Dog breeds

Crufts 2022: The best dog breeds for dog training and agility

If you’ve been inspired by Crufts, what are the odds your perfect pooch could win a contest?

Known as the “world’s largest canine event”, there are no less than 20,000 dogs taking part in its 131st year.

From agility, obedience and heel flyball to music, handlers and their dogs compete to become the best in the show.

When it comes to canine agility training and competitions, how important is a dog’s breed and could it reveal your success?

Anthony Clarke, trainer and professional dog agility ambassador for the sponsor of Crufts YuMOVE often receives an influx of inquiries about the competition when people are looking at breeds and traits that make a good dog for ‘agility.

Dogs arriving for day two of the Crufts Dog Show at the Birmingham National Exhibition Center (NEC). Photo via PA.

Anthony said: “Agility isn’t just about speed – otherwise greyhounds would win it all! Likewise, breed isn’t always important either – though, some qualities that make a good agility dog ​​are passed down through genetics, but there are also plenty of mixed breeds that do great at it too. »

According to Anthony, the key to success on the agility course lies in each dog’s intelligence, traceability, focus, sharing ability and emotional connection, motivation and body structure.

“It takes practice and dedication to compete at this level,” he explained.

“That does not mean it can not be enjoyed by everyone though. – Agility is another way to stay active for life and that applies to any dog, but there does seem to be a list of traits that the champions all seem to share.”

Based on Anthony’s background in agility and dog training, here are the top 10 dog breeds that tend to make a good agility dog:

border collie

Anthony said: “Collies are bred for off-leash obedience and learning complicated patterns to herd sheep as working dogs, so naturally, agility classes lend themselves perfectly to their tendencies. They are the full package: speed, intelligence, drive, trainability. While they make a loyal and loving companion, they need lots of mental and physical stimulation. They’re always a go, so be prepared if you’re inspired to get one you’ll need to invest in them, but if you do, you’ll get a great return.”

belgian malinois

Anthony explains: “The Malinois is a hero, right? From police to military support, these strong canine companions will always be by your side and therefore deserve a spot on this list of the best active dog breeds. They are an incredibly athletic breed that respond extremely well to training. Due to their size, power and structure, they are as fast as light breeds, if you are looking for an all-around agility superstar that balances brain and brawn, the Malinois is a grade A breed that will shine both on and off the course. This breed is not suitable for someone who cannot devote time to training and exercise.

Shetland Sheepdog

Anthony said: “Shetland Sheepdogs are one of the most intelligent and trainable small breeds. They are great agility companions for people who are happy to compete in smaller size classes. They tend to be handler oriented which makes them excellent for agility training, however, they can also display nervous tendencies which can be amplified if they don’t get enough exercise and stimulation. mental. For this reason, potential new owners should be prepared to invest time in them to get the most out of the breed. They can also be more vocal in all aspects of life.


Anthony said: “All poodle sizes are athletic, intelligent and trainable. Many people do not necessarily know that poodles were originally hunting dogs, so they can really defend against other races to work on intelligence and initiative. They are very attached to their owners, making them fun and easy to train. Just be ready for additional grooming. Even mixtures Poodles tend to have their fair share of hair!

The Northern Farmer: Dogs arriving for day two of the Crufts Dog Show at the Birmingham National Exhibition Center (NEC).  Photo via PA.Dogs arriving for day two of the Crufts Dog Show at the Birmingham National Exhibition Center (NEC). Photo via PA.


“Despite being small, Butterflies are surprisingly smart and fast,” Anthony said.

“Some trainers swear their Butterflies are just as smart, trainable, and driven as any Border Collie and the past winners at Crufts certainly don’t put that theory to the test. Off course, this breed is the perfect companion. They love human contact and affection, not to mention a good brush to keep their long coats tangle-free.”

Jack Russell

Anthony said: “Spunky and athletic, the Jack Russell Terrier is always a strong contender in the small dog agility class. Although JRTs can be a little mischievous at times, they love to work out and do very well with motivational training methods, not least because they are super smart. A low body and innate muscularity make the Jack Russell a natural choice for fast and furious agility competitions. However, they are stubborn and aren’t always too nice to other dogs. So they need a qualified trainer to really hone their social skills.


Anthony said, “Cockers can be shy yet smart and quick on the agility course. They’re also super cute, making them perfect little showboats on the catwalk and ideal for snuggling up at the end of the day. Cockers tend to put on weight, so owners will need to watch their diet to keep them in peak health, but if you train or exercise regularly with your dog, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Golden retriever

Anthony said: “They love snuggling up in your lap at the end of the day just as much as learning new things and being active. These smart canine companions are surprisingly agile despite their size and they love to train, but not all of them are not bred for agility, we generally see more of the “show type” which means they are heavier and squarer than the working type which tends to be leaner and taller. looking to compete with your retriever, there are usually specific breeders who focus on athletics and sport, but whether you’re getting a rescue or a pedigree, you’ll likely have a smart cookie on your hands.

Australian shepherds

Anthony said: “These are larger and, in general, goofier than Collies but they make excellent agility dogs for similar reasons to their smoother buddies. They are similarly bred to learn complex herding behaviors, listen to their owners in entertaining scenarios, and work all day on the farm. They are smart, easygoing and can be a little more outgoing with people and other dogs compared to the Border Collie. They are also big and loud so, although friendly, can be a struggle to manage at times. If you are considering getting one, make sure you can match their weight and energy.


Anthony said, “Whippets are built for speed, but aren’t always the best at spinning at speed. They are bred for racing and lure racing, racing is what whippets do best. They tend to be more handler oriented (and can be quite shy) more than some other greyhound breeds, but can still be a little harder to train than your average sheepdog. Although quick on the course, Whippets are also very lazy when they’re at home, which is a nice change from some of the other dogs on this list who are on the go 24/7.

Are mixed breed dogs good at agility?

Throwing in a bonus dog, Anthony suggested the mixed breed “can really excel” in competitions like Crufts.

Explaining the reasons, he said: “Depending on the type of mixed breed you have, some crosses can really excel in the world of agility – if specific attributes are present in your dog, such as good brains, good structure and ability to roam freely, a cross can well and truly outperform some purebred dogs!”