Teaching an old dog new tricks

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The number of different sports you can get involved in seems to be endless. Looking at the minutes of activity recorded by my team, many of them seem to involve dogs. So much so that the other team at Sport and Wellbeing have talked about getting a team dog to up their minutes. Luckily they haven’t seen the amount of time some of our team spend with chickens and ducks, or Sport and Wellbeing could become a farm….

Dogs are a great way to get active and stay active even after GoFit has finished, which is really what the initiative is about. If you don’t have a dog, you can always offer to walk one of a friend’s or volunteer to walk dogs at a local animal shelter. If walking is too tame for you, there are plenty of other sports with dogs you can get involved in - Wikipedia has over 40 different sports you can do with dogs, some more sensible than others.

I have two Border Collies. One called Badger (he looks like one) and the other Squirrel (otherwise Badger would be a silly name…).

Badger (right) and Squirrel (left)

They’re a brilliant way to get some exercise. Particularly when they see another dog / sheep / bike / person / horse / empty space that they can run after….

Badger and Squirrel chasing something.... a common sight!

Think it stops at walking them? Think again. They’re great companions when you’re out being active. Badger has been known to help me dig up potatoes (on command) and other parts of my garden (not on command).

Badger demonstrates his digging skills (this is not my garden!)

One summer (before there was Squirrel) I tried to teach Badger to boogie board. It is a work in progress, but we’ll be carrying on with it this year. As well as trying kayaking (I thought they could sit in the front in doggy lifejackets. Maybe also stick their paws in and paddle). And perhaps even skateboarding.  I’ve also taken him in the sea with me when I’ve gone open water swimming. That was a bit of a mistake. He spent most of it lying on my back while I swum, much to the amusement of beachgoers at Calshot. And that was the end of my wetsuit. Although perhaps he thought he was helping by making extra airholes in it as he clambered on top of me.

There are also other sports that can become a challenge with dogs. Badger has been known to sit in front of you if you attempt a kettlebell swing, or lie under the peddle on an indoor bike. And sweeping the floor becomes a whole new workout with Squirrel chasing the broom.

A rare view of Squirrel lying still.

Badger and Squirrel do a sport called Bikejor. This involves attaching them to a mountain bike and going as fast as you can. It’s a dryland version of sledding. Needless to say, I don’t do this. My husband does. I find it hard enough staying upright on a bike without 50kg of pulling power attached. But he and the dogs seem to have a great time, if the amount of mud they bring into the house is anything to go by. You can see them bikejoring here.

You can change the bike for some skis, and go skijoring. You can use a scooter instead of a bike in scootering. You can attach yourself to the dog with a harness and run with them in cani cross. You can dance with the dog in heelwork to music. You can run them round an obstacle course in agility. You can race them in a team over hurdles to fetch a tennis ball in flyball. You can compete in obedience trials. Basically, as far as I can see, you can involve them in any sport you like.

Badger at his local assault course - Calshot.

If you’re interested in Cani cross, skijoring and scootering be aware that you’ll have to train your dog to pull. And they might not want to stop once they learn to do it – walking your dog can also become a test of strength as well as cardio-fitness!

My brother, being walked by the dogs.

Just be prepared for the fact that at the end of a hard session of exercise, you might have to make some room on the sofa for them to crash out with you!

Peace at last!