Ready. Set. Let’s Go! Your Signal Is My Command

Competitive Obedience is one of the American Kennel Club’s oldest performance events. It was developed in the 1930s, which to put into perspective is before the invention of penicillin, the Jeep, synthetic rubber, colored photographs, boxed cake mix, the Slinky, the Frisbee and even Silly Putty. During the first year the AKC held competitive obedience trials, 1936, there were eighteen of them with approximately 200 entries. Eighty years later, there were 130,894 entries in AKC obedience trials. This challenging sport measures your dog’s ability and willingness to work with you. Your dog must obey you the first time you give it a command, every time. It requires extensive training and concentration, so the earlier in your dog’s life you start, the better. After all, it is easier to train a puppy, than it is to re-train an adult. But don’t let that fact deter you, it is never too late to train your companion, it may just take longer.

There are three regular classes in AKC Competitive Obedience trials; novice, open and utility. In the novice level, your dog must heel on a leash and heel in a figure eight pattern, heel off leash, stand for examination, recall, sit for one minute, and lie down for three minutes. At the open level, he must heel off leash in a straight line, heel off leash in a figure eight pattern, lie down while recalling, retrieve on flat, retrieve over high jump, take a broad jump, sit for three minutes, and lie down for five minutes. At the utility level, the dog must perform exercises with hand signals only (stand, stay, down, sit and come), discriminate among scents, direct retrieve, stand as the handler moves away, accept the judge’s examination, then return to the handler, leave the handler and return via whichever jump the handler indicates.

These exercises are all performed in a ring, with a judge scoring you and your dog throughout. A perfect score is 200 points. A qualifying score is 170, provided you get more than fifty percent of the points available on each exercise. There are many AKC obedience titles that you and your dog can earn together; Beginner Novice (BN), Graduate Novice (GN), Graduate Open (GO), Versatility (VER). Then there are more advanced titles to earn; Companion Dog (CD), Companion Dog Excellent (CDX), Utility Dog (UD), Utility Dog Excellent (UDX), Obedience Master (OM), Grand Master (OGM), and the coveted Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH) title. All of these titles may also be earned in the preferred category; PCD, PCDX, PUTD, PUDX, and POC. And finally, the very prestigious National Obedience Champion title. As you can see, the sky’s the limit, all you need is a willing teammate, time and patience.

Training for this sport, whether you’re planning on competing or not, will make for a better partnership in all other areas of Fluffy and your lives. If you do decide to compete in an AKC competitive obedience trial, you may do so with any breed of dog. For more information, visit the AKC website.