFO): Promotes the sport globally, offering guidelines and hosting events.
  • Musical Dog Sport Association (MDSA): Focuses on the artistic and creative elements, encouraging teams to explore various styles of music and dance.
  • Local and National Groups: Many countries have their own canine freestyle organizations that host competitions and provide resources for training.

Getting Involved:

  • Attend Workshops and Classes: Many dog training centers offer classes in canine freestyle, teaching basic moves and choreography.
  • Practice at Home: Handlers often create and practice routines at home, gradually building up to more complex performances.
  • Competitions and Shows: Performances can range from fun, informal displays to competitive events judged on artistic interpretation, technical difficulty, and the team’s overall performance.

Benefits:

  • Enhances Dog-Handler Bond: Requires close communication and understanding between the dog and the handler.
  • Mental and Physical Exercise: Provides mental stimulation for the dog and physical activity for both the dog and handler.
  • Creative Outlet: Allows handlers to express themselves creatively through music and dance.
  • Inclusive and Versatile: Welcomes participants of all ages and abilities, with routines that can be adapted to suit the individual dog’s capabilities.