Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Agility training small dog

Dog competitions can be a fun way to bond with your pup and meet exciting people with the same passion as you. In some cases, you and your dog can even make history — like Buddy Holly, the petit basset griffon Vendéen and most recent Best in Show winner at the iconic Westminster Dog Show in May.

Many organizations will offer multiple dog competitions, while others specialize in a single breed or event. Keep reading to learn more about n dogs, dog competitions, and the organizations that you can work with today!

Dog competitions and organizations

Before diving into our list of 12 popular dog competitions that purebred dogs can compete in, it’s good to know the organizations that host these various events. In some cases, organizations are specific to the event. In others, though, larger clubs offer events, allowing dogs to compete and earn titles. Here’s a list of organizations that offer multiple events.

  • American Kennel Club (AKC) . The AKC was founded in 1884 when representatives from several different dog clubs met and formed a unifying club called the American Kennel Club. The AKC has a wide array of dog competitions and events.
  • United Kennel Club (UKC).  The UKC was founded shortly after the AKC and is the largest registry in the world. They create a fun environment for dogs and their handlers, and feature many dog competitions with their events.

Specialized & specific organizations

  • Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA). Established in 1957, this is a breed-specific club in the United States. They feature multiple dog competitions for Australian shepherds.
  • National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW). The NACSW was founded in 2006 and geared towards dogs and their owners who enjoy detective-style training and competition.
  • United States Canine Scent Sports (USCSS). Like the association above, the USCSS works on scent competitions. They create events that are fun and fair, while also challenging for dogs and their owners.
  • Do More With Your Dog (DMWYD). DMWYD does trick competitions, but they also have events that are unique compared to other organizations — DMWYD has animal actor and stunt dog competitions too.

“I would caution owners to let limping dogs rest,” says Dr. Erica Irish, DVM. “Don’t force them to race, don’t compete with anxious dogs (especially dog-aggressive ones), and be cautious working in the heat. Heat stroke is a very real risk with outdoor dog sports.”

1. Obedience

First up on our list is the sport of obedience. With obedience training, dogs are graded on their ability to be obedient. Commands that trainers often use are evaluated, like sit, stay, heel, and retrieve. Dogs are judged on how well they listen and obey their owners. Smart, biddable breeds like the Labrador retriever or poodle often do well with obedience.

  • Offered by: AKC, UKC, ASCA
  • Training requirements: Moderate to intense
  • Physical demands on dog: Moderate
Dog obedience training

2. Conformation

When it comes to pedigree and purebred dogs, conformation is usually what people think of when they hear the term “dog show.”. Conformation doesn’t test your dog’s ability to run, jump, or obey but rather is about much they favor, or conform, to the ideal breed standard. Basically, conformation competitions are like beauty pageants, but judges look at the personality and physical features of a dog and use that to help make informed decisions about the breed standard going forward. Aside from the aforementioned Westminster, popular conformation competitions include the National Dog Show televised each Thanksgiving, as well the annual AKC National Championship.

  • Offered by: AKC, UKC
  • Training requirements: Moderate
  • Physical demands on dog: Moderate
Dog on yellow armchair

3. Agility

Agility is one of the most popular dog sports. During a dog agility competition, an obstacle course with items like tunnels, ramps, and weave poles, is provided for dogs and they complete the course while being timed. The goal is to do so as quickly as possible and with as few mistakes as possible. Breeds known to excel at agility include the border collie and Shetland sheepdog.

  • Offered by: AKC, USDAA, NADAC, UKI, CPE
  • Training requirements: Moderate to intense
  • Physical demands on dog: Moderate to intense
Border collie agility training

4. Lure coursing

A fast-paced and fun way for dog lovers to tap into their pets’ natural instincts, this type of dog competition evolved from dogs chasing live animals, usually hares. Today, dogs chase after a lure in a large area, typically with obstacles as well. This sport is ideal for sighthound breeds, like salukis, whippets, and greyhounds. The dog with the fastest time wins in this competition.

