Can any dog compete in agility?

Did you recently start training in agility and wonder if your dog has what it takes to enter actual competitions one day? You probably already heard that there are certain rules in some organizations when it comes to which dogs are allowed to compete in agility trials. 

Can any dog compete in an agility trial? The quick answer is yes – the vast majority of dogs, whether they are a mutt or a purebred, can take part in agility competitions. The different agility associations however have slightly different rules. You should always check with the venue you are planning to compete in to ensure your dog is allowed to participate in a competition.

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Can my dog compete in agility?

Generally speaking, chances are that your dog will be allowed to compete at least in some agility associations. Let’s look at the different requirements put forth by different venues in detail:

Age restrictions

In order to not encourage competitors to start running full-size agility courses with young puppies, all agility organizations have age restrictions. In AKC agility, dogs are allowed to start competing at 15 months old. UKI agility also allows dogs of that age in some classes.

Other organizations such as USDAA require dogs to be at least 18 months old to compete.

While no agility venue gives a definite upper age limit, you are not allowed to compete with a dog that is not physically sound. Most dogs are not able to do agility safely and painfree anymore once they are about 10-12 years old. If you are looking to start agility competitions with a senior dog, hold off – there are dog sports more suitable than agility.

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Any dog needs to be in good health in order to be allowed to compete. If a dog shows any signs of pain or discomfort, is limping or has visible injuries, a judge will disqualify your team right away.

If your dog is currently suffering from any health condition, you need to wait for him to heal and be well again before competing. This also applies to dogs that are very overweight or obese. 

Many minor routine procedures such as a neuter surgery only require dogs to stop agility for a few weeks. On the other hand, some health issues might be career-ending for dogs – which is why it is especially important to make sure that your training is always safe and does not push the dog to do more than he can do (especially jumping training)

Can mutts compete in agility?

Yes, mixed breeds can compete in any agility venue. The only restriction is that mixed breeds currently are not allowed at the FCI Agility World Championship. However, every country only gets to send a handful of dogs per height class there anyway and it often takes decades of practice to qualify for this extremely advanced event.

Otherwise, every dog of any mix is allowed to compete in any venue. This even applies to breed-specific venues such as ASCAA (American Shepherd Association of America) – they welcome dogs of other breeds!

Can neutered dogs compete in agility?

Yes, neutered dogs can compete in agility. In fact, in AKC agility it is a requirement that non-purebred dogs are neutered or spayed in order to enter an event. In other venues such as USDAA, competitors are allowed to show intact dogs of any breed or mix.

In the USA, most organizations currently do not allow females in season to enter competitions. (In many other countries, females in season are welcomed to shows.) For many aspiring competitors this is a reason to spay their female dogs if they want to become more serious about competing, because even if the owner qualifies for a big national event such as the AKC National Agility Championship, they would not be allowed to compete if the dog is in heat.

Can my dog compete in agility?

Unless your dog is under 18 months old or a senior dog, chances are he is probably allowed to compete at agility events. Your dog should not show any obvious signs of discomfort or physical inability to navigate a course – if your dog had a leg amputation for example, he will not be allowed to take part in an agility competition.

The different agility organizations also have rules against showing outright aggressive dogs. If your dog is struggling with intense dog reactivity, you might be asked to leave in order to not endanger other competitors or their dogs.

If your dog is a mixed breed, you will have to spay or neuter before entering an AKC agility show. However, if you do not feel it is the right time to alter your dog, there are other venues such as USDAA that welcome intact mixed-breed dogs.

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The Bottom Line

If you want to compete in dog agility, it is very likely that your dog will be allowed to take part in a competition. Make no mistake though: This is not as easy as practicing for a few weeks. Most beginning owners have to train their dogs for up to a full year before they reach the skill level at which they can enter a competition for the first time.

Patience and consistent positive training will get your dog (and you!) ready for your first agility show.