This involves jumping over obstacles, running through tunnels, negotiating raised platforms, and weaving in and out of poles. You can just do it for fun in your garden, or join a club. The basics are easy, but things get a bit more complicated if you're keen to compete. For example, because every microsecond counts, there are different ways to send a dog to perform a jump, so that they can do it in the most efficient way. There are plenty of YouTube 'how to' vids as well as competition runs to watch and be inspired by. Most dogs love to do it, so once they have learnt the skills using food and toy rewards, most find doing agility rewarding in itself.

Canine urban agility

Like human parkour or free running, this is about using things in your environment – this might be weaving in an out of bike racks, or jumping onto benches or over logs, or balancing on a tree stump, or looping round goal posts, trees and bollards. It's vital to ensure not only your dogs safety, but the safety of other people, dogs and yourself when doing this. Also be aware of any specific restrictions in certain areas eg if dogs have to be on lead, or no dogs allowed. Although it's tempting to do potentially risky things to create a good effect (eg for a viral video on the socials), dogs physical and mental wellbeing should be top priority...just because they can do something doesn't mean they should be encouraged to do so.

Canine Hoopers

This is a low impact version of agility, which is suitable for any breed and age of dog, and also suitable for handlers who don't want to run around with their dog over an agility course. It involves hoops and tunnels that a dog runs through, and soft objects for them to run around. It's an activity that's growing in popularity.


Heelwork to music

There are different elements to this including just heelwork (or dressage), and freestyle, which involves tricks as well. The music helps to keep a beat, and keep track of where you are in a routine, but it also helps you to create a story as well. You only need a couple of tricks and a bit of heelwork to start – so get creative and have a go! There are plenty of YouTube vids of complete competition routines. When building to a final routine, where a dog will only receive a reward at the very end, use the processes of chunking or chaining - once individual skills have been learnt, add several together to form a longer sequence. Gradually put so many together that you can complete a two-minute routine.


Competition Obedience

Other than training the basics (sit, down, come, stay, leave, heel), you can also try advanced obedience training. It required lots of dedicated training, and use plenty of rewards as it's not the most exciting thing for your dog to do repetitively. ‘Scent work’ is also part of this, and is a good thing to try separately with your dog.

Rally Obedience

A less formal version of obedience, which involves a course of 'action cards' that you follow. They might ask you change direction, or get your dog to sit, or fetch an object, or for you both to heel quickly. The aim is to complete all the actions in as fast a time as possible.



This is the fast and furious sport where teams of dogs run over hurdles, grab a ball, and run back.  You can get seriously involved and compete every weekend, or just do it for fun in your garden! Watch footage of the finals at Crufts to see the experts in action.



This is a sport originally created for herding breeds, like Border Collies, and basically involves ‘herding’ large Pilates balls!  Balls have to be brought back (from a distance) in a particular order, and through/ over obstacles.  The first thing you have to teach your dog is how to push the ball with his nose – not his teeth! 


Trick training/ brain training for dogs

These things are a lot of fun to watch if you find a good clip on the Internet, and are also fun to train as long as you give your dog plenty of motivation (e.g. sausages!).  There are few limits to what you can achieve – only your imagination stands in the way!  Brain training is very useful when you have a dog who’s not allowed to exercise, but needs to be worn out mentally!

Gundog trialing

Rather than dogs retrieving real animals, trialing involves retrieving special gundog dummies over varied terrain, and against the clock.

Sheepdog trialing

As seen on 'One Man and his Dog', this is where Border Collies are directed to move a small flock of sheep around a course to demonstrate their skills.

Working trials/ protection/ IGP

These involve several components: following a track to find the source (eg a person or particular object), agility over obstacles, barking on cue at a 'suspect', and for the IGP or protection sports, taking hold of a padded sleeve or suit to hold onto someone and release on cue. Although there are some great reward-based trainers out there, there are also many who use aversive punishments to teach their dogs. This is not necessary. Highly motivated dogs bred especially for these sports should be easier to train as they are intrinsically motivated to work - the work becomes the reward as long as the training is set up effectively. There is no need to use prong collars and shock collars to achieve this.


This is scent work training, where your dog learns to track the scent of a hidden person.

Disc dog/ frisbee

Instead of throwing balls for a dog to fetch, this is a dynamic sport where dogs run after and catch frisbees in the air. Can involve tricks as well, and dogs love it. It's really important to consider a dog's physical abilities and long term health, and whether it's wise to repeat risky movements just because it looks good.

Dock diving

This is where a dog run along a jetty and does a long jump into a safe area of water to retrieve a ball. Can often be seen a large dog events in the summer. Good fun, but repetitive jumping and landing heavily in water can be detrimental to a dog's physical wellbeing, so care must be taken.


This is basically running with your dog! You wear a special waist belt and lead attached to a running harness for your dog. You'll need clear signals for them to run on, stop/ slow, and go left and right. Either for leisure or to compete.


Using a bike rather than running with your dog. Like sledding, but different! There are special harness and adaptations for bikes to make this safe. There is another version of this, skijoring, for the winter.

Dog scootering/ Caniscoot

A special scooter to follow your dog as they pull you along.

Sledding/ mushing

With one dog or teams of dogs, you will be pulled along at speed down planned tracks and trails. Needs lots of dedication if you become part of the competition scene, and may end up travelling the world. Great fun for husky types as this is what they were bred for. However, a race is only one part of their life, so it's important not to neglect other aspects of your (pet) dog's life.

Lure coursing/ racing

Sight hounds are bred to chase. To allow them to meet these needs without harming other animals, you can get involved in lure coursing where a mechanical lure is moved very fast along the ground for a dog to chase. The competitive version of this is greyhound racing, but it can also be set up in fields. There are also versions in a straight line dash, which is great for terriers.

(c) Sarah Crockford 2024