What is the best sport for a small dog?

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Having a little energy ball like Baloo, I was quickly wondering, how I could somehow help him get rid of his excess energy. Living in a city and working a fulltime job, I can’t go hiking or adventuring every week. In winter, we occasionally take him with us when we go skiing. But this isn’t every weekend, either.

So what other options do you have? Dog sports? And if yes, what is the best dog sport for a small dog?

There are endless options to keep your dog occupied, both outdoors and indoors. But not all dog sports are suitable for small dogs.

I have tried a couple of things but now we ended up with Dog Agility. In my opinion, this is the best sport for any kind of dog! It’s really suitable for all kinds and sizes of dogs. What I like most about it is that it strengthens the bond between you and your pup. And after training, he sleeps like a baby, even for the next day. Absolutely perfect!

But let’s look at all the options so that you can find out what is the best sport for your small dog.

What dog sports exist?

Generally, you have to distinguish between purely physical exercises, physical and mental exercises and purely mental exercises.

The list below isn’t comprehensive. Here you can find a bigger list, yet still an incomplete one. There are constantly new forms of dog sports evolving. So this is just an overview of the most common and most suitable ones for small dogs.

Purely physical exercise

Well, “purely” isn’t exactly true, a dog always has to think and watch what you’re doing at least a little bit, in order to not get lost. But what I mean by this is that he isn’t mentally stimulated in these sports. The best examples are fetch sports. Your dog has to pay attention where to fetch the disk or toy, sure. But he doesn’t have to figure out where to find something or how to manage an obstacle parkour.

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Flying disc

This is sort of Frisbee specifically for dogs.

A great sport for very high energy small pooches, such as Jack Russell or Poodles. However, it’s only an option if your dog loves to fetch.

If he gets bored after 5 minutes, that’s not the right sport for him. Some dogs also have to be trained to fetch, first.

Baloo, for example, can’t fetch. Before I got him I didn’t even know that was possible. I thought all dogs are born with the instinct to fetch. But nope, he really can’t do it 😉

In competitions, there are different jumps and styles how the dog has to fetch the disc. If you aim to do this sport in a competitive way, then it can still be mentally very demanding for your pooch. Because you will have to teach him different styles of fetching the disc, different jumps and so on. This is a good example of a real professional flying disc dog.

But it can also easily be practiced in your backyard, just get yourself a disc and let your pup fetch it.

Ah yes, you also have to know how to throw a disc 😉

Dock diving

Similar to flying disc, an object is thrown into the air and your dog tries to catch it. However, the goal for the dog is to jump as far and high as possible. And he will land in water, so he has to like water. Also your pupper has to be very toy-driven. Here you can see the different forms of this sport:

So this is the perfect sport for any water loving, toy-driven pooch. It’s difficult to name any breed here, it mostly depends on your dog’s personality. For instance, Baloo is a miniature poodle and poodles are supposed to love water. He hates it, though, so you never know…

Physical and mental exercise

Agility Training

Agility training consists of an obstacle course where you lead your dog through. The nice thing about this sport is that it’s very adaptable to your dog’s capabilities, size and health.

You can even build your own course with different obstacles in your backyard.

This sport requires some of your own and your dogs brain power. You need to memorize the ever changing course. And your pup needs to observe you closely in order to know the way.

The obstacles usually consist of a variety of jumps, tunnels, weave poles, tire jumps and teeter-totters. Check out this video to see some super good small agility dogs.

Agility can also be practiced in a city. In this case it’s called dog parkour or urban agility, on the basis of the “human” sport Parkour.

Canine Freestyle/Dog dance

As the name implies, canine freestyle is like dancing with your dog. Anything that doesn’t put you or your pooch in danger is allowed. The most common dog moves include walking, turning around, walking backwards, walking through your legs and jumps. So if you’re a very creative person, this might be the right thing for you.

Also, this sport can be very well adapted to your dog’s capabilities and interests, which also makes it a very good option for any dog. Look at this Papillon dancing around his owner.

