Get involved in dog sport

The American Kennel Club governs over 22,000 canine events each year, from fun cunning dog trials to agility trials to well-known and glamorous conformation events. You’ve probably seen a few of these on TV and you may have wondered: how would your dog do? How do dogs even qualify?

The world of AKC Canine Sports and Events is open to most dogs, including mixed breeds, as long as they are registered with the AKC Canine Partner or PAL registration program. It’s one of the best ways to strengthen that deep bond with your dog and could be one of the most rewarding experiences of both of your lives. Developing the skills needed for each sport and demonstrating what you have learned together is a great accomplishment, and you will become a real team with your dog.

AKC Chief Veterinarian Dr. Jerry Klein provides these tips for those looking to get into the sport:

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Where to start

If you want to start training your puppy or dog’s basic manners and manners, the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification is a great place to start. CGC is a valid company for all dog owners, and is a 10-skill test that teaches dog manners as well as responsible dog ownership to their owners. Although not an event, having a CGC certification is a great starting point for competing in events such as obedience, agility, rallying, and becoming a certified therapy dog.

While some events are for purebred dogs only, there are also events for AKC purebreds and mixed breeds enrolled in our AKC Canine Partner Program that your dog can get involved in. While the Agility, Obedience, Rally, Scent Work, Tracking, Tricks and Running Ability tests are for both purebred and mixed breed dogs, Conformation, Coursing, farm dog, field trials and hunting trials are for purebred dogs only.

Fast CAT (or Running Ability Test), a timed 100-meter dash where dogs run one at a time, and Scent work are the fastest growing AKC events today. Fast CAT requires no real training, while scent work can easily be taught at home.

How to get involved

Generally, to participate in an AKC sport or event, your dog must have an AKC number. Whether your dog is an AKC recognized breed, a mixed breed, or a breed not yet recognized by the AKC, there is a path for everyone to acquire an AKC number so that you and your dog can participate in sports.

AKC Registration Number: This number is provided to a dog’s owner via a registration certificate received from the previous owner or via a puppy registration document given to the new owner by the breeder.

Purebred Alternative List Number (PAL): If a dog is purebred but an AKC registration number is not possible, owners can apply for a PAL number.

AKC Canine Partner Number: This number is assigned to mixed breed or purebred dogs.

Foundation Stock Service (FSS) Number: This number is used for breeds whose status is currently in the foundational stage of registration in the AKC registry and requires a copy of the dog’s pedigree.

A few things to note when participating:

All dogs must be physically healthy and up to date on all vaccinations and health checks.

Castrated females and castrated males are eligible to compete, except in selected conformation and performance tests.

Women may not be allowed to participate during the season, depending on the sport.

Ways to get involved

Events marked with an “*” are reserved exclusively for purebred dogs.

*Conformation: Show your purebred dog at a conformation event if you think he is the perfect standard for the breed.

Agility: Agility is ideal for dogs with high energy, who like to run and respond to instructions.

Obedience: If your dog has mastered basic commands such as sit, stay, and heel and is eager to learn more, obedience might be a good choice.

The AKC National Championship Dog Show, AKC Obedience Classic and AKC Agility Invitational will be held December 17-18 in Orlando, Florida. This is the largest dog show in the country, and it’s a great way to learn about lots of activities, see dogs and their companions in action, and talk to attendees about what it takes to get involved in dog sports. If you can’t attend, the show airs in prime time on ABC National and streams live on

As there are over 22,000 events hosted nationwide by the AKC, there are also plenty of events near you. For more information, check out the American Kennel Club events page and to find events near you so you can get involved.

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