6 Unconventional Dog Sports

Pets & Animals


Most dog owners are familiar with popular canine sports like agility, obedience, and flyball. However, there is a world of lesser-known dog sports that can provide equal levels of fun, excitement, and bonding opportunities for both the dogs and their handlers.

Let’s delve into the concepts behind some of these unconventional dog sports and provide guidance on how you can get started in participating in these activities with your dog.

1. Treibball


Originating in Germany, Treibball is a competitive sport that combines elements of herding and soccer. In Treibball, dogs are required to herd large inflatable balls into a goal within a specified time limit, using their nose or body, but never their paws. This sport tests a dog’s ability to follow commands, navigate obstacles, and work closely with their handler.

Getting Started:

To start practising Treibball, you’ll need a few large inflatable exercise balls and a designated goal area. Begin by teaching your dog basic commands, such as “push,” “left,” and “right,” which will help them manoeuvre the ball. Joining a local Treibball club or enrolling in a class can provide valuable guidance and support as you and your dog learn the sport.

2. Canine Freestyle


Canine Freestyle, also known as “dog dancing,” is a choreographed performance that showcases the creativity and teamwork between a dog and its handler. Routines often include a mix of tricks, dance moves, and obedience commands, all set to music.

This sport allows handlers to showcase their dog’s unique talents and personality while strengthening their bond through training and performance. It is also surprisingly very popular for dogs and puppies in Melbourne, Australia.

Getting Started:

Begin by teaching your dog a variety of tricks, such as spins, jumps, and weaving through your legs. As your dog masters these tricks, start incorporating them into a routine set to music. Local canine freestyle clubs or online resources can offer valuable guidance, and attending workshops or competitions can provide inspiration and networking opportunities.

3. Canicross


Canicross is a cross-country running sport where dogs and their handlers run together, connected by a bungee cord. This sport provides an excellent opportunity for dogs and their owners to exercise together, improve cardiovascular fitness, and enjoy the outdoors.

Getting Started:

To get started in Canicross, you’ll need a comfortable harness for your dog, a waist belt for yourself, and a bungee cord or elastic line to connect the two. Start with short runs or brisk walks to allow your dog to become accustomed to running with you. Gradually increase the distance and intensity of your runs as you both build endurance.

Joining a local Canicross club or participating in organised races can help you meet fellow enthusiasts and improve your skills.

4. Nose Work


Nose Work is a sport that capitalises on a dog’s natural scenting abilities. In competitions, dogs are tasked with locating hidden scents, such as essential oils, in various environments, including indoors, outdoors, and vehicles.

This activity provides mental stimulation for dogs and can help build confidence, especially in timid or anxious dogs.

Getting Started:

Begin by introducing your dog to the target scent using a small container, rewarding them with treats or praise when they show interest. Gradually increase the difficulty by hiding the scent in more challenging locations. Enrolling in a Nose Work class or joining a club can provide guidance and help you prepare for competitions.

5. Barn Hunt


Barn Hunt is a timed sport in which dogs search for rats (safely enclosed in aerated tubes) hidden within a straw or hay bale course. Dogs must use their scenting abilities, speed, and agility to locate the rats while ignoring decoy tubes containing only bedding or litter. This sport is designed to test a dog’s natural hunting instincts in a controlled and safe environment.

Getting Started:

To introduce your dog to Barn Hunt, start by allowing them to investigate a rat in a secure tube, rewarding them for showing interest. Next, begin hiding the rat tube in small piles of straw or hay, gradually increasing the complexity of the hiding spots.

Joining a local Barn Hunt club or attending a workshop can provide additional training and support, as well as opportunities to compete.

6. Dock Diving


Dock diving, also known as dock jumping, is a thrilling sport in which dogs leap from a dock into a body of water, competing for distance, height, or speed. This activity provides an exciting physical challenge for dogs, particularly those who enjoy swimming and fetching.

Getting Started:

Introduce your dog to water gradually, ensuring they are comfortable and confident in the water. Begin by encouraging them to fetch a floating toy from the water’s edge, gradually increasing the distance they must swim. Once your dog is confident in the water, introduce them to a dock or raised platform, encouraging them to jump into the water from increasing heights.

Attending a dock diving workshop or joining a club can offer additional guidance and opportunities to compete.


Exploring dog sports can provide a unique and engaging way for you and your canine companion to bond, exercise, and have fun together. But for those who aren’t into the more common types of dog sports, these uncommon alternatives can offer great benefits. These activities not only challenge your dog physically and mentally but also foster a strong connection between handler and dog.

If you’re interested in trying out a new sport with your pet, start by researching local clubs, workshops, or competitions in your area. With patience, practice, and a spirit of adventure, you and your dog can embark on a thrilling journey into the world of lesser-known canine sports.