The Wonderful World of Dog Obedience

Why Train Your Dog?

Dogs, by nature, are pack animals with a well-defined social order. As you and your family become your dog’s pack, your new dog will look to you – the leader of the pack – for guidance. Leadership can be established in a firm but friendly manner. Keep in mind that it is unrealistic to expect the dog to abide by the rules of the household without the leader teaching appropriate behavior!

Much like people, every dog is different. Some are hyperactive. Some are laid-back. Some are serious. Others are silly. Some are shy, and yet others have too much confidence. Regardless of these differences, training is necessary for all dogs and beneficial to your entire family.

Training will help correct nuisance behaviors such as jumping on people, digging, barking, and chewing, while providing mental and physical activities for your dog.

  • Deepen the bond between you and your dog, and to increase the enjoyment, companionship and satisfaction of your relationship with your dog.
  • Ensure your dog’s safety and happiness.
  • Nurture good canine companionship for the benefit of your family, neighborhood and community.
  • Allow you to enjoy the fun and excitement of competing in AKC obedience, tracking and agility trials, among other activities.

You and your dog can earn certificates and titles while you continue to strengthen your communication and teamwork.

The Purpose of  Obedience Trials
Consider taking obedience training with your dog to a whole new level. Enter the world of obedience and help your dog realize its full potential by competing in obedience trials and earning obedience competition titles. Obedience Trials demonstrate the usefulness of the dog as a companion to man. Obedience trials showcase dogs that have been trained and conditioned to behave well in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs. Obedience trials and tests allow exhibitors and their dogs to enjoy companionship and competition as they proudly earn their titles.

Types of Obedience Trials
Obedience Trials, the most common types of trials, offer competitions for more than 150 breeds and varieties of dogs and mixed breed dogs as well.

Specialty Trials, are restricted to dogs of a specific breed or to varieties of one breed.

To be eligible to compete in obedience trials, a dog must be:
Registered with national kennel club such as AKC (American Kennel Club), UKC (United Kennel Club) or listed with a kennel club’s Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP) program, 6 months of age or older.

Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege
Dogs of any breed recognized by the national kennel clubs that do not have registration papers or known parents may qualify for a Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP). PAL/ILP dogs may participate in certain events, such as obedience,agility, tracking and many performance events. Photos are required to prove the dog is a registrable breed. The dog must be spayed or neutered.

How an Obedience Trial Works
An obedience club wishing to hold an obedience trial must first meet all of the national clubs requirements before applying for permission to host the trial. The next step is for the obedience club to appoint an obedience trial committee that will have sole jurisdiction over the dogs, handlers and owners entered in the trial.

To enter an obedience trial, the owner of the dog must submit an official entry form, which can be found on the national kennel club’s web site, to the trial secretary or superintendent of the trial. Be sure to ask the trial secretary about the premium list, the official announcement of a club’s event. The premium list contains all relevant information regarding the trial, including date, location, classes offered, and judges – as well as the entry form.

After the entries have closed, a program showing the schedule for the judging of each class will be mailed to the owner of each entered dog.

An area, designated as a “ring,” will be provided for each class offered. The club holding the trial is responsible for providing equipment that meets the requirements of the national kennel club’s Obedience Regulations.

Levels of Competition
There are three levels of competition in obedience:

NOVICE – For the dog just getting started in obedience. Exercises include:
• Heel on Leash and Figure Eight – show whether the dog has learned to watch its handler and adjust its pace to stay with the handler.

• Heel Free – done off leash.
• Stand for Examination – is of great benefit when the dog needs hands-on care by a veterinarian.
• Recall – provides the handler with the ability to call the dog and get an immediate response at all times.
• Long Sit (1 minute) – allows the handler to have control of the dog when visitors come to the home.
• Long Down (3 minutes) – dog must remain in a down position.

OPEN – The second level includes more complicated exercises, which teach the dog to do a variety of tasks and to follow commands either by voice or signal. Exercises include:
• Heel Free and Figure Eight – Same as Novice, but off leash.
• Drop on Recall – can be a lifesaving command for a dog, since it gives the handler control in potentially dangerous situations.
• Retrieve on Flat
• Retrieve Over High Jump
• Broad Jump
• Long Sit (3 minutes) – similar to the long sit in Novice, but the position must be held for a longer period of time with the handler out of the dog’s sight.
• Long Down (5 minutes) – dog must remain in a down position.

UTILITY – The third and highest level of obedience competition. Exercises include:
• Signal Exercise – shows the dog’s ability to under-stand and correctly respond to the handler’s signal to stand, stay, down, sit and come. No voice commands are given; only hand signals are allowed.
• Scent Discrimination – shows the dog’s ability to find the handler’s scent among a pile of articles.
• Directed Retrieve – proves the dog’s ability to follow a directional signal to retrieve a glove and promptly return it to the handler.
• Moving Stand and Examination – the dog must heel, stand and stay as the handler moves away. The dog must stay and accept an examination by the judge and return to the handler on command.
• Directed Jumping – the dog must go away from the handler, turn and sit. Then, the dog must clear whichever jump its handler indicates and promptly return to the handler.

Qualifying Score
A dog receives a qualifying score when it earns more than 50 percent of the points for each exercise, with a total of at least 170 points.
A perfect score in any class is 200.

Tips for the First-time Exhibitor
• Register your dog with the AKC.
• Be sure your dog is current on all inoculations and health check-ups.
• Attend obedience classes with your dog.
• Become familiar with the AKC Obedience Regulations.
• Attend obedience trials, and become familiar with the ring procedures.
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions of experienced exhibitors.

Obedience Titles
Titles can only be earned at an licensed or member club trial. The Novice (CD) title must be completed before an exhibitor can enter the Open class. The Open title (CDX) must be earned before an exhibitor can enter the Utility class.

Companion Dog (CD)
The letters CD may be added after a dog’s registered name when it has been certified by three different judges as receiving qualifying scores in Novice classes at three licensed or member obedience trials.

Companion Dog Excellent (CDX)
The letters CDX may be added after a dog’s registered name after it has been certified by three different judges as receiving qualifying scores in Open classes at three licensed or member obedience trials.

Utility Dog (UD)
The letters UD may be added after a dog’s registered name after it has been certified by three different judges as receiving qualifying scores in Utility classes at three licensed or member obedience trials.

Utility Dog Excellent (UDX)
Dogs with UD titles must earn qualifying scores in both Open B and Utility B at 10 trials in order to add the UDX title after their registered names.

Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH)
Dogs with UD titles must win 100 points and a first-place in Utility B and Open B, plus a
third first-place win in either class, under three different judges.

National Obedience Champion (NOC)
The AKC awards this prestigious title annually to the dog that wins the AKC National Obedience Invitational. The letters NOC are placed before the dog’s AKC-registered name and become part of the dog’s permanent title.

Information about Obedience Trials
The AKC offers a wide variety of resources to assist anyone interested in obedience, whether you are new to the sport or want to know how to hold an obedience trial.

Contact AKC Customer Service at 919-233-9767 or to inquire about the following resources or go to
“Getting Started in Obedience, Agility, Tracking and CGC” – Informative brochure which outlines the basics of getting started in AKC Companion Events.
AKC Show Trial Manual – Manual designed to assist clubs in understanding the requirements, the paperwork, the personnel, and the many details that must be handled correctly to hold a successful obedience trial.
Obedience Regulations, Obedience Judges Guidelines, The Steward in Obedience – a comprehensive booklet giving the regulations and guidelines for AKC Obedience Trials at which titles are earned.