  • Offered by: AKC and UKC
  • Training requirements: Low
  • Physical demands on dog: Moderate to intense
Dog running in field with toy

5. Flyball

One of the more fast-paced dog competitions, flyball races two teams of dogs through a line of hurdles. At the end of the course, they hit a box that throws out a tennis ball. Dogs grab the ball and bring it back to their owner before the next dog in that team is released to do the same thing. The fastest team wins the competition. Dogs must possess a mix of speed and athleticism, and it’s not uncommon to see mixed-breed dogs to compete alongside their purebred peers

  • Offered by: NAFA, U-FLI
  • Training requirements: Varies
  • Physical demands on dog: Moderate to intense
Dog with orange ball in mouth

6. Scent work

Less physical than other dog competitions, scent or nose work is exactly how it sounds. Certain scents are added to cotton balls and hidden around. Dogs then sniff out the specific scents. Pups need to have a real nose for smells with this competition, and their owners need to know their dog’s subtle signs that they’ve sniffed out something worth smelling. Scenthound breeds like the bloodhound and beagle tend to take top honors at this sport.

  • Offered by: NACSW, USCSS, AKC
  • Training requirements: Varies
  • Physical demands on dog: Low
Close up of a dog‘s nose

7. Barn hunt

Similar to nose work, dogs in this competition navigate through a maze of hay bales to sniff out rats in safety tubes throughout the maze. Once found, the dog alerts their owner, and the owner shouts “rat!” This particular dog competition has experienced recent gains in popularity and is a good option for dogs that enjoy hunting live prey, but without the unpleasant end. Terrier breeds like the Jack Russell and border terrier are good fits for barn hunt.

  • Offered by: BHA and AKC
  • Training requirements: Low to moderate
  • Physical demands on dog: Low to moderate
Bernese mountain dog by a wooden fence

8. Rally

Rally dog competitions are very similar to obedience competitions, but in this case, dogs have a course and, with their owners, they stop at signs and perform the behavior the sign specifies. Like agility and obedience  competitions, rallies deduct points for mistakes, which can include missing a sign or performing incorrectly. As with obedience, any breed can compete and ultimately win at these events.

  • Offered by: AKC, UKC, WCRL, ASCA
  • Training requirements: Moderate to intense
  • Physical demands on dog: Low to moderate
Dog competing in an agility competition

9. Dock diving

This dog competition is more or less exactly how it sounds. Dogs dive from a dock into a body of water, typically to chase or snatch a toy. The dog who jumps farthest wins. Ideal for dogs that love the water, dock diving is a fun summertime activity for dogs and their people.

  • Offered by: DockDogs, NADD
  • Training requirements: Low to moderate
  • Physical demands on dog: Somewhat high
Three black labradors on a wet deck

10. Disc dog

Dogs that love playing fetch with a frisbee would enjoy this dog competition. In disc dog competitions, owners throw a disc for their dog to catch, often with variations involving landing or scoring zones. Scoring looks at where the disc is thrown, accuracy, and dog tricks. With this particular dog competition, owners also need to train to ensure that they throw the disc so their dog can get it.

Frisbee training dog

11. Trick dog

As the name suggests, trick dog competitions are all about what your dog can do. This can include routines and a wide variety of tricks. Unlike many other dog competitions on our list, this one can be done virtually, which opens up a lot of opportunities for dogs and their owners.

  • Offered by: AKC and DMWYD
  • Training requirements: Varies
  • Physical demands on dog: Low to moderate
Dog doing circus tricks

12. Freestyle

Truly a show, freestyle dog competitions are similar to obedience ones, but with the addition of music, dancing, and at times, costumes. This is as much artistic expression as it is a dog competition, and it requires a lot of training and trust between dogs and their owners.

  • Offered by: WCFO, CFF, MDSA
  • Training requirements: Moderate to intense
  • Physical demands on dog: Moderate to intense