American Kennel Club: Obedience Explained

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American Kennel Club: Obedience Explained

Note that obedience trialing has its own FAQ that discusses the
general sport of Obedience in much more detail. Below is a simple
summary of the exercises required in the three obedience classes
offered by the AKC. You should get a copy of the Obedience Regulations
if you plan to participate in this sport.

There are two classes, Novice A and Novice B, the former for people

who have not put a Companion Dog (CD) on a dog before, the latter for
people who have. To get a CD, a dog must qualify in three different
Novice shows under three different judges; qualification is at least
170 out of 200 points and at least half the points on every exercise.

Open A and Open B are for dogs that have obtained their CD's. Open A

is for dogs that do not have a CDX, and handlers that have not earned
an OTCH on a dog. Otherwise, they're in Open B. Open B is an OTCH
competition class; dogs with CDX's, UD's, or OTCH's may compete.
Similar to Novice, three qualifying scores (at least 170/200) under
three different judges gets the Companion Dog Excellent (CDX).

Utility A and B are for dogs that have obtained their CDX's. Utility A

is for dogs that have not obtained a UD, and handlers that have not
earned an OTCH on a dog. Otherwise, they're in Utility B. Utility B is
the other OTCH competition class; dogs with UD's or OTCH's appear
there. Similar to Novice, three qualifying scores under three
different judges gets the Utility Dog title (UD).

Note that Novice, Open, and Utility are not competitive in the sense

that any of the entered dogs may earn legs. However, it is competitive
in the sense that the top three or four scores will get


Obedience Trial Champion. A competitive title earned after the UD.
Championship points are awarded to those dogs earning a First or
Second place ribbon in the Open B or Utility/Utility B class according
to the schedule established by the AKC. For the OTCH, the dog must
have 100 points, have won First place in Utility/Utility B with at
least three other dogs in competition, have won First in Open B with
at least six dogs in competition, another First place in Open
B/Utility/Utility B under the same conditions. Each of the first
places must be won from different judges. Neither of the first places
may be earned at a specialty obedience trial.

Novice exercises

* Heeling on leash; this involves starts and stops, left and right
turns, and fast and slow walking. The dog is supposed to stay with
you at all times (head or shoulder next to your leg). Figure 8 on
leash; there are two stops, dog has to stay with you with no
forging (going ahead) or lagging (falling behind). 40 points.
* Off-leash Stand for examination: your dog has to stand still while
the judge examines the head, neck and back, approximately. You are
standing at least 6 ft away. 30 points.
* Repeat of first heeling exercise (not figure 8 part) but without
leash. 40 points.
* Recall and finish: Dog sits about 30 ft. away. You call dog and it
comes briskly to you and sits. On command it then goes around into
a heel pattern sit. 30 points.
* Group exercise. About 10-12 dogs together go in and line up on one
end. Handlers sit their dogs and go to the opposite side. This is
the long sit, lasting for 1 minute. Then handlers down their dogs
and do the same for 3 minutes. Long sit is 30 points, long down is
30 points.

Open exercises

* Heel Free and Figure Eight. Like Novice, except no lead. 40
* Drop on Recall. Like Novice recall, except you signal or command
your dog to down when the judge tells you to. The dog must stay in
the down until you tell it to come again. 30 points.
* Retrieve on Flat. You tell the dog to stay, and throw your
dumbbell at least 20 feet away. You then send your dog; it must go
directly to the dumbbell, bring it back, and sit in front of you
to deliver it. You take the dumbbell and then do a finish. 20
* Retrieve over High Jump. Like the Retrieve on Flat, except the dog
has to jump the high jump on the way out and on the way back. 30
* Broad Jump. You put your dog in a stay at least eight feet behind
the jump. You then walk to the side of the jump, face the jump,
and send your dog over it. While it's in the air, you turn 90
degrees so your dog can come to a sit in front of you. Then you do
a finish. 20 points.
* Group exercise. Same as Novice, except handlers are out of sight
for the stays, and the sit and down stay are three minutes and
five minutes long, respectively. 30 points each.

Utility exercises

* Signal Exercise. You do an off-lead heeling pattern, with signals
only (no voice). In addition, on the judges command, you signal
your dog to stand and stay, and then from across the ring you
signal your dog to down, sit, come, and then finish. 40 points.
* Scent Discrimination. You have two sets of five identical
articles, one set of leather and one of metal. You out pick one of
each; the rest are set out in a group, at random, about six inches
from each other. You and your dog turn your backs on the pile, and
you scent one of the articles and give it to the judge, who puts
it out with the rest. You turn and send your dog to the pile, who
has to pick out the one you scented and retrieve it as in the
Retrieve on Flat. You then repeat the exercise with the other
article. 30 points.
* Directed Retrieve. You have three (mostly) white cotton work
gloves. You stand with your back turned to a side of the ring that
is clear of equipment, with your dog in heel position. The gloves
are placed one in each corner and one in the center along that
side of the ring. The gloves are numbered one, two, three from
left to right as you face them. The judge tells you which glove to
get, and you and your dog pivot in place to (hopefully) face that
glove. You then give a verbal command and signal to your dog to
retrieve the glove, as in Retrieve on Flat. 30 points.
* Moving Stand and Examination. You heel your dog about ten feet,
and then command the dog to stand-stay without stopping. You
continue about ten feet and then turn to face your dog. The judge
examines the dog with his hands as in breed judging (note this is
more thorough than Novice) except he does not examine the dog's
teeth or testicles. You then call your dog directly to heel
position. 30 points.
* Directed jumping. There are two jumps midway across the ring,
about 20 feet apart. One is a high jump, as in Open, and one is a
bar jump. You are about 20 feet away from the jumps, on the center
line of the ring. You send your dog down the center line of the
ring (between the jumps). When the dog is about 20 feet past the
jumps, you tell it to sit. Then you command and/or signal the dog
to take one of the jumps (the judge tells you which). The dog must
jump the jump, come to you, and sit in front. (While it is in
midair you turn towards it.) Then you do a finish. You then repeat
the exercise with the other jump. 40 points.

Other obedience trials

There are brace classes, for a pair of dogs, that perform exercises
out of novice. There are also veteran classes, for dogs at least eight
years old with an obedience title, doing exercises out of novice. A
versatility class, that takes two exercises each from the novice,
open, and utility trials, also exists. Finally, there is a team class,
a pair of people, each with a pair of dogs, using exercises from
There are often fun matches which are set up just like the regular
trials, but they don't count the score towards the title, and you may
correct in the ring. Many people use matches as a way to acclimatize
their dog to the ring. There are also some non-scoring categories like
Pre-Novice, again to help dogs acclimatize to the atmosphere.

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