GENERAL BREED INFO

Sporting Dog Breeds: How to Sustain Your Buddy’s Athletic Nature

Sporting Husky
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Sporting dog breeds, we all love them; the sleek agile physiques, the energy, the exquisite beauty that comes with them, however we tend to overlook one crucial aspect that follows these dog breeds. Everything about these breeds tends to be a bit on the extraordinary side. They require a bit more care, a bit more attention and a lot of exercise and training in order to nurture their abilities and help them reach their prospective potentials.

Before delving a bit more into the subject, we must first define the concept of “sporting breeds”. Many organizations tend to have different criteria that they use in order to define these breeds and most of them tend not to keep in touch with the latest trends or latest dog sports out there.

That being said, it is imperative that we take a look at what sporting breeds actually are and how you can find, nurture, care for and train the breed that best suits you.

Classical dog sports

It goes without saying that these sports are used by organizations to categorize and actually deem a breed as being a sporting breed. These are the sports that have included dogs for an extensive period of time, some of them ranging from as far as the Middle Ages.

These sports are:

  • Hunting
  • Racing
  • Tracking

Indeed, not many, however the list of accepted breeds for these sports more than makes up for the lack of sports to begin with.

Classical dog sports

Dog organizations tend to categorize dog breeds according to these sports, deeming them fit or unfit to be called sporting breeds. Sadly, this conception is a bit flawed because with the passing of time more and more dog sports have emerged leading to today where dogs can participate in as many sports as there are currently in the human Olympics.

Too bad they are not the same sports.

Modern dog sports

As time passed, more and more dog owners have realized that their dogs have some rather athletic inclinations that stretch outside the norm.

Some dogs were extraordinary jumpers, some liked to climb and sit on the highest objects around, some liked to exercise their “pack leading instincts” and some of them simply liked to tackle and pull heavy weights around.

Dog agility

And so, as time passed more and more dog sports have emerged with varying degrees of success.

These modern dog sports are:

  • Dog agility
  • Bikejoring
  • Canicross
  • The obedience trial
  • Disc Dog
  • Dock jumping
  • Dog Hiking
  • Flyball
  • Herding
  • Trailing
  • Dog mushing
  • Dog surfing
  • Weight pulling

And the list goes on.

Naturally the list of sports diversified as time went on, and our canine companions loved them. The dog organizations, on the other hand, did not share the enthusiasm of the canine companions in regards to these sports, and it is easy to see why.

Most of these modern dog sports are not officially recognized by dog organizations as being proper sports, the dog organizations going as far as coming down on some sports, deeming them cruel when in fact it was not the case.

Dog training obstacles

Only time will tell if the list of official dog sports will be enlarged or not.

Recognizing a sporting breed

There are some tell-tell signs that indicate if a dog breed, or a specific individual of a specific breed, is of an athletic nature.

In order to find these signs, you will have to look at the actual constitution of the dog as well as how the dog’s body presents itself.

An athletic canine body will have the following physical traits:

  • A slim figure
  • Strong muscular hind legs
  • Toned agile front legs
  • A strong yet lean back
  • Tight abdominal core

The tail is also something to look at, although not included in this list because some breeds either don’t have a tail or have it cut off at an early age.

Last physical trait to look for is the chest. Athletic and sporting dogs usually have a strong built up chest, giving the impression of a soldier standing at attention most of the time.

Another thing to look at is the dog’s behavior itself, his or her likes / dislikes to be more specific. A dog that is naturally inclined to be athletic has a lot of energy. It is also a relatively safe to bet that they are not exactly well suited for life in an apartment.

For example, a naturally athletic dog will run, a lot, reaching speeds that can come across as being dizzying. Another thing to mention is the fact that athletic dogs will look for every single excuse to run, jump, climb, and exercise their athletic skills, as often as they can in order to burn off some of that built up energy. If you are a runner, we’ve listed down your best doggy running companions that can make this activity more enjoyable.

Another characteristic trait commonly shared amongst athletic dogs is intelligence. Seriously now, these dogs are clever, and they will not hesitate to show it. They are fun and easy to work with, however they can be stubborn and quite mischievous if they have been brought up to be too cuddled or spoiled.

