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8 Sports Your Dog Can Play

If movies have taught us nothing else, it's that animals have great potential as athletes. In movies, golden retrievers can play basketball, mules can kick field goals, and chimps can play hockey. Unfortunately, when you try to recreate any of these scenarios with your own pets, it's inevitably disappointing. Don't give up yet, though. Dogs can be pretty stellar athletes in the right context. So why don't you and your dog try a sport a little more suited to their four-legged abilities? Like, for instance, one of these:

1. Flyball

Any old mutt can run around. Being a teammate is tougher, though. Flyball seeks to build this sort of fellowship. It's a relay for teams of four pooches to test their speed and catching abilities. Teams of four dogs are lined up at a start line, and when the first dog is released, he dashes down the 51-foot course, clearing four hurdles along the way, and hits a spring-loaded "flyball box." The box shoots a tennis ball into the air. The dog jumps up and catches the ball, then runs back down the course to the starting line, where the next pooch takes off. The first team to get all four members through the course wins, but penalties are assigned for dropping the ball or starting before the previous dog crosses the finish line.

Flyball originated in southern California in the 1960's and received a serious boost when Herbert Wagner invented the spring-loaded ball-launching box. According to the North American Flyball Association, the sport's popularity has advanced to the point where timing and scoring is done electronically. The team Spring Loaded holds the world record for the event; all four dogs completed the course in 15.22 seconds combined.

2. Musical Canine Freestyle

Your dog can sit, stay, and roll over, but can he dance? Musical canine freestyle lets pooches get down to their favorite tunes. In the event, dogs and their handlers pick a song and choreograph a dance routine, and then they boogie. The sport, which originated around 1989, showcases a dog's obedience and athleticism while also building teamwork between dog and handler. Each dog-handler pair's routine is then judged on its artistic and technical merit. Really, you should just watch this fantastic video of a routine straight out of Grease.

3. Bikejoring

Have you ever gone out for a bike ride, only to wish someone could just pull you along? That's where bikejoring and your dog come into the picture. Like its cold-weather relative skijoring, bikejoring involves having a team of harnessed dogs pull a biker. Any type of dog that could be used for mushing and pulling can be used for bikejoring. The sport encourages communication and teamwork between the dog and the rider; otherwise the cyclist is likely to end up in a ditch. The dogs seem to love it, and it makes some impressive videos like this one possible.

4. Earthdog Trial

When you see a dachsund or a miniature schnauzer, you probably don't think, "Ah! That's a vicious killing machine!" If you were a rat, though, you'd probably see things a little differently. For years these kinds of small dogs, along with many breeds of terriers, were prized for their abilities to control rodents. Their diminutive statures allowed them to slip into underground tunnels and nests to catch rats and other pests that hid in dens.

This sort of work has been largely outsourced to exterminators, but some owners still want to know how deft their dogs are as hunters. Earthdog trials offer dogs a chance to navigate courses of underground tunnels while trying to find rodent quarry, typically a rat or rabbit. The American Kennel Club's earthdog trials test dogs on three criteria: ability to find a scent, willingness to enter a dark tunnel, and willingness to find the quarry. When the dog finds the quarry in the tunnels, it must then "work" it by barking, scratching, or pawing at it. Don't worry too much about the rats, though; they're protected in boxes and aren't harmed. Here's a look at a terrier doing some earthdog tunneling.

5. Dog Pulling

Many breeds are meant to be workers and can get lazy or out of shape if they spend all of their time loafing on the couch. The International Weight Pull Association seeks to find a constructive outlet for these pups by having them pull weighted sleds or carts across 16-foot tracks. The organization describes the event as a tractor pull, but with dogs in place of the tractors. Canine competitors are divided into weight classes, and whichever dog can pull the most weight across the course wins. Handlers aren't allowed to touch the dogs or give them treats once the pull starts, so the onus is on the pooch to pull away. Typical breeds for the sport include huskies, rottweilers, and pit bulls, all of which were originally working breeds and can use pulling as a nonviolent outlet for their energy.

6. Disc Dog

Throwing and catching a Frisbee-type flying disc is a great way to let your pet run around and get some exercise. To many people, though, it's also a competitive event. The term "disc dog" encompasses several types of competitive disc events. In toss and fetch competitions, the dog and owner have sixty seconds to complete as many catches as they can on a marked field. Each catch earns points, with longer catches being more valuable. Bonuses are also rewarded for mid-air catches.

In freestyle competition, dogs and their handlers perform choreographed catching routines involving jumps, spins, and other tricks. Judges then score routines based on their flair, execution, and degree of difficulty. Not surprisingly, these events are pretty visually impressive, and if YouTube is any indication, seem to be quite popular in Asia.

7. Belgian Ring

Belgian ring is a specific example of the larger genre of protection sports, or events that test how well a dog can protect himself and his master. Belgian ring (also known as "Belgian Ringsport") originated in (surprise) Belgium in the early 20th-century as a way to test the country's working police dogs, notably Belgian shepherds. Formal ringsports were first held in 1908, testing a dog's abilities in fairly standard obedience events like walking without a leash, jumping, and retrieving items. Unlike other obedience competitions, though, the program tested dogs' protective mettle. They guarded items that belonged to their handler, defended their handler from attackers, and attacked protective-suit-clad assailants.

