Competitive Dog Obedience Training: An Introduction

Competitive Dog Obedience Training

Some dog owners like to try their hand in obedience trials, just to see how well they and their dog can work together. Training for obedience competition needs a dog to be reliable in obeying commands, and very accurate in their performance. While it might be okay for your dog to wander away from your leg when you are strolling along on a leisurely walk, this will cost you valuable points if you are in the competition ring.

Competitive Dog Obedience Training: An Introduction

There are many distractions at obedience trials, such as barking dogs and unfamiliar people, and dogs need to be trained to be obedient in spite of all that is happening around them. Some exercises are a little unusual and very distracting, such as the figure 8 heeling exercise.

Dogs heel close to their handler as they walk in a figure 8 pattern around two people standing close together. You can imagine that a dog may not see the point of this, and will just wait for their handler to come back to them.

During an obedience trial, a dog and handler will perform the basic obedience exercises including heel, sit, down, come and stay, as directed by the judge. They will receive points for how well they do these exercises. The maximum number of points they can receive is 200. To gain a pass in an obedience trial, a dog needs at least 170 points, and they need to have earned over 50% of the points allocated to each individual exercise.

Dogs can be awarded obedience titles by gaining a set number of passes at various levels of competition.

Novice Class is the first level of obedience competition. There are 8 exercises in this class,including stay exercises where a dog is left in the sit or down position, and the handler walks away. The dog must not move from his position until his handler returns, and he is released. Three passing scores in novice class competitions under two different judges earn a dog the Companion Dog (CD) title, and the right to enter open class competition.

Open Class introduces more advanced exercises, including retrieving a dumb bell over a jump, and the drop on recall – when the dog is running to his handler during the recall exercise, on the judges signal he is asked to drop. This isn't easy because all the dog wants to do is to get to his handler, and it takes discipline and training for him to drop suddenly and wait to be called again.

Three passes in Open Class competition under two different judges gives a dog a Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) title. From there, he can move up to utility class.

Utility Class. This has even more advanced and more challenging exercises than the other classes. Dogs that compete at this level are expected to obey commands that are given only by hand signals, and use their noses to choose the one item out of a number of them, that has his handler's scent on it. Dogs who are successful at earning a passing score in three utility trials, again with two different judges, are awarded the title Utility Dog (UD). They can continue to compete in obedience trials in both utility and open classes.

These three titles are the basis of obedience trials. However, dogs can go on to earn further titles, but they don't need to learn any more exercises. Utility Dog Excellent titles can be awarded to dogs that gain a passing score in open class and utility class at the same competition, ten times over. This title indicates that a dog has consistently performed well at the highest levels of obedience competition.

The Obedience Trial Championship title is harder to earn. Dogs and their handler must earn firstly earn 100 points by placing first, second, third or fourth in open or utility classes. That's not all. They must also have won an open or utility class three times before being awarded the OTCH title. This is no mean feat.

Training for obedience competition is a fun activity for dogs and their owners. The dogs enjoy the mental stimulation of their training sessions, and outings to the different places where trials are held. Their owners benefit from the increased rapport with their dog that comes from regularly training and working as a team.


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