Agility is a sport where handlers guide their dog through an obstacle course as fast and accurately as possible. So if you want to enjoy this activity and have a chance to compete with other teams, you need a good partner.
Practically any dog can participate in agility, but it doesn’t mean they are all good at it. Some breeds are more likely to perform well in this dog sport. For example, Border Collies are well-known as being among the best agility dogs out there.
However, you might be wondering what makes them so good at it. The breed itself isn’t the only reason why Border Collies are one of the favorite choices for handlers. All good agility dogs have common traits and a similar temperament. Let’s see what they are!
What Makes A Good Agility Dog?
A good agility dog must be in good health and physical condition to run fast through obstacles. Then, the dog will need to focus on the handler and follow commands to avoid making errors on the agility course. It’s also easier to train a dog for agility that’s eager to please and has a good temperament.
However, it doesn’t mean your dog needs all that to perform well on an obstacle course. As long as your partner is trainable and in good shape, he should be a good candidate for agility.
How Do You Know If Your Dog Will Be Good At Agility?
You can have an idea of how good your dog will be at agility by analyzing him. Start by looking at traits such as his health, physical conditions, trainability, and temperament. You can also ask your vet and other more advanced handlers if they think your dog has the potential to become a good agility dog.
But the best way to determine whether or not your dog is good at agility is to give it a try. You can also increase his chances to do well on an obstacle course by preparing him for such an activity.
Without starting to train him for agility, you can provide him with proper exercise and nutrition. Then, working on his obedience is also a great way to make sure your dog will be ready and well-suited for this sport.
Traits That Make A Good Agility Dog!
I’ve already given you a few traits that are important for dogs to be good at agility. However, there are much more, and you still need to analyze each of them more closely. Thus, let me share with you what makes a good agility dog.
Good Health & Physical Condition.
Since agility involves running fast, jumping over hurdles, and overcoming various obstacles, your dog has to be in good health. That’s why a health check-up by your vet is essential to make sure he’s well-suited for this activity.
Many health and structural problems can negatively influence your dog’s performance in agility. For example, brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds or dogs with joint issues are generally not excellent choices for this activity.
Agility is also not the best sport for dogs that are overweight. In this case, moderate exercise such as walking and proper nutrition should be your priority. Once your dog is in good shape and has reached a healthy weight, he will do much better on an obstacle course.
Energetic & Strong Drive.
Being healthy and physically suitable for agility isn’t enough. Your dog also needs to have a lot of energy and drive to do well on an obstacle course. If he’s not active and motivated, training him for agility won’t be easy nor fun.
That’s why energetic dogs are generally excellent candidates for such an intense activity. Having something that drives them can be helpful for training too. Whether your dog likes toys, treats, or praise, a strong desire for a reward is a good trait for agility.
Couch potatoes won’t do well in most dog sports. So make sure your dog enjoys physical activity such as running and jumping before getting into agility. Otherwise, he will probably not be good at something he doesn’t like and isn’t excited to do.
When it comes to agility, you need a reliable partner. Training a dog to go through an obstacle course is much easier when he’s obedient, gentle, not too reactive, etc. Otherwise, you might not be able to teach him basic agility skills efficiently.
Here are some other traits that make a good agility dog regarding temperament.
Confident & Sociable.
Fearful dogs won’t do well on obstacles because they might hesitate when scared. For agility training, you need a partner that enjoys overcoming new challenges. The more confident a dog is, the faster he should improve his agility skills.
Since you’re very likely to encounter other people and dogs around the obstacle course, your partner should be ready for it. That’s why being well-socialized is a must for an agility dog. If he can’t behave in public, his performance can be negatively affected.
Smart & Easy To Train.
Intelligence is a serious advantage for a dog to be good at agility. A sharp mind will allow your partner to understand the obstacles and improve his skills much faster. It’s also essential for agility dogs to be eager to learn because it’s all about training.
If you can’t train your dog easily, he’s probably not a good candidate for agility. You can train breeds such as Beagles or Huskies, but it will take more time and effort than other dogs. So make sure to choose a partner that’s smart and ready to learn.
Good Work Ethic & Focus On The Handler.
Some dogs used to perform specific tasks and have a job to do. Those usually have a good work ethic and a strong desire to be helpful. So agility can be an excellent activity for them to stay busy and happy.
A dog also needs a great capacity to focus on the handler to follow directions on the obstacle course. If your partner can easily be distracted, it’s not convenient for agility.
However, you can always work on your dog’s ability to stay focused. It will just take more time and effort if it’s not natural. That’s why work ethic and focus are two traits that good agility dogs have.
What About Your Dog’s Age?
Many people wonder whether you have to consider the age of a dog when it comes to agility. Well, the sooner you start preparing and training a puppy for agility, the better.
