Some people see dog obedience classes as something that you do with a puppy or recently adopted dog just once in their life. Beyond the basics, obedience classes can become even more fun for your dog because he gets to work in partnership with you. Positive classes can strengthen your bond with your dog. Even if you never intend to compete, advanced training can still be worth the time in strengthening the basics and teaching other useful behaviors.
Rally Obedience, often called Rally-O, is a competition in advanced obedience that is available through the American Kennel Club (AKC) or through American Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). In this sport, a judge lays out signs for specific moves. Number of signs varies based on the level. Each sign is an instruction for what to do with the dog. Some signs include, "down, stay, walk around," directional instructions, and speed changes. The APDT and AKC signs are slightly different but for fun, it doesn't matter which the class uses. Unlike traditional obedience, the emphasis in Rally-O is the partnership between human and dog. The handler talks to the dog as they progress through the signs and the dog is supposed to look happy as they work. In day to day life, you may feel silly using those cues on a daily walk but being spontaneous is a great way to keep your dog more focused on you than the environment. Working to learn Rally-O signs builds teamwork that will show in other areas of your life.
Agility is also available from both AKC and APDT but just learning the obstacles in a class and playing on the equipment is exciting and challenging for both you and your dog. The cues you learn in agility, such as telling your dog to jump up onto a surface, jump over something, or walk carefully in a narrow space, can be used while you hike, to get the dog to jump up on the vet table, and in many different outdoor environments. Agility is known for building confidence and teamwork.
IMPROV stands for Impromptu Multifarious Performance Requiring Obedience and Versatility. These things and the flexibility of your dog training are demonstrated through six exercises. You can prepare for some of them through training and generalizing but the specifics are not known until the competition. For example, the dog will have to retrieve three objects by carrying or dragging them but you won't know what ahead of time. IMPROV competitions are available through Dog Scouts of America to any breed or mixed breed dog at many training levels. The training for this type of flexible competition can be useful to build the partnership with your dog even if you never intend to compete.
Try a class on one of the dog sports above to give you and your canine best friend some fun exercise and bonding time!