Want to find fun and varied ways to enjoy time with your dog and keep you both fit and active this Christmas holidays. Below are a few ways you can get out and about or just hang in your backyard and get fit through play – the best way!

1. Canicross

If you have always loved to run or walk, Canicross is an excellent opportunity to get out and keep fit with your dog. Canicross is a popular sport best explained as cross country exercise with one or two dogs which are attached to a runner. Canicross which came about through training for Sled dogs, to keep them fit during the warmer months of the year is increasingly popular with all levels of runners from amateur to those who prefer higher performance. Runners tend to wear waist belts and the dogs wear a harness, the two are then joined by a tug line with bungee to absorb shock. This activity is best suited to medium to large dogs.

2. Dog Agility Organisations

Agility is one of the quickest -growing dog sports in the country and rightly so. It is fantastic exercise for both owner and your dog, and it forges an even stronger bond between you and your pet. At each trail you and your dog will race around an obstacle course in the fastest time possible. It is great fun for your dog and really good fitness for an owner – as you will need to keep up! All in all a great day out for all!

3. Flyball

Flyball is a sport for dogs where teams race each other across hurdles to reach a flyball box where they can turn and grab a tennis ball which is released through a hole. Whichever dog reaches the ball first then races back over the hurdles to reach their handler. Flyball is run in teams of four dogs, as a relay. The owner waits with the next dog to race while the last dog is on its way back. The team to finish first wins. The fastest time ever recorded is 15.43 seconds by SpringLoaded from Michigan, USA.

4. Rally

Originating from the warm up and freestyle exercises carried out before an obedience dog class, Rally or Rally-O involves a dog carrying out certain commands and unlike traditional obedience classes, owners are allowed to shout encouragement to dogs. There are different levels of Rally-O but at level one where a dog is at novice stage and on a lead, this can be great gentle exercise for both dog and owner.
American Kennel Club who are one of the organizations that hold events have three competitive levels, novice, advanced and excellent, where a dog, off the leash can race around 15-20 stations and two jumps.

5. Heelwork-to-Music (HTM)

Heelwork to Music is a relatively new sport competitively, but if you love music, dance and dogs, this is the one for you! Heelwork to Music, similarly to Rally-O is also derived from Obedience work and has evolved from there.

Each heelwork to music routine involves working closely with your dog to carry out certain steps and movements to music which it then judged and scored. Each routine is generally around 4 minutes long. The team is judged on a variety of factors, including creativity, accuracy of steps, and choreography. Points can be lost for excessive barking and physical manipulation of the dog by the handler.

Once you have decided that you like the idea of getting involved in Heelwork to Music, the best thing you can do is to join a club where you can train and learn about the requirements of a Heelwork to Music competition. You should allow lots of time to practice on your own and also make time for supervised training at a Heelwork to Music class. Contact American Kennel Club for a club near you.

6. Trick training

Trick training should not be underestimated by owners. Your dog will benefit enormously from learning tricks above and beyond the simply sit, stay or fetch a ball commands. If you use appropriate, reward-based methods your dog will take up the challenge to learn some really fantastic behaviors, from “speak”, to “play dead” or even to riding a skateboard. The best part is that working out what you want him to do requires your dog to think, which can help him to relax, have fun and burn some energy keeping him calmer and happier. A tired dog is a happy dog.

7. Treiball

Treibball (pronounced Tribe-ball) started up in Germany around 10 years ago, and quite literally translated, means “push ball”.

This is a low cost, low impact, loads of fun, sport! To play all you need is you and your dog and a few basic bits of equipment. The game itself has simple rules and you only need a few fitness balls, some treats and love spending time with your dog. By playing the game, you dog will learn how to accurately target balls and push them towards you with direction and control.

You can play for fun or competitively. In competition, each game is timed, with only one dog and handler team on the field, so mildly reactive dogs can participate too. To find out more, contact American Treibball Association.