Monday, August 12, 2013

Which Dog Breeds Excel in Agility?

By Linda Cole

When people think of a specific dog breed for the sport of agility, the image of a Border Collie often comes to mind. The dog’s piercing eyes are focused on his human partner as he waits to start his run. Both dog and owner are pumped and ready to go, eager to test themselves against the clock. The dog's job is to race around an obstacle course as quickly as he can, taking direction from his partner. The Border Collie excels in this fast-paced and demanding sport, but there are other breeds that have the speed, intelligence and determination to be agility champs.

Aside from being a fun way for a dog to burn off energy, agility is a sport that builds confidence and patience. One look into their intense, eager eyes and you just know that agility is something dogs truly love to do. A paralyzed Border Collie named Zip enjoys agility so much that she continues to run courses in her wheelchair!

Herding Dogs

Members of the Herding Group have what it takes to excel in agility. These breeds were developed to move livestock and can make sharp turns. They have plenty of stamina and speed, can think on their own and are workaholics who follow commands from their handler. They are intelligent and quick to learn new things. This group includes the Border Collie, Australian Cattle Dog, German Shepherd, Collie, Shetland Sheepdog and Australian Shepherd. Even the short-legged Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgi can succeed in this dog sport.

Terrier Group

These sturdy little dogs were bred to follow prey underground, and they love the excitement of a challenging run. They are tenacious go-getters who need a way to work off excess energy on a daily basis, and agility is a perfect dog sport for that. Their stubborn streak can get in the way during training, but a pocketful of CANIDAE's new Pure Heaven dog treats will help a feisty terrier focus on learning the course. The Jack Russell, Parson Russell, Rat Terrier, Bedlington Terrier and Border Terrier can do quite well on an agility course.


Bred to work closely with their owner, retrievers are smart, energetic dogs that are eager to please. Retrievers are alert and have a willing attitude to pay attention to their owner’s commands. Agility requires good communication between canines and humans, which makes it a good fit for breeds like the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Other Agility All Stars

Regardless of size or breed, any healthy dog can learn how to run agility. The Doberman Pinscher, German Pinscher, Rottweiler, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Schnauzer and Great Pyrenees are Working Group members that enjoy racing through a course. The Poodle, Papillon, Bichon Frise, Dalmatian and Yorkshire Terrier can also be found weaving around poles, dashing through tunnels and flying over jumps, enjoying every minute.

How an individual dog does in agility depends on how well he can follow directions. From the dog's point of view, winning isn't the end goal; it's the joy of navigating through an obstacle course at full speed with their best friend. Even toy breeds have an opportunity to compete on a course designed especially for smaller dogs, and they are competing against other dogs their size. Mixed breeds are also welcomed in some dog agility clubs. The only exception is the American Kennel Club.

Giant breeds, like Mastiffs and Great Danes, and smaller dogs like Pugs, Boxers and other breeds with a pushed-in nose, may not be interested in expending the energy it takes to participate in competition. However, an individual dog from any of these breeds may enjoy running an agility course, and they are as capable as other breeds of doing well.

It's important to have your dog checked out by your vet before you begin agility training. The development of giant breed bones must be taken into account to prevent permanent injuries, and all dogs need a clean bill of health to make sure they are fit and healthy. Feeding your canine athlete a quality dog food, like CANIDAE Pure Elements, is also essential.

When it comes to the dogs that are usually sitting at the top of the leaderboard in agility competitions, ten breeds dominate. These are the Border Collie, Jack Russell Terrier, Australian Shepherd, Australian Kelpie, Standard Poodle, Papillon, Shetland Sheepdog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Rat Terrier and German Shepherd.

Top photo by Anita Ritenour
Middle photo by Ian Wilson
Bottom photo by David Merrett 

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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