These competitions remain popular for shepherd and rottweiler owners throughout Europe and the U.S., as do defense sport variants like French Ring and Germany's Schutzhund. While the dogs may look fierce while protecting their owners, they must have fairly even temperaments and be willing to stop attacking on command.

8. Lure Coursing

If greyhound racing and rabbit hunting came together, the resulting hybrid might look a little like lure coursing. In the event, purebred sighthounds (think greyhounds, Irish wolfhounds, salukis, etc.) chase a mechanical lure through a field course. The lure moves and turns through the course to simulate a running hare. Under the American Sighthound Field Association rules, each dog is graded on its speed, endurance, agility, follow, and enthusiasm.

The sport originated in the early 1970s in California. Lyle Gillette and his sighthound-fancying friends who enjoyed rabbit hunting with their dogs. However, barbed wire fencing and other obstacles in the fields made it somewhat dangerous for the dogs, so they created a sport in which the course was controlled but the dogs still get the exercise and stimulation of tracking rabbits.

Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.

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8 of the Weirdest Gallup Polls
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Born in Jefferson, Iowa on November 18, 1901, George Gallup studied journalism and psychology, focusing on how to measure readers’ interest in newspaper and magazine content. In 1935, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion to scientifically measure public opinions on topics such as government spending, criminal justice, and presidential candidates. Although he died in 1984, The Gallup Poll continues his legacy of trying to determine and report the will of the people in an unbiased, independent way. To celebrate his day of birth, we compiled a list of some of the weirdest, funniest Gallup polls over the years.

1. THREE IN FOUR AMERICANS BELIEVE IN THE PARANORMAL (2005)

According to this Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans have at least one paranormal belief. Specifically, 41 percent believe in extrasensory perception (ESP), 37 percent believe in haunted houses, and 21 percent believe in witches. What about channeling spirits, you might ask? Only 9 percent of Americans believe that it’s possible to channel a spirit so that it takes temporary control of one's body. Interestingly, believing in paranormal phenomena was relatively similar across people of different genders, races, ages, and education levels.

2. ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS THINK THE SUN REVOLVES AROUND THE EARTH (1999)

In this poll, Gallup tried to determine the popularity of heliocentric versus geocentric views. While 79 percent of Americans correctly stated that the Earth revolves around the sun, 18 percent think the sun revolves around the Earth. Three percent chose to remain indifferent, saying they had no opinion either way.

3. 22 PERCENT OF AMERICANS ARE HESITANT TO SUPPORT A MORMON (2011)

Gallup first measured anti-Mormon sentiment back in 1967, and it was still an issue in 2011, a year before Mormon Mitt Romney ran for president. Approximately 22 percent of Americans said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even if that candidate belonged to their preferred political party. Strangely, Americans’ bias against Mormons has remained stable since the 1960s, despite decreasing bias against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women.

4. MISSISSIPPIANS GO TO CHURCH THE MOST; VERMONTERS THE LEAST (2010)

This 2010 poll amusingly confirms the stereotype that southerners are more religious than the rest of the country. Although 42 percent of all Americans attend church regularly (which Gallup defines as weekly or almost weekly), there are large variations based on geography. For example, 63 percent of people in Mississippi attend church regularly, followed by 58 percent in Alabama and 56 percent in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Utah. Rounding out the lowest levels of church attendance, on the other hand, were Vermont, where 23 percent of residents attend church regularly, New Hampshire, at 26 percent, and Maine at 27 percent.

5. ONE IN FOUR AMERICANS DON’T KNOW WHICH COUNTRY AMERICA GAINED INDEPENDENCE FROM (1999)

Although 76 percent of Americans knew that the United States gained independence from Great Britain as a result of the Revolutionary War, 24 percent weren’t so sure. Two percent thought the correct answer was France, 3 percent said a different country (such as Mexico, China, or Russia), and 19 percent had no opinion. Certain groups of people who consider themselves patriotic, including men, older people, and white people (according to Gallup polls), were more likely to know that America gained its independence from Great Britain.

6. ONE THIRD OF AMERICANS BELIEVE IN GHOSTS (2000)

This Halloween-themed Gallup poll asked Americans about their habits and behavior on the last day of October. Predictably, two-thirds of Americans reported that someone in their house planned to give candy to trick-or-treaters and more than three-quarters of parents with kids reported that their kids would wear a costume. More surprisingly, 31 percent of American adults claimed to believe in ghosts, an increase from 1978, when only 11 percent of American adults admitted to a belief in ghosts.

7. 5 PERCENT OF WORKING MILLENNIALS THRIVE IN ALL FIVE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING (2016)

This recent Gallup poll is funny in a sad way, as it sheds light on the tragicomic life of a millennial. In this poll, well-being is defined as having purpose, social support, manageable finances, a strong community, and good physical health. Sadly, only 5 percent of working millennials—defined as people born between 1980 and 1996—were thriving in these five indicators of well-being. To counter this lack of well-being, Gallup’s report recommends that managers promote work-life balance and improve their communication with millennial employees.

8. THE WORLD IS BECOMING SLIGHTLY MORE NEGATIVE (2014)

If you seem to feel more stress, sadness, anxiety, and pain than ever before, Gallup has the proof that it’s not all in your head. According to the company’s worldwide negative experience index, negative feelings such as stress, sadness, and anger have increased since 2007. Unsurprisingly, people living in war-torn, dangerous parts of the word—Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Sierra Leone—reported the highest levels of negative emotions.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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