Human + Dog + Focused Discipline = Fun, Fitness and so much more

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Depending upon various breed characteristics, some dogs are hard-wired to herd, others are all about the hunt, some are just plain nosy, and still others are toys.  Wait!  That is, they belong to the “toy” group.  All joking aside, dogs and their people have many opportunities these days to jump in and get busy engaging a dog’s passions — whatever they may be.  In fact, there has been a growth surge in recent months in canine activities you might find of interest.  While not all may be of interest, or suited to you and your pup, there are so many choices you’re sure to find something you’d love to try.  That’s the other good news:  classes, weekend events and workshops have sprung up at doggy daycares, indoor parks and even boutiques, so the opportunities to give something a try abound. 

A word to the wise:  never say never as you explore these latest offerings in canine sports and recreational activities.  You — and your dog — might just take to something you never thought possible.  The sky is the limit, not breeding.  Crucial to all: whether competing or taking classes, working with your dog should be fun.  It can enrich both of your lives immensely, and keeping an active dog moving and focused in positive ways can go a long way toward avoiding destruction, disobedience, and unnecessary heartbreak.


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From the Clark County Event Center to the Linn County Expo and beyond, the Pacific Northwest is teeming with new participants in agility.  The sport is open to dogs of all sizes, shapes, weights, and breed histories.  In fact, this past year the AKC opened sanctioned events to include mixed breeds (yep, mutts!).  With venues galore offering entrée to the pure of breed and the gloriously mixed mutts we love, the choice is yours.

One of the largest clubs in the Northwest that’s been offering classes for years is the Columbia Agility Team.  Here, class offerings range from beginner level for six-month or older dogs up to competition level.  And the action doesn’t stop there.  Classes are increasingly being offered at indoor dog parks, daycares, training facilities, and even humane societies.

If you’re looking for something to get out and enjoy that offers bonding, confidence building, and a great way to burn off a little energy, agility may be for you.

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Nose Work

Canine nose work is a fast growing sport that allows the dog to use his naturally keen sense of smell to work in partnership with his person in detection. There are three primary odors dogs learn to scent out: birch, anise, and clove. But first they get to have a lot of fun finding all kinds of yummy, smelly treats!  Currently, classes are being offered at Pet Utopia, Sniff Dog Hotel, Wonder Puppy, Everyday Dog, the Emerald Dog Obedience Club,  the Lake Oswego National Guard Armory, and other locations.  A great way to learn more is to attend the upcoming Nose Work trial being held in Vancouver, WA March 19 and 20. The hostess with the mostess is Oregon’s Certified Nose Work Instructor, Shelley Smith ( The trial needs volunteers, too — what better way to explore a new sport than to be right in the middle of the action?  Learn more about nose work through the National Association of Canine Scent Work (


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While tracking has been around a long time, it differs from nose work in that the dog is scenting a human.  In addition, tracking is done outdoors, usually over large expanses of land.  As a sport distinguished from search and rescue work, participants lay a track with an article the dog is to seek.  In competition, the track is laid, aged, and the dog is tested on components such as turns, distance, and cross-track discrimination.  Tracking can be very rewarding for both participants, and is suitable for breeds from the smallest to the largest without distinction for technical classification.  Just get out and enjoy, that’s the name of the game!  Abundant resources on tracking are available online at Yahoo Groups, the AKC website and more.

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Canine Freestyle

John Michael Montgomery isn’t the only one who can sing Life’s a Dance.  Now dogs and their people can, too.  Canine freestyle combines components of obedience, creativity, and time spent with your dog in one beautiful outlet of expression.  One of the most renowned names in Canine Freestyle is Michele Pouliot (, located in Oregon City, OR.  Recent opportunities to observe, try or pursue canine freestyle have been offered at PetUtopia in Beaverton and Wonder Dog in Corvallis.  You can also learn much about the sport through the Corvallis club Dogs Gone Dancin’ ( or the World Canine Freestyle Organization ( 

So many great ways to have fun, get engaged and thrive!  Give you and the pup the gift of experiencing the joy that comes when ‘man’ and dog team up for work and play.  


Kennedy Morgan is a Portland-area dog mom, customer service manager for a small software company, and now freelance writer. Kennedy, her Dane, Vegas, and new addition, a Pomeranian, Leo, can be found playing with their many Dane friends (and their people) at weekly Portland Great Dane Community meetups. Contact her at Photo is Vegas (Apache Vegas Rose)