Activities For Athletic Dogs

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Introduction

Many people know when they adopt their dog whether or not they will be athletic, largely based on their breed type, size, and overall build. Others find out when they come home and find their dog on the other side of the gate, smiling back at them. Whatever the case may be, having an athletic dog likely means you'll need to find consistent ways to tire them out and enrich their lives in a way that takes advantage of their sporting nature. Better yet, they may also act as motivation to get you up, out, and moving, so don't hold back, as you never know when introducing something new could lead to you discovering the next Air Bud, celebrity status or not.

Frisbee

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Normal
5 - 30 minutes
Items needed
Dog-specific Frisbee
Treats
Activity description
In terms of tiring your dog out, Frisbee easily ranks near the top of the list. It makes them run consistently and employ timing, speed, endurance, and accuracy, all of which take considerable physical and mental energy. And the best part outside of straight up exhausting your companion is that it takes few materials, which means minimal cost, and only requires enough space for them to run and catch. The caveat? Well, it doesn't have to be a sunny day, but it surely works best when there isn't snow or rain to worry about, especially given all the running. But if you don't mind giving baths or risking the occasional slip or fall, you've got yourself the perfect all-weather activity that will likely leave them one-hundred percent wagged up, wiped out, and dog tired.
Step
1
Test the waters
Some dogs are instantly obsessed when they are given new toys, while others take a bit of convincing. For both the sake of interest and safety, we recommend you get a dog-specific Frisbee - that is, one with softer edges, either rubberized or nylon to prevent any damage to their teeth. See if they're interested inherently. If so, feel free to jump in. If not, entice them by getting them to take the Frisbee and reward them with attention or treats in the process. If you need to go further, you can even go so far as to use it as a bowl for treats or actual food so as to make good associations. Once they're finally interested, you're ready for the next step.
Step
2
Catch time
Now that they're interested, give it a soft, short toss nearby but away from them and see if they chase and grab it. They may not have the instincts to return it immediately, but we'll save that for the final step. Once you get them to chase it, see if you can also get them to catch it a few times in closer range with more soft tosses. Once they master it close-range, stretch it out and see what kind of distance you can eventually get them to run for it. The more they have to run, the more fun they're likely to have (and the more tired they're likely to get; shhhhh) , and most will even try to catch it while still in flight if they haven't already.
Step
3
Fetch!
Once they're interested, leaping for mid-air grabs, hitting the accelerator in open space, and with any luck, actually catching it, you'll probably want to teach them to bring it back (unless you want to get just as much exercise as they are). Feel free to use a phrase they may already know like one for fetching toys or teach them a new one by using consistent repetition and lots of rewards for the right behavior. Once all is said and done, you can both play to your hearts' desires, tire them out, and improve their overall happiness and health, both mentally and physically.
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Soccer

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Normal
5 - 30 minutes
Items needed
Soccer Ball
Treats
Activity description
If your dog is athletic, chances are they're open to exploring new activities, especially if it allows them to run around. Soccer is a great sport for athletic dogs because it takes a fair amount of endurance and also stimulates them mentally, as you can always scale up the amount of things you can teach them to do, usually leaving both their brains and bodies tired out at the end of the session. In turn, soccer is something you can actively play with them, kicking the ball around, trying to steal it from them, and eventually, scoring goals. But like Frisbee, they may need to be trained to learn how to play first. Once they do, chances are taking the ball out will not only be exciting, but be an instant signal that the fun is about to start - and great exercise for both of you!
Step
1
Generate interest
Like Frisbee, your dog may already have an inherent interest in a new toy or object to play with, which is half the battle. If they don't have initial interest, you can surely help them form some by starting with the basics. Take the ball out and give it a few shallow kicks and see how they react. If they show interest, give them praise. If they do not, don't hesitate to institute your current best method, which is usually a clicker or treats. Get them started by praising them whenever they look at the ball, then when they approach, treat-induced or not. Make sure if they're moving slow to understand or be interested, you should slow the process down and reward them small step at a time, as some need more specific and regular encouragement than others. Once you've generated enough interest in the ball, you're ready for step two.
Step
2
Up the ante
Once your dog seems to be interested in the ball, you can start to introduce basic movement. Use your treats or clicker to reward them when they touch the ball with any body part. Then move it for them a few times and see how they react. If they mimic you, you're on your way. If not, feel free to help them use a paw to move it, then reward them again. See if you can get them to move the ball on their own. Try pushing it towards them slowly, then reward them again when they move the ball themselves. If they seem excited by the idea, try rolling it towards them from farther away, or better yet, away from them so they have to chase it. If they take the bait, you're ready for step three.
Step
3
Play ball
Once they have established an interest in moving the ball themselves, you can start stretching the field a little more. Take the ball away from them and see if they want to follow. If they do, kick it around yourself once or twice, then towards them softly. If they repeat the kicking/moving process themselves, you're on your way. If not, spend a little more time getting them accustomed to moving it, or use your knowledge of their personality to entice them to join you whatever way you know how. Once they get the hang of it and join you in moving it around back and forth, playing keep away, or just chasing it, you can up the ante and try teaching them to push it in the goal, by using the same reward technique.
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Introduce Them to Agility

