As we delight in watching the Tokyo Summer Olympics, raise your paws if you agree… the Olympics would be even more fun if dogs were involved! And with Simone Biles reminding us about the importance of mental health, I for one believe we should prioritize more time unglued from the tv WITH our four-legged therapists.
I’m proud to partner with DogTV for BE ACTIVE! …a new series all about canine games and sports, to help you bond with your dog. My sporty, yet middle aged beauties Penelope Supafly & Delilah Jane Sassafras and I had a blast exploring majestic Lake Tahoe, Nevada while filming with DogTV at Wild Blue Dogs Camp.
BE ACTIVE with Laura Nativo is available exclusively on DogTV. We hope these training videos help inspire you and your dog to try a new sport this summer, in celebration of our Olympic games. Whether your canine bestie is a couch potato or outstanding athlete, I promise there is something for EVERY dog!
- Parkour: In this fun activity, your dog gets the opportunity to engage with everyday obstacles found in the environment: running, jumping, climbing, and balancing, all while adventuring into the great outdoors. The word parkour is taken from “parcours du combattant,” (which translates to obstacle course), and is the classic obstacle course method of military training by Georges Hébert.
Parkour has so many different aspects: rock climbing, jumping hurdles, walking a “balance beam,” and more. It helps dogs build strength and confidence, while learning how to navigate natural objects in their environment. As your dog’s partner in fun, my favorite benefit of parkour is the way it naturally helps nourish trust between you! I had a blast doing parkour with my #NativoFamily Zoo, along with trainer friends Christine Young, CPDT-KA, of the Puppy Care Company and Yo Armendariz, KPA CTP of Canine Learning Academy.
- Tricks: There are infinite reasons and benefits to teaching your dog tricks. Trick training can make rescue dogs more adoptable, giving them a way to shine and stand out, and connect with a potential new family. Tricks can help bring smiles to people in need through therapy work. It can also help your dog earn you money through acting, modeling and influencer work! Trick training literally changed my life, and helped me transition from dog mom to professional when I appeared in the CBS reality show, Greatest American Dog in 2008 with my heart dog, Preston. My son*shine was one of the first skateboarding dogs, so all these years later, I’m personally thrilled to see skateboarding make its debut as an Olympic event! Go Team USA!
- Swimming: Swimming is a great form of exercise for any dog. It can be especially beneficial for those who need physical therapy, and it can help your dog stay safe in cases of flooding or if your dog were to fall into a pool. It is extremely important, however, to not rush your dog, or just throw them into the water. While some dogs may take to swimming more naturally than others, rushing them can cause fear, and forcing dogs into water can traumatize them. It’s important to devise a thoughtful training plan, slowly building confidence, and proceed at your dog’s pace when teaching dogs to swim.
And… if you have more than one dog…you could even delve into the realm of synchronized swimming! By teaching your dogs a series of simple moves, you could coordinate a choreography they can execute first separately, and then together, to wow your family and friends.
- Kayaking and Paddleboarding: This is my favorite! If there is one dog sport in which I’m a true expert, it is dog water sports. I have been surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, white water rafting and teaching dogs to swim for over 15 years! The ocean is my second home and I love sharing my adoration of the sea with my dogs. They do not share the same passion as I for being in the water, but they are more than happy to join me safely atop any floating board!
- Agility: There is no shortage of dog agility events: from the Westminster Championship to the Incredible Dog Challenge, and the many AKC events, you can enjoy watching dogs do amazing, fast work on an agility course! There are definitely parallels between our Modern Pentathlon and Sport Climbing, as dogs run, jump, weave and climb various platforms throughout an agility course. Check out my friend Terry Simons of Flying Dog Agility showing us how it’s done in our Be Active! series.
- Dog Lure Coursing: In lure coursing, dogs chase a basic plastic bag, on a wire that is controlled by a radio remote, harnessing their natural ability and drive to chase prey. It can be hilarious to watch them in hot pursuit, and the speed some dogs possess is off the charts, comparable to any of our Olympic athletes who are engaged in cycling or running events, where speed is key.
If we were to adapt this to the human world, what would cause you to run as fast as you can? For me, it would be for Jeni’s gooey butter cake ice cream, ha! It would be ridiculous to see us chase down our favorite things.
- Antler Hunt: This form of nose work has dogs search out shed antlers. The ability dogs have with their noses should definitely be in their form of Olympics. They can smell every detail of any object, and they can even smell the past! The possibilities for events even beyond an antler hunt are endless.
If you haven’t seen the TED Talk from Alexandra Horowitz about the amazing abilities of the canine nose, you should check it out now! And what’s best is… any dog can do nose work! It’s a sport all of us can enjoy with our dog companions, and it can take so many different forms.
