Getting Started in 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.
Types of Training Classes
Purpose of AKC Obedience Trials
Consider taking obedience training with your dog to a whole new level. Enter the world of AKC obedience and help your dog realize its full potential by competing in obedience trials and earning obedience competition titles. AKC Obedience Trials demonstrate the usefulness of the purebred 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. AKC trials and tests allow exhibitors and their dogs to enjoy companionship and competition as they proudly earn AKC titles.
Types of Obedience Trials
Am I Eligible?
To be eligible to compete in obedience trials, a dog must be:
Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege
AKC Canine Partners Program
How an Obedience Trial Works
An obedience club wishing to hold an obedience trial must first meet all AKC requirements before applying for permission from the AKC. 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 AKC entry form, which can be found on the AKC 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 AKC Obedience Regulations.
Role of the Judge
The judge must arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the class. Judges are not permitted to inject personal variations into the exercises, but must see that each handler and dog execute the various exercises exactly as described in the AKC Obedience Regulations. The judge must carry a mental picture of the theoretically perfect performance in each exercise and score each dog and handler against this standard.
A qualifying score in the judge's book is his or her certification that the dog has satisfactorily performed all the required exercises. The judge will not disclose the scores until the conclusion of the judging, but will immediately inform a handler after the group exercises (or immediately following the last exercise in Utility) if his or her dog received a qualifying score.
At the end of the judging and after all scores have been recorded, the judge will call qualifying dogs back into the ring and will announce the scores of each of the four placements.
Levels of CompetitionThere are three levels of competition in obedience:
NOVICE - For the dog just getting started in obedience. Exercises include:
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:
UTILITY - The third and highest level of obedience competition. Exercises include:
A qualifying score indicates that the dog has performed all the required exercises according to AKC Obedience Regulations and justifies the awarding of the obedience title associated with the particular class.
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.
The following colors must be used for prize ribbons or rosettes in all regular classes, and for the Highest Scoring Dog in the Regular Classes, and for the ribbon or rosette for the dog with the Highest Combined Score in Open B and Utility:
All dogs that have received a qualifying score in their class receive a dark green ribbon to indicate that they have earned a "leg," or qualifying score toward their title.
How Do I Get Started in Obedience?
The best advice is to START TRAINING EARLY! Training a puppy is easier than training an adult dog because a puppy is more open to new ideas and has not yet developed "bad habits."
While it’s best to start young, the old saying "You can’t teach an old dog new tricks" is only partially true. It is never too late to train your dog, although it may take longer to retrain it to eliminate undesirable habits.
Most AKC clubs conduct a variety of classes instructed by trainers who have won awards in obedience competition with their own dogs, and they make sure to stay up-to-date on the latest training techniques. They have experience training all breeds of dogs and can help solve behavior problems. Most clubs accept all types of dogs, mixed breeds and purebreds, and prospective students are usually welcome to observe a class before signing up for a training course.
When you attend classes with your dog, instructors will show you how to teach it and will expect you to practice at home. The younger the dog, the shorter the practice sessions should be. For the best results, both you and your dog should enjoy frequent short sessions, combined with some play and rewards.
To find AKC clubs in your area that offer training, please visit our Training Resources section.
Tips for the First-time Exhibitor
Tips for the First-time Spectator
AKC titles can only be earned at an AKC-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.
Information about Obedience Trials