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Normal
5 - 20 minutes
Items needed
Cinder Blocks
Wooden Board
Activity description
For athletic dogs who do particularly well with following commands, agility training is one of the best ways to maximize your dog's physical and mental abilities. Not only does it test their ability to jump, balance, weave and numerous other things, it also tests their ability to understand the intricacies of each activity on its own, leaving beginners with a great place to start and tenured pros significant room to learn more and improve on what they've already established. And better yet, outside of providing a great bonding experience, it's one of few dog-related activities that you can actually compete with on a local, national, and even international stage, making the end results virtually limitless. Plus, obstacles are cheap to construct at home, can be moved inside due to inclement weather, are flexible time-wise and have a range of difficulty.
Step
1
Pick and make a skill activity
Most dogs won't instinctively jump over something that is placed in front of them, so needless to say, it will take some training to get them over the first hurdle, pun intended. Knowing your dog can be key to getting started, as you may already know their comfort zone. Start with something they are comfortable with already. If they don't like going through or under things, a tunnel probably isn't the best way to start. Almost every professional agility skill obstacle can be remade at home. For weave poles, you can put garden stakes, PVC, or even ski poles in the ground. Dogwalks can be made with bricks/cinder blocks and a plank of wood. Jumps can be made with cinder blocks and a rake. Pick something easy your dog will be comfortable with. If they're a bit more reserved, try a simple dogwalk. If they're adventurous, try a tunnel or a jump.
Step
2
Train the first skill
Once you've decided on which skill to focus on and built a mock version at home (or taken them to a place where they can practice on professional gear), you can start incentivizing the act. For this example, we'll use a dogwalk, as it's usually the easiest for most dogs. First, allow them to examine the obstacle to get them comfortable with it (you may need to introduce treats if they're less than excited to do so). Once they're comfortable and familiar, see if you can get them to get up and onto one end. Try placing treats on the board and make sure they don't just try to walk up and eat them, or you give them a treat near it, then slowly lure them onto the dogwalk, peppering them with treats or praise once they've climbed aboard (again, pun intended). Try successively placing treats across the board as motivation to walk across, try holding treats in your fingers and luring them across, or try get them to nibble as you move your arm across the board, whatever method proves most effective. Once they reach the other side and exit, remind them how good they did!
Step
3
Speed it up, kick it up
Once they've made it across a few times at that pace, try to increase your speed and see if they'll follow suit in pursuit of a reward. Once they begin taking less treats, see if you can help direct them across with just one, then just praise. Keep upping the ante until they're entirely comfortable with the action. For confident, excitable dogs, it can sometimes only take one or two tries for them to get it. For other, more reserved dogs, it may take several sessions altogether. But don't get discouraged! These types of activities not only help form a better bond but they also imbue the dog with additional confidence. Once that is established, you can move onto more complex actions like a weave, tunnel, or jump.
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More Fun Ideas...

Lure Coursing

Similar to hare coursing, lure coursing is the process of training your dog to chase an artificial lure across fields, often while being timed for competition. It's a great way to give them an additional level of training, tire them out, keep them healthy, and exercise their chasing habits in a humane way.

Jogging or Biking

Jogging or biking with your dog, what a revelation, right?! But seriously, as simple as it is, getting an athletic dog significant exercise in any form is a great way to tailor behavior and maintain mental and physical health. If they're leash-trained, chances are they'll do pretty well with either of these activities and have fun in the process.

Canine Freestyle

Yes, it is as strange and fun as it sounds. It is literally freestyle dancing with your dog and almost anything is allowed as long as no harm comes to either party. The best part? It's actually a competitive sport! And even if you don't feel like competing, you can still turn up your favorite jams and whip it with your Whippet good.

Conclusion

While not all of these activities may work for your dog, making an effort to capitalize on their athletic abilities can prove to be more beneficial than just tiring them out. Agility training alone can provide significant improvements in their behavior, their reliability off-leash, their overall health and happiness, your bond and communication, and also provide numerous hours of fun. So the more you try and achieve, the more you can enjoy a deeper, more dynamic relationship with your dog, which is likely why you got one in the first place. If nothing else, you'll at least have a heck of a trick to show off as a host!