Not sure which dog breed is perfect for agility training? All dogs are active, but some are naturally athletic and fast. So what are the best dogs for agility?
Agility trial is a competitive canine sport that involves obstacles containing tunnels, walkways, hurdles, and more to test your dog’s speed, accuracy, and obedience.
All dogs lead an active lifestyle, but some have a knack for being agile. For example, a Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, Papillon, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Jack Russell Terrier, Rat Terrier, and more are some of the best dogs for agility training and sports. You need dogs that are well-trained and obedient.
Whether you are doing agility training for fun or you want to take part in agility sports and compete, you need a dog that has the strength and endurance to train for long hours and complete complex hurdles accurately and with speed. First introduced in the 1970s, agility sports have now become very popular.
Rigorous training is required when competing in canine agility sports. Thus, it’s a true test of your dog’s willingness to listen to your commands and work with you to win. In this article, we will discuss some of the best dogs for agility. But first, let’s learn its benefits.
Benefits of Agility Training
According to the American Kennel Club, Dog agility is a sport in which a dog passes through a series of obstacles in a given time period. These courses are complex and require your dog to be energetic, sociable, and good at responding to its owner.
There are several benefits as to why you should try agility training with your dog. One of the primary ones is that it has a positive impact on their behavior and health. Let’s discuss the reasons in detail.
Makes Dogs Sociable
Agility training and sports require your dog to meet with strangers and other dogs and experience a new environment that they are not familiar with. This is great for socializing your dog and improving their interaction with new things. For example, if your dog is easily scared by anything, agility training might not be for them.
Strengthens Dog/Owner Bond
Dogs love when you spend time with them and give them your undivided attention. Through agility training, you will be spending hours with your dog, teaching them new commands, verbal cues, and hand signals that will guide them throughout the obstacle course. Keep in mind that dogs cannot win this competition by themselves; they need their owners.
This time spent during training and communication will help strengthen the bond between you and your dog you and increase your chances of winning.
Utilizes Dogs Natural Instincts
No matter how much we domesticate a dog, its natural instincts to run, prey, and chase are ingrained deeply, and it needs a positive outlet to release energy or can get involved in self-destructive behavior. Agility training is a great way to express your dog’s hunting capabilities by making them run through obstacles, tunnels, walkways, and more and keeping them active and sane.
Provides Physical and Mental Growth
If you have a dog that has a high energy level and loves to run around, keeping them locked inside the house will result in anxiety, boredom, and stress, all of which can lead to destructive behavior. Agility training provides you with an outlet to let your dog burn off some steam and improve its growth. It also leaves a positive mental effect, as your dog gets to learn new basic and advanced commands and cues every day.
Since you can’t be running alongside your dog with a leash in an agility sport, you need to teach your dog strong recalls and make sure they listen to it. Extensive training and increased trust and loyalty help in improving dog recall.
What Characteristics Are Required From the Best Dogs for Agility
Now that you know how beneficial agility training is for your dog, you need to choose the right fit. As mentioned above, all dogs are active and fun-loving, but some breeds are better suited to rigorous and long hours of exercise, training, and more because they have the strength and endurance for it. Thus, before choosing the best dog for agility, look out for the following characteristics.
Fit and Healthy
If your dog is not fit and healthy, you need to first get them into shape before starting agility training. If your dog carries extra pounds and tires easily in between walks and running, it needs to get fit. Start managing your dog’s diet, add daily walks and exercise in their routine, and use positive reinforcement methods to improve its health.
Your dog’s structure should also be well-proportioned and sound, have an even gait, and have a straight back. These requirements can vary from breed to breed, but make sure you properly look your dog over. Training unhealthy dogs results in injuries that you want to avoid.
You don’t want dogs that are overly excited or those that get easily scared when meeting strangers or other dogs. A dog that is mentally and emotionally stable can be trained easily and have no trouble focusing on you even if the situation is distracting. Your dog also needs to be confident and shouldn’t shy away from new experiences, places, and crowds.
Willingness to Train and Follow
If your dog has qualities like a strong work ethic, intelligence, and focus, it can be perfect for agility training and sports. Dogs which are intelligent are easily trainable and love to learn new tricks and signal cues in as little time as possible.
Moreover, it is also important that your dog should be focused on you throughout the training process. The extremely curious nature of dogs makes them susceptible to getting distracted by new dogs and strangers. Thus a well-trained dog would have no problem listening to your commands, no matter the situation.
It is very important to speak to breeders about what training the dog has received, how it is at following commands, whether or not it can keep up with a vigorous training regime, and its health condition to make sure you don’t end up injuring your dog in the process.
Dogs that are intelligent are aware of what you want and how to pay attention and deliver the results expected of them.
How your dog reacts to their surroundings says a lot about their ability to train and adapt to the changing environment and situations they will face in agility training and sports. A dog should have a sound temperament so it can have positive interactions with strangers and other dogs. Your dog should also be independent enough to be alone on the field without getting anxious or nervous.
Primarily, your dog needs to be physically and mentally fit to take part in agility training and sports. And as you are the owner, you need to make sure all requirements are met before starting training.
