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An Introduction to Competitive Obedience

An Introduction To Competitive Obedience

By Sonja Morris

The goal in the sport of Competitive Obedience is to create a working team, a partnership with both human and canine working in sync. There are three levels of Obedience a dog and handler team compete in:

CD – Companion Dog (First Obedience Title)

The first level is “Novice” and to earn the title of Companion Dog (CD), the dog and handler must pass three novice obedience trials (otherwise known as “legs”). Each trial consists of a set of exercises which the team must pass. They must accumulate a score of 170 points or more, with 200 being the perfect score. The exercises are:

  • Heel on Leash and Figure 8: The team must perform a heeling pattern on-leash, as well as heeling in a figure-8 pattern around two posts (ring stewards). (40 points)
  • Stand for Examination: On completion of the figure-8, the handler will remove the leash and give it to the steward. On the Judge’s order, the handler will stand and/or pose his dog, within a reasonable amount of time. The handler gives the command and/or signal to stay, and then walks straight forward about 1.83m (6′), turn and face the dog. The dog must stay in position, without moving its feet while the Judge runs his hand down its head, back and rump. On the judge’s order, the handler will return by walking around behind the dog to heel position. (30 points)
  • Heel Free: The team must perform a heeling pattern off-leash. (40 points)
  • Recall: The handler leaves the dog in a Sit-Stay and walks to the end of the ring. He then calls the dog to sit in front of him and to return to heel position on command. (30 points)
  • Long Sit (1 minute): A group exercise where all the dogs competing in Novice are lined up and made to sit-stay in a row. The handlers move to the opposite side of the ring and face their dogs for 1 minute. Dogs that move out of position will be disqualified, and will be excused from the ring before the long down exercise commences. (30 points)
  • Long Down (3 minutes): A group exercise where all the dogs are lined up in a row and made to down-stay. The handlers then move to the opposite side of the ring and face their dogs for 3 minutes. (30 points)

 Trial-Group-Sit

CDX – Companion Dog Excellent (Second Obedience Title)

Once a dog has earned his CD title he can then go onto the second level called “Open”. The team once again needs to pass three trials to earn the CDX title. They must also accumulate a score of 170 points or more, with 200 being the perfect score. The exercises, in order for Open A (see description further in article on requirements for Open A & B), are:

  • Heel Free and Figure-8: The team must perform a heeling pattern off-leash as well as a figure-8 heeling pattern around two posts (ring stewards). (40 points)
  • Drop on Recall: The handler must leave the dog in a Sit-Stay position and walk to the end of the ring. On order or signal from the judge, he handler will call or signal the dog which must come straight in a brisk pace. While the dog is in motion, on the judge’s signal, then handler will command or signal the dog to drop. On the Judges signal the handler calls the dog to sit in front of him and to return to heel position on command. (30 points)
  • Retrieve on the Flat: The handler throws a dumbbell across the ring and signals the dog to retrieve it. The dog then has to sit in front of the handler who takes the dumbbell from the dog when signaled by the Judge. Then the dog has to return to heel position on command. (25 points)
  • Retrieve over the High Jump: The handler throw a dumbbell over the high jump and signals the dog to retrieve it. The dog must retrieve the dumbbell by jumping the high jump both ways. The height of the jump is equal to the height of the dog at the withers. (35 points)
  • Broad Jump: From a sitting start, the dog must leap over a broad jump and return to his handler. The length of the jump is equal to two times the height of the dog at the withers. (20 points)

The boards shall be spaced as equally as possible, as follows:

  • One board for dogs that jump 8 inches or less
  • Two boards for dogs that jump 16 to 24 inches
  • Three boards for dogs that jump 28 to 44 inches
  • Four boards are used for dogs that jump 48 to 72 inches
  • Long Sit (3 minutes): A group exercise where all the dogs competing in Open are lined up and made to sit-stay in a row. The handlers then move out of the ring and out of sight of their dogs for 3 minutes. Dogs that move out of position will be disqualified, and will be excused from the ring before the long down exercise commences.  (25 points)
  • Long Down (3 minutes) A group exercise where all the dogs competing in Open are lined up and made to down-stay in a row. The handlers then move out of the ring and out of sight of their dogs for 3 minutes. (25 points)

For Open B, there is no particular order to the exercises, as this will change for each trial (there are six variations), based on the judge’s discretion. The order of the exercises in a particular trial, must be posted 30 minutes prior to the start of the trial, for competitor’s to review.