This sport will also strengthen the bond between you and your pupper since he has to be very focused on you.

Herding events

In this sport herding and working breeds do what they can best, gather a group of livestock and lead them to a desired location.

Concerning small breed dogs, probably the only one suitable for this sport is the Corgi. This one certainly seems to have a blast.

Earthdog Trials

This is the perfect sport for a Terrier or a Dachshund. Or for any other dog that loves to dig. For this sport a rat in a dog-proof cage is hidden in a tunnel and the dog can dig its way through it.

As you can imagine, this must be huge stress for the rat. So if you’re an all-animal-lover like me, this probably isn’t the right sport for you. It definitely wouldn’t be for me…

For more information visit AKC

Purely mental exercise

Here again, “purely” is not exactly true. But the most challenging about these sports is that your dog has to concentrate very much on your orders or on a certain scent. That is mentally very demanding but also very rewarding for a dog.

Rally Obedience

In obedience trials, a dog has to manage a preset set of orders in a perfect manner. The goal is the obedience to his owner under all conditions, regardless of the distraction.

Rally Obedience is less strict than the traditional Competition Obedience and usually open to all breeds. It’s a rather calm sport, as you can see here.

This is ideal for calmer pooches who love your attention. However, if your dog constantly has excess energy, he will most likely not get rid of it during Rally Obedience. It can still be a good complementary sport to another more physically demanding one. In any case, it’s a good idea to teach your pup some obedience.


For nose work sports, your dog is allowed to use his most dominant sense, his nose. Your pup has to follow a certain scent trail in order to find an object or a human.

Nose work is also a great sport for literally any breed. Dogs are born with the instinct to hunt (in order to survive in the wild). And to find prey, they have to use their nose. So finding odors is really easy and fun for any dog. You only have to teach him, what he has to find.

I also recommend that you do a scenting game at home from time to time. It’s a good way to make your dog work for his food. And it’s the perfect inside activity when the weather is bad.

This is a good explanation on how to get started.

Other ways to exercise for you and your dog

Of course you don’t need to join a club to do sports with your pup. If you’re a runner, you can just take your dog jogging or let him run next to your bike.

In my opinion, these aren’t the best options for small dogs, though. They have much shorter legs than their bigger brothers and sisters. So keeping up with you can be really arduous for them.

Plus, it’s just plain physical exercise. Yes, your dog will be physically tired after it. But what really makes a dog happy and relaxed is when he has to use his brain and fulfill tasks! If you have a really high-energy doggo, you can also combine jogging and other dog sports, of course.

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Which sport is best for my small dog?

Usually, dogs have certain traits according to their breed. But this doesn’t have to be necessary. Poodles are supposed to love water since they were bred to get the shot game that landed in water. Baloo however hates water. So Dock Diving wouldn’t be for him. Also, he can’t even fetch a treat, so he also wouldn’t be able to participate in Flying disc 😉

On the other hand, he is very fast. Despite his small size, he can almost keep up with a Pointer mix he’s befriended. Also, he’s very intelligent. So I wanted something where he can use his speed ability but also has to use some brainpower. And that’s how we ended up with Agility.

So I recommend that you just do the same with your dog. Try out different things and find out what he likes best and where you’re having fun as well!

Does every small dog need a sport?

Nope, it’s definitely not a necessity. If your dog is a couch potato and hates going outside, he probably wouldn’t be too much into sports. If he’s overweight, however, dog sport is a good idea to get rid of the extra weight. In that case, you can still do some sports, even if your pooch is not a big fan.

Most dogs are happy with very little exercise, such as your daily walks. But the more active ones will excel with some extra stimulation. This will significantly relax them, which means they don’t get that many cheeky ideas around your house.

Still, I would recommend some mental exercises for any dog from time to time. Even if your pupper isn’t a very active one, mental exercise is very rewarding for any dog and makes him a happy one.

What sports do you do with your small breed dog? Let me know in the comments down below!

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