11 Best Dogs For Agility
Border collies are highly energetic dogs known for their endurance and willingness to learn and train. Normally used as herders, this dog breed is already familiar with coordinating without a leash, and thus, it’s one of the best dogs for agility training and sports.
Border collies are very intelligent and use their decision-making skills to pass through hurdles and win the track course seamlessly. They love to spend time with their families, are extremely loyal and obedient, and need a regular exercise routine to prevent destructive behavior. Overall, they are fit, healthy, and easy to train.
Golden retrievers, generally considered family pets, are extremely athletic and love to run around and chase. They score high in agility training and competitions and are easy to train with. These obedient, fun-loving dogs are great and smart and use their fast-thinking skills to complete the obstacle course.
Golden retrievers are often described as mushy due to their loyal and loving nature. Thus, go for a golden retriever that has been trained for agility and sports.
Extremely adorable and fun-loving, Australian shepherds are working dogs that love to run around on a farm. They have been bred for working, herding, and listening to commands, especially in distracting situations. Thus, Australian shepherds are some of the best dogs for agility training and sports.
These dogs have high energy levels, are extremely smart, and can easily navigate the obstacles and hurdles of an agility course. They are loyal and follow you around everywhere and love socializing with other dogs and pets.
Jack Russell Terrier
Small and full of energy, Jack Russell Terrier is one of the best dogs for agility. Terriers might seem head-strong in their personality, but they are easy to train if taught from a young age. They are also quick to follow your commands in distracting situations. Their low-slung body with a lean musculature makes them perfect for agility sports as they are fast and accurate.
These naughty furry companions love to run around and destroy things, so the best way to tire them out is through agility training and sports because lying around in a house isn’t going to make much difference.
Papillons are often compared to Border collies in terms of their performance in agility training and sports. They are small, fast, and extremely athletic dogs that are the perfect fit for rigorous training. These dogs are filled with restless energy and need a positive outlet to channel it; otherwise, it could lead to anxiety, boredom, and other destructive behaviors.
If trained from a young age, papillon is good at listening to basic and advanced commands and pleasing their owners. They love to stay around with their friends and family and join them for outdoor activities.
Another working and herding dog, Shetland Sheepdogs, is one of the best dogs for agility. These fluffy dogs are smart, intelligent, and love to channel their highly energetic personality by running around the farm and chasing rodents and sheep.
Their high-energy and fast-thinking capability make them excellent partners in agility sports and training. They are easy to train and can ace smaller-height agility courses. These dogs are prone to anxiety and nervousness if not physically challenged regularly.
A small-size dog, poodles, is often overlooked when it comes to speed, agility, and accuracy. That’s where people are wrong. Poodles are extremely energetic and intelligent dogs that love to express their natural hunting instincts. These athletic poodles not only do well in agility sports but also look good while performing.
Poodles have the athletic ability, intelligence, and strength required to compete in such highly complex agility courses involving tunnels, walkways, and more. They are fun and easy to train as they are extremely attached to their owners and love to play and get groomed.
A type of Australian Sheepdog, the Australian Kelpie is also used for herding sheep in Australia and thus is a naturally gifted athlete with a high-energy level and endurance. This restless energy is not suitable for a house dog. Thus, it needs a family with an active lifestyle and engages in several outdoor activities like hiking, camping, agility training, and sports.
Australian Kelpies are fast and lithe and can get quickly trained to make sharp turns, jump, climb, and more. Australian Kelpie are loving creatures that get bored easily, so make sure to engage in regular training and other physical activities.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembroke Welsh Corgi is one of the best dogs for agility. These dogs are small in size, but their muscular structure makes them fast, quick to turn, and jump over hurdles without any hassle. A Welsh Corgi is extremely athletic and has boundless energy that needs a positive outlet.
These dogs are enthusiastic, loving, and easy to train, but make sure to start with obedience training before agility exercises. Their short, strong legs help in aiding them through the complex obstacle course and make them worthy of winning the title.
German Shepherds of all sizes are considered excellent for agility sports and training. These dogs are highly athletic, intelligent, and smart that use their quick-thinking and balancing skills to overtake the obstacle course easily. Larger German shepherds might have trouble with some obstacles, but they make up for it by their speed and physical strength. In contrast, a smaller German shepherd is perfect, trainable, and highly versatile.
They are very fun-loving, easily trainable, and love to please their owners outside the course.
Another small dog that is the star of agility sports is a rat terrier and is considered one of the best dogs for agility. These dogs are small but highly energetic and agile enough to make quick turns, jump through fences, and easily run on walkways and hurdles without breaking a sweat.
They are extremely playful dogs and love to socialize with other dogs and pets. They are amazing partners for agility training and sports and use it as a positive channel to get their daily dose of physical and mental exercise.
Now that you know the best dogs for agility, you need to make a well-informed decision before choosing a dog or making your existing dog compete in agility sports. Intelligence, drive, and trainability are crucial qualities of the best dogs for agility. Agility sports consist of complex hurdles that require speed, accuracy, and fast thinking to pass the obstacles and jump, climb, and crawl through the hurdles.
When you deem your dog fit for the challenge, at least six months of daily training is required to have them compete for the sports. Even if you don’t want your dog to compete in sports, agility training will be enough to benefit their mental and physical health.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright