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Articles > Dogs

Obedience Training and Competitions

Topic: New Challenges and Ideas for You and Your Dog

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Tags: Obedience Training, Obedience, Competition

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Obedience training is one of the most popular of all the various dog and puppy classes offered in most areas. Obedience training helps both dogs and owners work with each other as well as increase the bond between the people in the family and the dogs. Many people mistakenly believe that obedience training is an attempt to break a dog's spirit or to make them submissive, when in fact the effect of obedience training is to allow the dog and owner to work better together, ultimately allowing the dog more freedom.

Obedience training will help prevent or minimize behavior problems in puppies or dogs before they ever get started. Many breeders, vets and animal behaviouralists recommend that puppies get started in obedience classes as soon as possible after completing their final set of puppy vaccinations, typically just after 12 weeks of age. Obedience training can range from teaching the dog all the basic commands to working well off leash and in highly distracting environments. Any owners considering working with their dogs or puppies in other types of events, trials or competitions will usually start with basic obedience classes. Obedience classes, either for puppies or dogs, also offer the additional benefits in that they provide excellent socialization opportunities in controlled environments.

Competitive Obedience

Competitive obedience goes well beyond what owners and puppies or dogs will work on in basic obedience classes. Most dogs that compete in obedience competitions are highly trained and very intelligent dogs that practice on a regular daily or two to three week times a week at the minimum.

Many different associations and groups offer competitive obedience. The American Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, Australian National Kennel Council and the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom all offer competitive obedience competitions.

In the competitions dogs are worked completely off leash and the number of commands and prompts are very limited. The dog must listen to the command of the handler correctly, without any hesitation, as well as follow very specific patterns and routines with just verbal commands. The dog must perform the commands without looking off, stopping to investigate items in the ring or even becoming distracted by the spectators or other dogs in the event.

Competitive obedience classes are divided into different categories or classes based on the age of the dog and the overall goals of the training. A puppy class is for puppies under five months old and older than three that will focus on training the puppy on a loose leash or lead. A basic class is for juvenile dogs that are older than five or six months.

Companionship and good dog citizen classes are designed to improve the dogs overall good behavior in a variety of settings. These classes are the precursors to competitive obedience classes that owners may wish to enter their dogs in when they are fully grown and trained.

What dogs can enter competitive obedience?

Since there are many different clubs and associations that offer obedience competitions and trials the types of dogs that can enter into events will vary greatly. Many local dog shows will offer an open class that allows any dog, mixed breed or purebred, as well as registered and unregistered dogs to enter into the show.

Obedience trails that are sponsored or organized through a national association or registry such as the American Kennel Club will typically require that the dogs that enter are registered with the club and therefore must be purebred dogs. Some of the competitions may be all-breed trials which allows any registered, purebred dog to enter the obedience event. Other events will be specific to one breed and will be organized and managed under that particular breed registry or association.

In some cases, especially within American Kennel Club competitions non-registered dogs that are from a recognized breed may be eligible to compete in obedience classes. These dogs will be listed in an Indefinite Listing Privilege category and must be spayed or neutered before being granted the listing to compete.

There are three levels of obedience training ranging from basic novice classes to open classes and to the most challenging, the utility classes. Novice classes include heeling and doing a figure eight, standing for examination, a long sit, long down, recall and heel off the leash. The open class is composed of all heeling off leash in figure eights, dropping on recall, retrieve over a high jump, retrieve on the flat, broad jump and a long sit and long down with the handler out of sight.

The utility class is the most advanced level that very few dogs achieve. They must add scent discrimination, responding to signals, moving stand and examination, directed retrieve and jumping. Each one of these events is scored on a total possible score with points deducted for any type of diversion from the required program.

As dogs progress through the various levels the owners and dogs will learn how to effectively work together with greater and greater distance and more complex verbal commands and responses by the dog. Since the routine will vary every competition the dogs must truly focus on the handler, they cannot simply learn the routine and just repeat it every time. Besides just the actual competition and how well the dog responds to the owner, there are also expectations on how the dog will respond to the judge's examination. They cannot appear aggressive or timid in behavior at any time during the competition or event.

How much will this cost?

Obedience training will vary in price depending on how involved and advanced you wish to become. Some of the basic puppy classes can be offered at very low cost at local community centers and dog training schools. The more advanced level trainers will typically charge either by the hour or by the training package, and these can range from relatively inexpensive to several hundred dollars. Knowing how far you wish to go with the training will help you budget and plan just how much you wish to spend on obedience training.

Other articles under "New Challenges and Ideas for You and Your Dog"

Article 3 - "Training A Dog With Hand Signals"
Article 5 - "Taking Your Dog Camping"
Article 7 - "Teaching Advanced Level Tricks"

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