Dog Sports Underrated, Exciting to Watch


Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Freeman

Team Fluff and Team Ruff competed against each other in Puppy Bowl XIX.

Last Sunday, millions of Americans tuned in for a celebration of physical fitness and intense competition. Puppy Bowl XIX delighted audiences, both human and canine, with Team Fluff taking home the coveted Lombarky Trophy for the second year in a row. As a Sports Editor, I have had my fair share of favorite human sports to watch on TV, but along the way, I’ve enjoyed a multitude of dog sports as well.

The first dog sport I came to appreciate was the National Dog Show sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, something that I began watching during the first year of the pandemic. Since the show occurs annually on Thanksgiving Day, I’ve started a tradition of watching a replay after dessert, partially comatose from the ungodly amount of food I have eaten. The dogs, who are divided into different groups such as Sporting, Herding, and Toy, are paraded around by handlers in front of judges, although 2020 was the first year that it was held behind closed doors due to COVID-19. While watching the show, I’ve been introduced to dogs ranging from the Dogo Argentino to Shih Tzus who look more like walking fluff balls than actual dogs. While I still don’t really know the rules of judging, I was thoroughly upset at Winston the French Bulldog’s win over Reus the Alaskan Malamute this past year. However, it’s also important to note that the American Kennel Club itself has garnered a fair amount of controversy over the years for its neutral stance on puppy mills and genetic disorders that occur in dogs bred to meet such exacting standards.

Another event that I found during one of my many hours of procrastination was dog agility, specifically the Masters Agility Championship hosted by the Westminster Kennel Club. In this sport, dogs run around a complicated obstacle course fit with teeter totters, a tunnel, and multiple jumps. The canine with the fastest time wins their category. Apart from watching dogs run around with enthusiastic sports commentators to narrate their every step, I feel that the most intriguing part of the event is the uniqueness of the dogs’ names. For instance, in 2022, Porky Pig the Chihuahua and Woody-Wolf the Pomeranian were among the competitors, and Verb and P!nk the Border Collies — yes, her name had the exclamation mark — won in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

On another procrastination fueled YouTube binge, I also discovered dock diving, a sport in which dogs jump as high and as far as possible from a platform in order to get a toy before falling into the water below. ESPN even made a 12-minute mini documentary in 2019 about a whippet named Spitfire, affectionately known as the “Michael Jordan of dogs.” Filmed with the cinematic beauty of any good sports movie, viewers followed Spitfire, along with his 15-year-old owner, Sydney Mackey, on his journey to dock diving’s national championships, including his exercise regime, competition, and recovery process.

Of course, the main reason for enjoying some of these sports is simple — who wouldn’t like watching cute dogs run around on TV? After all, there’s a reason why dog agility is far more popular than other animal sports, such as rat agility. Sometimes I look at my own dogs, a lazy Shih Tzu and a mutt who once killed a chipmunk, and am awed at what these other dogs are able to accomplish. For me, though, canine athletes are the epitome of perseverance, joy, and dedication in the events that they compete in. Dogs are only able to compete for a short amount of time, but they make the most of that time  and give it their all, no matter if it’s jumping through hoops or posing for judges. They have epic comeback stories, feared rivals, and ambitious goals for each season. I think that humans can learn a lot from our four legged friends about what it means to be an athlete.