Does pure breeds matter when it comes to sports?

As much as we love to believe that we live in a world that is growing ever more tolerant and accepting, sadly it is not the case when it comes to dog breeds. Indeed pure breeds do matter when it comes to athletics and athletic results. That is not to say that if your dog is not a pure breed he or she is not to participate in any of the sports. Any dog can participate, however the top results and top performances generally go towards the pure breeds.

Sporting dogs

The fact of the matter is that pure breeds have been bred to be athletic, they have been engineered and they have evolved geared up towards this kind of activity. A sled pulled by 10 German Chows will not travel as far as, or as fast as, a sled that is being pulled by 10 pure bred Huskies.

A simple argument can be made to support crossbreeding by crossbreeding 2 sporting breeds. However the resulting breed has a higher chance of being outperformed by pure bred members of the breeds that they have been bred from.

The conditions that sporting breeds require

Sporting dog breeds, even though they are many and quite diversified, they share a few things in common.

Most of these things have to do with their environment and the conditions that must be met in order to ensure the best and most prolific upbringing for these breeds.

Indeed sporting breeds are more desirable because they are more intelligent, more beautiful, most of them tend to live longer lives, not to mention that each and every one of them has the potential to be a champion.

However they are demanding breeds, and they cannot function properly in any setting.

First thing is first, it is not a good idea to keep a naturally athletic dog in an apartment. They require big open spaces, they need a lot of exercise and they tend to love the great outdoors. It might seem fine at first, but waking up at 5 AM every day to take your dog out and having to schedule everything around the dog’s walking and running schedules will quickly become a pain in the neck for most people.

There have been a lot of cases where professional dog trainers were brought in to train the dog to stop destroying shoes, chewing furniture and generally causing minor property damage because of the built up energy that they simply could not release in the apartment.

Another thing to take into consideration is the food that these breeds require. Ok, we consider each and every dog to be his or her own individual, with his or her special tastes, his or her preferences, and his or her dislikes.

The dog’s personal tastes do apply, of course, but a general rule of thumb is that normal dry food or canned dog food tends to not be the best choice for sporting breeds. In fact it is actually the worst choice because these dogs need a lot more vitamins, a lot more proteins and a lot more nourishment than the local supermarket canned food can provide.

Usually the owners of athletic dogs tend to actually cook a special batch of food for the dog. It takes about 10-15 minutes and you can cook an entire week’s worth of food in that time without having to spend much money to begin with. Our popular article on no-fuss homemade dog food is a good way to jumpstart your canine’s nutrition.

Last, but by no means least, is the actual training that the dog must undertake.

Again, athletic and sporting dogs tend to be a bit more demanding than other breeds when it comes to training as well.

Athletic and sporting dogs tend to be more intelligent and at the same time more clever than the rest of the breeds, which can mean one of 2 things.

Scenario 1:

The dog is very obedient, understands the commands and learns at an accelerated pace, is a pleasure to work with and requires the trainer and master to put net to no effort into the dog’s training.

This scenario is incredibly rare but plausible. The only problem is that dogs start training when they are very young, some of them even start when they are puppies, and in order to reach this scenario, the dog’s upbringing up to that point must be more or less flawless.

There are very few people, apart from experienced professional dog trainers, that know how to achieve this, and are able to provide the dog with the training and upbringing that enables this behavior.

In 99% of the cases, that is not what happens.

Scenario 2:

The dog is reluctant to start training, is easily distracted, learns the commands but starts playing hard to get, pulls pranks, tests the limits of the trainer and the master, needs to be worn down in order to start training, tends to pull mischievous pranks on both the master and trainer.

This scenario is actually very common, and the vast majority of trainers have come to expect this from all dogs, especially from athletic and sporting breeds.

It will require a lot of patience on both the trainer and the master’s part, and it will seem like the dog is doing it on purpose from time to time, which is correct most of the time. However there is a neat little trick which will help you get around this small problem.

In order to counteract the negative aspects here, all you have to do is wear the dog out in advance. If the dog is relatively tired and most of his or her energy has been depleted already, the dog will concentrate and actually be a lot easier to work with.

