Things to Do with your Pure-bred Dog

Engaging in activities with your dog is a wonderful way to strengthen the canine/human bond. It is also a great deal of fun! If your dog is registered with the American Kennel Club, there are a great number of sanctioned events in which you can participate. While conformation requires that the dogs be intact (not spayed or neutered), the majority of performance events are open to spayed or neutered dogs, as well. If your dog is pure-bred, but without papers, the AKC can issue a “PAL” number which will allow your dog to participate in American Kennel Club performance events. In addition, the AKC Canine Partners Program has opened up obedience, rally and agility to mixed-breed dogs. What follows is a brief description of activities open to AKC pure-bred dogs.


Most competitive events held under AKC rules are dog shows, where the accent is on conformation– or the dog’s physical characteristics. After being examined by a judge, dogs are placed according to how well (in the judge’s opinion) they measure up to their Breed Standard. Most show dogs are competing for points toward their Championship. As the original purpose of conformation was to compare breeding stock, dogs cannot be spayed or neutered. Dogs with breed standard disqualifying faults, and males without two descended testicles, are also ineligible.

Performance Events


Obedience trials test a dog’s ability to perform a prescribed set of exercises on which it is scored. There are three levels at which your dog can earn a title, and each is more difficult than the one before. Exercises range from basic heeling, sitting and standing, and progress to jumping, retrieving and scent discrimination.


In an agility trial, a dog demonstrates its agile nature and versatility by following cues from the handler through a timed obstacle course of jumps, tunnels, weave poles and other objects. It is an activity that strengthens the bond between dog and handler and provides fun and exercise for both. Agility has become one of the fastest-growing dog sports in the US!

Canine Good Citizen Program

The Canine Good Citizen Program (CGC) was designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. It is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs. Many dog owners choose CGC training as the first step in training their dogs.

Rally Obedience

Rally is one of the newest sports in the AKC line up of performance competitions. Held in conjunction with obedience, but where the dog and handler proceed at their own pace through a course of directional signs in a manner similar to Rally Car Racing. Rally can be a great “next step” for dogs and owners who have completed their CGC certification, and are not yet ready to proceed to Obedience or Agility trials.


AKC tracking events are the competition form of canine search and rescue. These events provide training for dogs and their handlers to meet some human needs for tracking and finding lost humans or other animals, as well as demonstrating the extremely high level of scent capability that dogs possess.


The purpose of the herding trial program is to preserve and develop the herding skills inherent in the herding breeds, and to demonstrate that they can perform the useful functions for which they were originally bred. The competitive trials offer something for every breed with three different livestock types – cattle, sheep, or ducks.


Hunting tests were originally designed to improve the natural hunting instincts of certain breeds of dogs, and are open to eligible pointing, retrieving and spaniel breeds.

Lure Coursing

If you own one of the breeds known as “sighthounds,” you may be interested in Lure Coursing. In this event, dogs follow an artificial lure around a course on an open field. Coursing dogs are scored on speed, enthusiasm, agility, endurance, and their ability to follow the lure. Coursing is a great way to keep your hound physically and mentally fit.


Non-competitive Earthdog tests were developed to offer breeders and owners of small Terriers and Dachshunds a standardized gauge to measure their dog’s natural and trained hunting and working abilities when exposed to a hunting situation. The Earthdog program progresses through gradual steps to require the dog to demonstrate that it is capable of being trained to force game to ground and work its quarry.

Field Trials

Field Trials are held for eligible hounds, pointing breeds, retrievers and spaniels. The principal qualifications are good noses, courage in facing punishing covers, keenness, perseverance, obedience and willingness to go to earth.

How to Get Involved

To get involved in any of the activities characteristic of your favorite breed, check out the website for the breed’s national organization. The website will have information about upcoming performance events as well as serve as a great resource about how to train for these events. Most Conformation competitions can be found on Infodog, Roy Jones Dog Shows, and Onofrio Dog Shows.

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