There are a huge number of dog sports out there now, and I am going to attempt to mention most of them below, but I’m sure I’m going to miss a few. If I miss your favourite sport let me know so I can update this to include it! Here we go (in no particular order):
I think if you asked random people on the street to name or describe a dog sport this would be the most commonly recognized one thanks to its popularity and TV coverage. In this sport the handler directs the dog around a pre-determined course of obstacles. The goal is to run “clean” (avoiding faults for knocking down bars etc.) and fast.
One of the earlier organized dog sports these competitions test the ability of dog to respond to a wide variety of cues without any rewards while they are working. One of the earlier levels (Companion Dog) includes such tasks as heeling and coming when called while the upper level (Utility Dog) includes tasks such as determining which item the handler touched and bringing it back, running to the other end of the ring and taking the jump indicated by the handler and fetching back to the handler a glove dropped by the handler while heeling.
Newer than the sport of Obedience, many of the moves required for Rally originate in Obedience or as practice for Obedience exercises. The dog and handler complete a predetermined course of signs with such exercises as “Sit-Down-Sit”, “Send over Jump” and “Spiral Left”.
In this sport the dog and handler perform a routine set to music. Depending on the organization and level there may be heeling beside, in front or behind the handler. There may be props to interact with as part of the performance. I have seen some beautiful Freestyle routines and marvel at the amount of training that goes into those beautiful performances.
A sport that combines some of the skills needed for Musical Freestyle into a Rally Obedience course.
A team sport in which dogs run down their lane over the jumps, trigger a box to dispense a ball, catch the ball and run back over the jumps to their handler as fast as they can. A timed event that can be very exciting (and loud).
Similar to Flyball, the dogs run down the lane over jumps, but instead of a box there is a table with dumbbells on it. The dog must select the dumbbell scented by their handler and bring it back to their handler.
The judge will hide a scented swab (scents vary between organizations) and the dog needs to search the area and indicate the presence of the odour to their handler (who doesn’t know where it is hidden). There are several elements tested in each level: in one of many identical containers, somewhere in a room and somewhere outside or on a vehicle.
A person goes out into a field or urban area and walks a prescribed patter, leaving one or more articles (often a glove) behind. After waiting a period of time (30 minutes for Tracking Dog, more for the higher levels) the dog is brought to the start by their handler, who does not know where the other person walked. The dog needs to follow the track of the original person and indicate any dropped articles to their handler.
IPO (Schutzhund), Mondioring, French Ring Sport
These sports were designed to test working dogs and include a protection phase where the dog has to (among other things) find the decoy/helper, bark and quit on cue. IPO also includes an obedience phase and a tracking phase.
Field Trials/Hunt Tests
A variety of trials/tests exist to test the skills groups of dogs were originally bred to do. There are Field Trials for retrievers, pointers & setters, spaniels, beagles, bassets, sighthounds and Earthdog Trials for dogs bred to go to ground after prey such as dachshunds.
Originally just for sighthounds, more options are becoming available for other breeds and mixed breeds. The dog is released to chase a lure (often a plastic bag on a line) as fast as they can.
Draft Tests (Carting)
One of the tasks that some dogs used to do was to pull carts. These tests evaluate a dog’s ability to respond to their handler’s direction while pulling a cart.
Mushing (Sledding, Skijorring, Bikejoring, Canicross)
The dog (or team of dogs) pull a human in a sled, on skis, on a bike/scooter or while running.
Similar to heavy horse pulls, the dogs are evaluated on their ability to move a large amount of weight.
One of the Newfoundland Dog’s jobs was to rescue people from the water and there are water rescue trials to test these skills. There are also Water Dog Trials for Portuguese Water Dogs as they originally carried messages between ships, retrieved objects from the water and swam fishing floats into place.
Various herding competitions exist to test a dogs ability to follow their handlers direction and move stock (cattle, sheep, ducks etc.) around to the correct place.
Similar to herding, except instead of livestock the dog needs to gather large exercise balls and herd them into the correct place.
The dog’s athleticism is very much on display in this sport. More than just catching the Frisbee the dogs often leap in the air or off the handler to do so.
This sport is based on the job many terriers once held – keeping vermin (mice/rats) out of the barns and homes. Rats (safely enclosed in plastic tubes) are hidden and the dogs are released (one at a time) to find the rats.
A sport many dogs love – running and jumping off the end of the dock. Some Dock Diving events measure how far out from the dock the dog jumped or how high the dog jumped while others measure how quickly the dog can jump, swim out and retrieve an object.
These events started as a way for early breeders to compare the dogs they were breeding based on type and structure. Best in Show is awarded to the dog that best exemplifies their breed.