Take a look at our basic training guide for dogs in order to make your fur buddy obedient, and able to understand your commands.

Reaping the rewards

Luckily for dog lovers everywhere, athletic and sporting dog breeds are not a constant battle or a strenuous list of demands. Fact of the matter is that these breeds are preferred for a multitude of reasons, not just for their athletic performances, although this reason ranks pretty high on the list.

Truth be told, most dog owners prefer these breeds for a lot of different reasons. First off is their beauty. Athletic dogs are more beautiful, they are leaner, more attractive, and overall more appealing than other breeds.

It might be a shallow reason, but then again it is a valid one. Another reason is their elongated life expectancy, and if brought up right, sustained with enough exercise and the right food, most athletic dog breeds are able to live more than the expected 15 years.

Sport dog sitting

It is not an easy job but the look in your best friend’s eyes and the subtle “thank you” that you can read in them is the best impulse that you can get. Another reason is the loyalty that they bring to the table. All dogs are loyal to their masters, but athletic dogs go a step above the norm.

These dogs are intelligent, most of them know what they are capable of, and they will not hesitate to put their own life on the line to protect their master from any threat.

The last reason simply cannot be placed under a specific tag or be properly explained, however it fits the bill perfectly with these dog breeds. We tend to pick the dog breeds that have huge similarities to us. It might be because we like to see ourselves in the dogs that we adopt and raise, or maybe because we like to have the world in common with them, however sporting and athletic dog breeds are preferred by generally active and athletic people, and in most cases the dogs themselves actually inspire and encourage their masters to become more active and athletic.

In conclusion

Before rushing ahead and getting yourself a sporting dog breed, you should first take the time to sit down and ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are you an active or athletic person yourself?
  • Will you be able to provide the dog with the environment that he or she needs in order to thrive?
  • Will you be able to afford all the training, all the food and all the extra bits and bobs that your dog will require?
  • Will your dog be happy with the life that you are willing to offer him or her?
  • Are you willing to go the distance and make sure that your dog will have all that he or she needs in order to satisfy his or her athletic nature?
  • Do you fully understand the specific breed or breeds that you are going for?

Indeed these questions might seem simple enough to answer, however you will have to think about them for a bit. It’s no use getting a dog if you are unable to make the dog happy, and an unhappy dog will have a lot of problems, as well as cause you a lot of problems, in the future.

Sporting dogs are nice to have, they are among the most loyal, most loving and most fun pets that you can have. They are incredibly affectionate and can devote their entire lives to you and your family, however they do need some special treatment and special conditions must be met.

If you understand what you have to do in order to keep the dog happy, if you understand what the sporting and athletic dog breeds require of you, and are more than sure that you can provide these things for your dog, as well as offer him or her a loving home for the entirety of his or her natural life, then by all means go for it, chances are both you and your dog will be over the moon with excitement.

A word of caution though, they could become a bit overprotective if the training is not right, especially the big dogs. So do expect a small adjustment period in which your dog will grow more accustomed to your friends and neighbors. If you’re unsure what dog breed is most suited for your lifestyle, why not see our informative post on picking the dog breed that’s appropriate for you?

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Jane Lewis

    We have a few dogs at home, and they are very far from what you can call athletic. This article pretty much introduced me to the extent of a dog’s capabilities. I didn’t know that dogs could do so much before! This is pretty much the first time I’ve encountered the long list of modern dog sports (granted, I’m not very athletic myself and our dogs reflect that). This was very informative and enlightening for me.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      We aim to provide updated information to our readers, and we are more than happy to help you out, Jane. While the foundation of dog sports only changed a bit, the methods on how to effectively immerse your dog into training and to hone its potentials have significantly improved over the years.

  • Red Smith

    We have enrolled our puppy in a Foundation Agility course. We’re excited and it’s due to start next week. I’m wondering what dog sports are popular? Is it hunting, agility, obedience or nose work? Any tips on what to expect in the Agility course is most welcome.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      It depends on the focus on the course which can be explained in great detail by the trainer. It is also the perfect opportunity to make sure all your concerns about the training will be properly addressed.

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