Dog agility is a fun activity to exercise and have fun with your dog. But guiding him through an obstacle course might seem very difficult or even impossible for some people. So it’s normal to wonder if your dog can participate in agility?
Apart from a few exceptions, any dog can do agility. Every dog older than 15 months and physically sound is eligible to compete in agility. The dog breed doesn’t matter. Even mixed breeds can do agility. Dogs might also need to be registered with an organization such as the AKC to participate in agility events.
Which Dogs Cannot Participate In Agility?
There are some instances in which a dog might not be eligible to compete in agility. According to the AKC Agility Guidelines (Chapter 1 – Section 3. Eligibility of Dogs), blind dogs and females in season can’t participate. It’s the same thing for dogs with tape, bandages or anything else attached to them for medical purposes.
To Compete, Agility Dogs Must Be:
- At least 15-18 months old. (Depending on the organization)
- Healthy and physically sound.
- Blind Dogs. (AKC)
- Aggressive Dogs. (USDAA)
- Female Dogs In Heat. (AKC & USDAA)
Requirements To Compete In Dog Agility!
Even though almost every dog can technically participate in agility, it doesn’t reflect reality. Many things can restrict them from going through an obstacle course safely and effectively. So let’s dive into more details about what a dog needs to do agility.
Dogs must be at least 15 months old to compete in most official agility events. Puppies are still growing, so they are too fragile and not structurally suitable for such a high-impact sport. That’s why there’s a minimum age to participate in agility.
Some organizations might have higher requirements regarding age. For example, the USDAA doesn’t allow dogs under 18 months old to compete in agility, except for the Intro Program, which has a lower minimum age of 14 months old. (Read the USDAA Rulebook)
So make sure your dog is old enough to start competing in agility. Although the minimum age to participate in most events is 15 months, you don’t have to wait that long to prepare and train your pup.
At What Age Can Dogs Start Agility Training?
Puppies aren’t suitable for agility, but you can prepare them with flatwork and obedience training as soon as 8 weeks old. Dogs can start agility training very young as long as it’s adapted to their conditions. So you must avoid high-impact obstacles and be careful when introducing a puppy to agility.
Before starting more serious pre-agility training, you should wait for your dog to be at least 4 to 6 months old. Once your pup is fully grown, which generally happens between 12 and 18 months old, you should be able to work together on a complete obstacle course safely.
At What Age Should Dogs Stop Agility?
Technically, dogs are never too old for agility as long as they are healthy enough. But even though senior athletes can be in good shape, they are more prone to injuries and other problems. So you must keep that in mind and stop agility when it’s not safe anymore for your dog.
Around 10 to 12 years old is a good time for dogs to replace agility with a lower-impact activity. Their joints are more fragile, and they probably no longer have the energy to jump over hurdles and run through an obstacle course. Moderate exercise might be more appropriate for older dogs.
Another essential factor to consider for agility is your dog’s health. Without good physical conditions, running through an obstacle course might be dangerous. That’s why you should visit your vet and check with him if your dog can do agility safely.
Health and structural issues aren’t always obvious. So it’s always better to make sure you know your dog’s conditions by consulting a professional. Then, you will be able to understand if he’s healthy enough for agility and why.
If your dog is overweight, intense physical activity might not be a good idea. Instead, losing extra pounds with moderate exercise such as daily walks and proper nutrition should be your priority. Once your dog reaches a healthy weight, it’s time to consider getting into agility.
However, obesity isn’t the only condition that can keep him from enjoying this activity. Agility training can also be harmful to dogs with joints or structural issues.
For example, you must take health problems like hip dysplasia and arthritis into consideration for high-impact sports. It doesn’t mean your dog needs a perfect structure to participate in agility. But you have to keep that condition in mind, and at some point, it might just be better not to do such a physical activity.
Other Health Issues
Illnesses, injuries, and deformities can also restrict dogs from participating in agility. A dog with any health problem that can make agility harmful or dangerous shall be ineligible to compete. The decision comes in the hands of the judge or a veterinarian consulted.
So please make sure you know your dog’s health conditions and limits. Then, everything should be alright as long as you respect them and there are no rules that prevent your partner from doing agility.
Can Female Dogs In Heat Participate In Agility?
No, female dogs in heat aren’t allowed to compete in agility events. The AKC and USDAA both mention in their rulebook that females in season aren’t eligible to participate. However, you can still do agility at home with your dog, even if she’s in heat.
Can Neutered & Spayed Dogs Compete In Agility?
Neutered and spayed dogs can participate in agility. The AKC even requires non-purebred dogs to be spayed or neutered for competing in their agility events. Other organizations such as the USDAA allow all dogs to register and participate in agility, spay/neuter or not.
Do Agility Dogs Have To Be Purebred?
Most venues allow dogs of any breed or mix to compete in agility. So your dog doesn’t have to be purebred to do agility. The AKC even has a program for mixed-breeds called the Canine Partners. It allows non-purebred dogs to register and participate in agility events in the breed class of All-American Dogs.
If you want to do dog agility with your mutt, I highly recommend you to read this article!
What Is The Best Dog For Agility?
Even though all dogs can do agility regardless of their breed, some are better than others. To be a good agility partner, your dog needs to be in excellent physical condition, fast, and intelligent. Other traits such as work ethic, ability to focus on a handler, and good temperament are essential too for agility training.
Now, here’s a list of dog breeds that are usually the best in agility.
Top 10 Dog Breeds For Agility!
- Border Collies.
- Australian Shepherds.
- Shetland Sheepdogs.
- Golden Retrievers.
- Jack Russell Terriers.
- Australian Kelpies
- German Shepherds.
- Rat Terriers.
Mixed-breeds can also be great agility partners. In fact, many All-American Dogs are better than some of the most performant purebred athletes. Even if your dog’s breed isn’t on the list above, you can still enjoy agility for plain fun. And with a lot of practice, you may be able to win titles.
For more information, you can also read my article on what makes a good agility dog?
Apart from age and health, agility dogs also need to follow commands. There are no rules that require them to be obedient for participating in events, but it’s a non-official condition. Anyway, you won’t be able to do agility if your dog doesn’t listen to you.
That’s why obedience training is essential. Guiding your partner through an obstacle course is practically impossible if he’s not obedient. Once your dog can follow commands reliably, you might consider doing agility.
Aggressive dogs might be ineligible to participate in agility events for safety reasons. To protect other teams, most organizations won’t allow dogs demonstrating signs of aggression to compete. In this case, you can always do agility at home or work on your dog’s temperament.
Should Your Dog Do Agility?
Even if a dog is eligible to participate in agility, it doesn’t necessarily mean he should do it. This activity has many benefits, but it can also be dangerous or harmful for some dogs. So always weigh the pros and cons before making your final decision.
If your dog can enjoy agility training safely, he should get into it. On the other hand, some dogs might not be suitable nor like to run through an obstacle course. In this case, you should probably find another way to exercise and have fun with your buddy.
So, Can Any Dog Do Agility?
Any dog can do agility at home, but not all dogs are eligible to participate in events. Your dog should be able to compete as long as he’s healthy and old enough. However, there are some exceptions, such as blind dogs and females in heat.
The AKC, USDAA, or any other agility organization only wants to make sure competitions are safe and enjoyable for everyone. So they have to make rules in place to avoid problems. If you’re not happy with those regulations, you can always do agility in your backyard.
As long as you adapt training to your dog’s conditions and respect his limits, agility can only be good for him. Thus, stop wondering whether or not you can do it and get started. Just make sure it’s fun and safe for everyone.
Good Training & See You On The Agility Course!