But you first need to make sure your partner is fully grown (12 to 18 months old) and healthy enough for such an activity. Younger dogs are in better shape and have more energy, which makes them better suited for agility.
On the other hand, older athletes might have more experience with this sport. So age isn’t that important when it comes to agility. As long as the dog is healthy and active enough for such physical activity, everything should be alright.
Traits To Avoid In Dogs For Agility!
On the contrary, some traits won’t make good agility dogs.
Reactivity, independence, curiosity, and stubbornness can be problematic for training. Then, fearfulness, lack of confidence, laziness, and many similar characteristics might restrict a dog from performing well on an obstacle course.
Young puppies, seniors, and injured dogs are also not ideal candidates for agility. Such a high-impact physical activity might be harmful and dangerous for them. Simply put, you have to avoid opposite traits of what you should be looking for in a good agility dog.
How Do You Choose A Puppy For Agility?
Puppies generally look all the same or almost. So it can be complicated to choose the right one for agility. You can’t tell much from a dog when he’s very young. But here are two things you should keep in mind for your selection.
The best way to know what traits and temperament a puppy will have is to look at his parents. He will generally inherit from them. So if your dog’s parents are well-suited and good at agility, he’s very likely to be too.
Traits & Temperament.
Although it’s not easy to figure out whether or not a puppy will do well on an obstacle course, it’s not impossible. Some young dogs are more intelligent, active, and confident than others. It doesn’t mean they will necessarily be better at agility, but it’s a good sign.
5 Best Agility Dog Breeds!
Now that you understand what makes a good agility dog let’s take some real-life examples. As you probably already know, each breed has unique traits and temperament, so it’s an excellent factor to consider.
Here are some breeds that generally make the best agility partners.
- Border Collies
Agile, intelligent, and fast, Border Collie is the first breed that comes into my mind while thinking about dog agility. It’s not surprising why so many handlers opt for Border Collies. They have the ideal physical conditions and personality for being trained to master an obstacle course.
- Australian Shepherds
Similar to Border Collies, Australian Shepherds are also very athletic, energetic, and intelligent. The main difference is their look and temperament. But they are both excellent breeds for agility training.
- Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties)
Surprisingly fast and agile, the smallest herding dog breed can be a great life companion and agility partner. Shelties have a great capacity to focus on their handler, and they are among the smartest dog breeds. So they are well-suited to be good at agility.
- Golden Retrievers
Apart from being friendly with everyone, Golden Retrievers can be very active and intelligent too. They have a gentle temperament, work-oriented mind, and a strong desire to please. So Goldens have all that’s needed to perform well on an agility course.
- Jack Russell Terriers
The last but not least of the best dog breeds for agility is the Jack Russell Terrier. Despite their small size, they are impressively strong, fast, and agile. Terriers might not be easy to train, but they are still good candidates for agility.
Bonus → Mixed Breeds
Mutts, classed as All American Dogs, can also participate and be good in agility. As long as you choose an intelligent, athletic, and trainable dog, his breed doesn’t matter. Some mixed-breeds can even perform better than purebreds on an obstacle course.
5 Worst Agility Dog Breeds!
Looking at counter-examples can also be good to understand what type of dog you should avoid for agility training. Although any breed can participate in this activity, some are merely not well-suited for such an intense sport. So here are the worst dog breeds for agility.
- American Bulldogs. (Too Inactive)
- Basset Hounds. (Too Lazy)
- Great Danes. (Too Tall)
- Mastiffs. (Too Large)
- Huskies. (Too Independent)
Other Things To Consider When Choosing An Agility Dog!
Even if you plan to do agility with your dog, it’s probably not the only factor you should analyze when adopting a new puppy. Looking for a companion that suits your other needs and lifestyle is also essential.
For example, the best dog breeds for agility, such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, generally have a lot of energy and are smart. Thus, they will require proper exercise and mental stimulation to be happy and good dogs.
Otherwise, they might become overweight or bored. In this unhealthy state, they can also develop health problems and behavioral issues. (Barking, digging, or chewing.)
So don’t just choose a dog because he’s likely to be good at agility. You also need to make sure it’s the right companion for you and that you can take care of his well-being.
Your expertise in training and fitness level are two additional factors to consider. Not everyone needs nor can keep up with the fastest agility dogs. So your perception of what’s good can also have an impact on what partner you should choose.
So, What Makes A Good Agility Dog?
The main traits to look for in an agility dog are good physical conditions, intelligence, work ethic, ability to focus on the handler, and trainability. Apart from that, your partner will have to practice a lot before performing well on an obstacle course.
Now it’s time to stop wondering about how to choose the perfect dog for agility. Just find an appropriate companion and improve his skills. Don’t forget that the most crucial part of agility is to have fun!
See You On The Obstacle Course!