Keeping Your Dog Busy: How to keep your dog entertained

Everybody wants their dog to lead a happy, fulfilled life. So here we’ve put together a list of activities that you can engage in with your dog. They’re not only fun, but they also provide a great way to exercise and to preserve your dog’s natural instincts and abilities.Tracking: Tracking is a great way to get your exercise and wear the dog out. It means exactly what it says: The dog follows a track laid down by another person. An article of the owner’s is placed at the end of the track and the dog must find that article by following the track. It is often said that a tracking test builds real character, as the terrain is often difficult and the weather is sometimes completely undependable; since the owner cannot assist the dog in any way, everything seems to be left to nature and the dog! Training this exercise is more time-consuming than difficult, and it requires a great deal of patience.

Several different tests are available from different associations, with different degrees of difficulty. Basic tests cover short tracks that have only a few turns and a short lag time between laying and running. More difficult tests include more turns, cross tracks, and several items left on the track to be found, with a longer lag time between laying the track and running it.

Weight Pulling: Weight pulling has long been a favorite sport for the Alaskan Malamute and Samoyed breeds, but in the past few years this competition has spread to many other breeds, including, of all things, the desert-dwelling Basenji. Pulling divisions are divided by weight and experience. Dogs are put in harness and must pull a sledge loaded with varying amounts of weight for varying distances in order to earn their points.

Herding: Herding competition has long been recognized in European countries and has been found in many forms in the United States. Many communities have stock dog fancier clubs or associations. Several breed clubs have initiated herding instinct tests, and the AKC has just initiated a Herding Instinct Test. These beginner levels allow you to assess any possible herding instincts in your dog and allow you to see if that type of competition would be of interest to you.

“Real” herding, which consist of gathering, driving and penning, as performed by the working stock dogs, is an event that will catch your heart. To see these intent animals working stock at great distances all on their own is truly an amazing sight.

Sled Racing: Sled racing can be anything from a friendly competition between two men and their dogs to a competition as strenuous as the thousand-mile Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race. Here again, the dog’s natural talents are emphasized. While Arctic breeds are most visible, many other breeds (including Poodles and Irish Setters) or mixed breeds can be very competitive.

Lure Coursing: Lure coursing is somewhat akin to Greyhound racing but is held in fields with twisting courses over uneven ground. Lure coursing is designed to test a dog’s agility, as well as his speed, endurance and prey instinct. The dogs are taught to chase a lure, which is really a plastic bag, and their enthusiasm for the chase is an unforgettable sight. For more information on this sport, contact the American Sight-hound Field Association.

Therapy Dogs: Therapy dogs are increasing in number by the day. Hospice services, Nursing and convalescent homes, centers for gifted children and even hospitals are opening their doors to visits by therapy dogs. These dogs can be of any age or breed (some organisations request only registered therapy dogs; others welcome any well-behaved and loving pet) and you and your dog may be able to volunteer your services (Google ‘pets as therapy dogs’ to see what’s on offer!)

Visits with a therapy dog may be just the thing that will bring relief or happiness to an otherwise ill or hard-to-reach person, and your joy at seeing your dog relate to these people is more than worth every minute of your time.