Golden Retrievers are excellent dogs for competing in obedience trials. Because of their athletic nature, intelligence, and desire to please their owners, the Golden Retriever is a natural at obedience competition. In fact, the first three dogs of any breed to win the AKC Obedience Champion title, which started in 1977, were Golden Retrievers.
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If you're interested in training your Golden Retriever for competition in obedience trials, you'll begin, of course, by taking basic dog obedience classes, and working with your dog to ensure that he follows commands quickly and reliably. Once you and your dog are ready, you can begin competing.
The largest US organization for obedience competition is the American Kennel Club. The AKC offers "all breed" obedience trials that are open to dogs of all 150 breeds that are recognized by the AKC. In addition, clubs devoted to a particular breed can hold licensed AKC trials just for their breed. There are many Golden Retriever clubs throughout the country that have been through the AKC licensing process to allow them to hold AKC sanctioned competitive trials that include Golden Retrievers only. The Golden Retriever Club of America is the national Golden Retriever association, and most local Retriever clubs are members of the Golden Retriever Club of America.
During obedience competitions, your Golden Retriever will compete in one of three categories: novice, open, or utility. According to the AKC regulations, there will be the following expectations at each level:
NOVICE* - For the dog just getting started in obedience.
o 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.
o Heel Free - done off leash.
o Stand for Examination - is of great benefit when the dog needs hands-on care by a veterinarian.
o Recall - provides the handler with the ability to call the dog and get an immediate response at all times.
o Long Sit (1 minute) - allows the handler to have control of the dog when visitors come to the home.
o Long Down (3 minutes) - dog must remain in a down position.
OPEN - The second level includes more complicated exercises, some of which may be given by hand signals. Exercises include:
o Heel Free and Figure Eight - Same as Novice, but off leash.
o Drop on Recall - can be a lifesaving command for a dog, since it gives the handler control in potentially dangerous situations.
o Retrieve on Flat
o Retrieve Over High Jump
o Broad Jump
o 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.
o Long Down (5 minutes) - dog must remain in a down position.
UTILITY - The third and highest level of obedience competition. Exercises include:
o Signal Exercise - shows the dog's ability to understand and correctly respond to the handler's signal to stand, stay, down, sit, and come. No voice commands are given; only hand signals are allowed.
o Scent Discrimination - shows the dog's ability to find the handler's scent among a pile of articles.
o Directed Retrieve - proves the dog's ability to follow a directional signal to retrieve a glove and promptly return it to the handler.
o 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.
o 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.
* From AKC regulation book.
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