You know your dog loves to run, but what about surfing? Or dancing? Those are just some of the creative competitions that dog owners have come up with over the years -- events that are as much fun to watch as they are to compete in. For a real pet travel adventure, find a competition near you to join in, or hit the road to be a spectator at these competitive canine attractions.
Can your pooch hang 20? If so, get yourselves to this annual contest -- the country’s original dog-surfing competition and a fund-raiser for Donorschoose.org -- where pups of all sizes hit the water to see how long and how well they can ride the waves. There’s even a tandem heat in which you and your pet can surf together. The tandem competition can get very showy, says Loews Coronado Bay Resort general manager Kathleen Cochran, with a good-natured laugh. One year, we had a father with a daughter on his shoulders and their dog on the board. Anyone with a dog can register, and all are welcome to watch. If you want to stay at the Loews hotel, ask for the “Surf Dog” package.
Sure it’s fun to toss around a Frisbee in the park, but competition-level disc dogs take their techniques quite seriously, and they’ve passed qualifying rounds all over the world throughout the year to compete in the world championships. If you think your pooch has what it takes to get creative with catch, find tips and beginner’s info at Hyperflite’s website. Humans who haven’t yet mastered the skill can join the crowd watching the impressive leaps and bounds the canines go to at the championship.
About 1,000 dogs and 800 owners from all over the world converge on Kentucky for this yearly test of canine agility. That means these pooches will do more than just fetch your favorite shoes; they can navigate a course of obstacles including tunnels, ramps, jumps and even seesaws. Although you’d have to enter qualifying rounds months ahead of the annual championships to compete in Kentucky, the pet-loving public is welcome to watch the main event and participate in some side activities, including the Doggie Do-Right Test (where pets can try out an agility course), a dock-jumping contest (where dogs are judged on height and distance as they leap into a pool) and a lure coursing area (where speed is the most important skill as dogs chase a fuzzy rabbit-like lure).
In addition to being man’s best friend, a dog can also be man’s best dance partner. That’s the premise behind canine freestyle, which is just another way of saying dancing with your dog to music. This unusual-sounding sport first took hold in Canada but now has quite a following all over the world. Here in the States, the World Canine Freestyle Organization holds events throughout the year; some of the biggest are “The Falling Weaves” in Amherst, NH, (Oct 8 and 9, 2011) and the WCFO North American National in Oconomowoc, WI, (Oct 14-16, 2011). Find one near you -- they’re something to see.
Dog owners are a pretty creative bunch, turning the typical things that dogs love to do into fun competitions for all. Flyball is just like that: Essentially, it’s about running, jumping and fetching. But in practice, it’s much more. In each race, 2 teams of 4 dogs compete in a relay; each dog must jump several hurdles and then catch a launched ball before returning to the start point. There are more than 375 clubs registered with NAFA all over the US and Canada, so check the association’s website to find a club in your area, or make a plan to attend the year’s largest event in Indiana -- or one of its smallest, the Summer Solstice Tournament in Alaska.
The feats these sport dogs accomplish are truly amazing to watch. So the next time your dog flawlessly catches a morsel as it falls from the table or does a seemingly perfect jig while waiting for her walk, ask yourself this: Is she trying to tell you something? See you at the games.
Billie Cohen is a travel writer living in Brooklyn, NY. She's covered the Northeast, the Far East, and many places in between.