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 behaviour!

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 behaviours 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, neighbourhood 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.

Types of Training Classes:

  • Puppy Class - A developmental training course for the 3-to-5-month-old puppy. A puppy class emphasizes socialization with people and other puppies. Instructors usually offer information on growth, nutrition, grooming, housebreaking and problem-solving and teach basic household commands.
  • Basic Class - A basic training course for dogs 5-to-6 months and older, aimed at training you to train your dog. The basic class emphasizes the essential training commands needed to make a dog a good companion: heel on a loose leash, sit, stand, down, stay in position, and come when called. Instructors also usually provide information on nutrition, grooming and problem-solving. This basic training is important in keeping your dog safe.
  • Training Classes for Companion Events - A variety of classes that prepare students and their dogs for competition in obedience, agility, tracking and other AKC events. You will be instructed in the levels of competition and titles available, how to teach your dog the required exercises, and the regulations that apply when you are competing.

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

  • All-breed Obedience Trials, the most common types of trials, offer competitions for more than 150 breeds and varieties of dogs recognized by the AKC.
  • Specialty Trials are restricted to dogs of a specific breed or to varieties of one breed. For example, the Flat-Coated Retriever Club of America Specialty is for Flat-Coated Retrievers only. But the Poodle Club of America's Specialty Obedience Trial could include the three varieties of the Poodle: Standard, Miniature and Toy.

Am I Eligible?

To be eligible to compete in obedience trials, a dog must be:

Registered with the AKC or listed with the AKC Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP) program, or a Foundation Stock Service recorded breed that meets the eligibility requirements for competition.

6 months of age or older.

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 poten-tially 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 com-mands 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 Performance

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
  • Visit the AKC website to find a local obedience club.
  • 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

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.

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 qualify-ing 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.