- Treasure Hunt: For those of us who enjoy sandy beaches, doing a treasure hunt with your dog where they can dig up items can be the best fun. This activity will not only satisfy the desire dogs naturally have to dig, but to also use their noses again to find where to dig. Besides the usual toys and other delights your dog would want to find, you can even have them find a volleyball that you can then use with your friends to play beach volleyball in honor of the event that humans do, to tie into the spirit of our Olympic games!
- Enrichment Games:The possibilities here are endless! There are so many different types of enrichment toys and puzzles you can buy for your pets, in addition to DIY ideas. Stuffed Kongs, puzzle toys, snuffle mats and Lickimats are all great go-tos, and there are so many other brands and styles out on the market that you can explore for your pooch to enjoy. We go over these and much more in the video.
In addition, you can make your own toys out of items you’d normally recycle. For instance, you can build a puzzle toy by placing used toilet paper rolls into another box (such as a shoebox). You can Google around for more ideas. In addition, I co-wrote a canine enrichment guide you can download for free!
- Puppy Games: Our puppies can have their own Junior Olympics too! While they are still developing and can’t do agility or other events that require a lot of running and jumping, they can still do nose work events, enrichment games and treasure hunts, and light tricks. Doing these kinds of fun events can help pet parents learn more about where their new puppy’s interests may lie so they can start to build foundations for the sports they may want to enjoy with them in the future.
When you are working with your dogs on their Olympic games, you may run into extreme weather such as rain or thunder, or you may even encounter residual fireworks. It’s best to be prepared for such scenarios, so check out our noise sensitivity video featuring Dr. Moira Hechenleitner. Dr. Hechenleitner is a veterinarian who is also a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT), and this video is a perfect introduction to teaching your dog how to feel a more positive connection to sounds that may be scary for them.
And if you can’t get enough action once you’ve binge-watched our DogTV series?
Here are some of my favorite Olympic sports that would be positively more fun to watch the dogs were allowed to compete:
Is anyone else magnetized by the aerial beauty of athletes flying through the air? Dogs are equally mesmerizing as they compete in a variety dock diving events: who can jump the farthest, how high they can jump, and how fast they can retrieve the toy they jump for! Your dog can win titles through competitions and you can learn more at the North America Diving Dogs website; many statewide and local communities also have organizations that you can also join. I think adding dog dock driving to the Olympics would make a total splash
Is it just me, or does the ribbon and baton remind you of a flirt pole? I think the beauty of watching a dog parent play flirt pool with their dogs is as pretty as watching a gymnast.
Dogs who participate in agility do have the opportunity to jump over bars, and they are set to each dog’s age and height. We can definitely take this aspect of the sport and… voila! …we are set with a high jump category.
There are lots of dogs out there who enjoy doing frisbee as a sport… and they could easily adapt the sport to help dogs retrieve the frisbees (discus) that their owners throw. Not only could teams be judged on how far the frisbee is thrown, but points could be given for creative ways in which the dogs catch and bring them back, as well as how quickly!
Dogs love balls… tennis balls especially! How adorable would it be to have tennis players serving balls to their canine companions for them to catch and retrieve, in a super-fun new sport.
And I’ll say it again: dogs love balls! Besides tennis balls, the sport of treibball can totally make a great football game. In treibball, dogs learn to “herd” balls by pushing them with their nose. You can easily set up goals so that your dog can move the ball from one end to score points for you! To learn more about this sport, check out the American Treibball Association’s website.
A lot of dogs find jumping a ton of fun, so this could be a great way to harness the energy of those dogs who enjoy it. You would, of course, want to be careful that your dog doesn’t do too much to allow for injury, and also make sure that you are supervising to keep him safe, but this could be a great event, particularly for those Jack Russell Terriers!
Using soft, light weights that your dog could place into his mouth easily, you could have your own weight lifting competition! Besides the actual weight of the object, the duration of the lift could be another way to score points.
Tug of War
What? Tug of War? That isn’t an Olympic event…but did you know? From 1900 to 1920, tug of war was an Olympic event, and I believe our dogs could outdo us in a tug competition for sure!
So while our current BE ACTIVE videos do not have exact human Olympics equivalents, we now have a lot of new ideas and inspirations for future videos. Bark out loud if you’re hoping for a BE ACTIVE series, season two! It’s definitely fun and inspiring to think about the similarities and differences in our sporting world and theirs… and how we can have fun with each other in between the two!
You can also seize the commercial break opportunities during your viewing of our upcoming Olympics as time to practice your new dog training tricks and sports too. This can also keep you in check to ensure quick, fun sessions, which is optimal for training.
If you want to get in on the action with your dog to BE ACTIVE and have lots of fun, join us at Dog Camp in September at Wild Blue Dogs camp in Lake Tahoe!
I’ll be pretty busy paddle boarding with my dogs all summer, but I won’t miss the surfing events in the Olympics. It’s the debut year, and, as an avid surfer myself, I am ALL FOR IT!
Have fun and drop us comments about what you’re doing to BE ACTIVE with your dog!
Laura Nativo, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP
+ Penelope & Delilah, the Nativo family dogs