Dog agility is a zealous sport in which the training and handling of dogs is put to the test.
Racing against the clock, participants instruct their canines to perform challenging exercises, with the goal of being the fastest on the course. Among the strenuous feats are pole weaving, tunnel running and hurdle jumping.
Agility competitions are fast becoming a popular spectator event.
Which Dogs Breeds Are Naturally Good at Agility?
We’ll get much more specific below — including a top 10 list of agility dog breeds.
In general, though, if your dog comes from a working breed and has a medium build, their odds of winning are better than those of other dogs.
While certain breeds may seem more naturally suited to the sport, more than 150 breeds have shown their sometimes surprising ability to perform well. (Also, mixed-breed dogs are accepted by most agility clubs, and even by the American Kennel Club in its Canine Partners program.)
In general, dogs who are physically active, full of energy and have a desire to please seem to be among the most successful dogs in agility competitions.
Another good candidate: that head-strong pup who seems to get into trouble every time your back is turned, or who gets bored easily.
Check out this video of some top dog agility breeds:
Which Dog Breeds Are Not So Successful at Agility?
Other factors in determining a dog’s potential for agility competitions include age and temperament. Usually, puppies younger than 9 months and dogs 8 years old and up are not allowed to compete.
As for shy dogs, although they may never overcome their fearfulness enough to succeed in the competitions, they can still benefit from taking part in them. It will help boost their self-confidence while letting them have fun.
Top 10 Dog Agility Breeds
There are some dog breeds that you’ll repeatedly at the top of competition leaderboards.
Here’s my personal ranking of the top 10 dog agility breeds:
1. Border Collie
In 2018, a Border Collie named Fame(US) smashed the Westminster Kennel Club’s Master Agility Championship in spectacular fashion. “She left her other competitors in the dust, beating the fastest time by more than eight-and-a-half seconds,” according to Nine.
The Complete Guide to Border Collies says, “Competitive agility is right up the Border Collie’s alley. It’s fun for both the dog and the handler, but tiring and requires a good level of fitness.”
2. Russell Terrier
The blog Happy Jack Russell agrees that Russell Terriers (formerly known as Jack Russell Terriers) are a great match for agility training. “As every proud guardian of a Jack Russell Terrier knows, our wonderful balls of fur come with a seemingly endless supply of energy. They can run around, play and explore through the whole day and not get tired. Add their high intelligence into the mix and you get excellent athletes.”
3. Australian Shepherd
If your Australian Shepherd loves chasing a tennis ball, then flyball may be the activity for your pup. “The Australian Shepherd’s speed, agility and drive have made the breed a longtime favorite in flyball,” according to the book Australian Shepherd Dog.
4. Australian Kelpie
Two Aussie breeds in a row on this list? Sure, why not? The Australian Kelpie is a natural at agility events. “Due to their athleticism, they quickly learn to master the art of jumping, climbing and making quick, sharp turns as they move from one obstacle to another,” explains the book Australian Kelpie.
5. Standard Poodle
The blog Amazing Poodles asserts that “The Standard Poodle has the athletic ability, drive, trainability and intelligence that is required to be a serious competitor in the agility ring.”
They may be small, but Papillons have found great success in the performance ring and deserve a spot on this list of the top 10 dog agility breeds. The Complete Guide to Papillon Dogs advises that “Before your Papillon can run an agility course off lead, you would need a certain level of control and obedience.”
7. Shetland Sheepdog
“Agility is a fast-growing dog sport, and one that the active, little Shetland Sheepdog loves,” says PetCareRX. “This sport not only burns off some of the Sheltie’s excess energy, it also gives Shelties a chance to use their thinking skills.”
8. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
“They may be short in stature,” says the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America, “but they are very tall in heart!”
The breed club points out that not that long ago, in 1997, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi won the “Triple Crown” of agility competitions over all other breeds.
And just a year later, “a champion Pembroke Welsh Corgi became the first champion of any breed to earn the Variable Surface Tracking title, the most difficult tracking title for any dog to obtain.”
9. Rat Terrier
I used to have a Rat Terrier, so maybe I’m biased. But these tiny dogs are unbelievably nimble. Modern Dog magazine agrees, saying, “Intelligent and trainable, many Rat Terriers excel in agility and obedience, events that also serve as excellent outlets for this energetic breed.”
10. German Shepherd
Hey, any dog that’s regularly jumping out of planes in full military gear with their handlers in the armed forces deserves a spot on this list of top agility dog breeds. The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is an amazingly athletic breed.
According to the Agility Bits website, “GSDs can be very good at agility, but the larger, heavier dogs may never be as fast as the lighter breeds. Some of them can also find the weave poles a bit too close together and the tunnel isn’t always ideal for the large dogs.”
“The small GSDs find it a lot easier, but in general the breed is so versatile that whatever the size you’ll eventually come home with place rosettes and some of them might have a number 1.”
Is Your Pup the Next Star?
Most dogs need 6–9 months of daily training before they are ready for the challenge.
Your pet should be able to obey basic commands (sit, heel, stay, down) before you even think about agility training.
So if your dog moves fast, jumps gracefully, obeys commands and is the star of the neighborhood, consider agility training. Who knows? Your dog may be a winner — not only in your eyes, but also in the world of competitive sports.