UD- Utility Dog

Once a dog has earned his CDX title he can then earn his UD title. Once he has obtained all three titles he also gains the title of OTCh (Obedience Trial Champion). The team once again needs to pass three trials to earn the UD title. They must also accumulate a score of 170 points or more, with 200 being the perfect score.  The exercises, in order for Utility A (see description further in article on requirements for Utility A & B), are:

  • Seek Back: The team performs a heeling pattern off-leash and the Judge commands the handler to drop the glove along the way, which the dog is expected to retrieve. (30 points)
  • Scent Discrimination: A collection of 15 articles (5 wood, 5 metal and 5 leather) are placed in the centre of the obedience ring. The Judge chooses two articles for the handler to scent. These can either be a combination of wood and leather, leather and metal or wood and metal, depending on what the Judge chooses. Each article is handled independently, with the handler scenting the article for the Judge to place in the pile. The dog has to retrieve the scented article and then repeat the exercise until he has brought back both articles. (30 points each = 60 points)
  • Signal Exercise: The team performs a heeling pattern off-leash with only hand signals being given. At the Judge’s command, the handler signals the dog to stop in a standing position and wait while the handler moves away. The handler then turns to face the dog and uses further hand signals to get the dog to: a) Lie Down; b) Sit Up; c) Come Front d) Finish. (40 points)
  • Moving Stand: On the Judge’s signal the team will heel at a normal pace for approximately 3 meters. The handler commands the dog to stand still and walks on for a further 3 meters, at which point he will turn to face his dog. The Judge will approach the dog and will examine it by running his hands over its body. The dog must stand and stay in position. On the Judge’s signal the handler calls the dog to sit in front of him and to return to heel position on command. (30 points)
  • Directed Jumping:  Two jumps (a solid high jump and a bar jump) are placed at a specified distance apart near the centre of the ring. The handler commands the dog to run out between and past the two jumps and then to sit and facing the handler. The handler then commands the dog to go over a designated jump. The exercise is repeated for the second jump. (40 points)

For Utility B, there is no particular order to the exercises, as this will change for each trial (there are six variations), based on the judge’s discretion. The order of the exercises in a particular trial, must be posted 30 minutes prior to the start of the trial, for competitor’s to review.

 

There are trials run by two separate organizations: the AIOC (Association of Island Obedience Clubs) and the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club). Anyone can compete in AIOC trials on Vancouver Island. To compete in CKC trials your dog has to be a registered with the Canadian Kennel Club. The rules and regulations for CKC trials are the same as those for AIOC trials and you receive the same titles.

Below is the link to the current official rules and regulations for obedience trials in Canada. The rules are currently undergoing revision, and the final version will be uploaded once available. Please make sure that you read through the rules before trialling, as there are a lot of regulations not covered within this article:

Obedience Trials – 2012 Draft Rules and Regulations

When competing in trials you will notice the following categories:

Novice A & B – Handlers having earned a CDX may not enter in Novice A, all other competitor’s enter in the A class.

Open A & B – Handlers having earned a UD may not enter in Open A, all other competitor’s enter in the A class.

Utility A & B – Handlers having earned a MOTCH or GMOTCH may not enter in Utility A, all other competitor’s enter in the A class.

DO NOT

  • Take food into an obedience ring, or have food within 10 feet of the ring entrance.
  • Talk to your dog or use subtle body language during exercises to encourage your dog. You are only allowed to use the set commands e.g. sit, stay, come, heel etc. You are only allowed to use hand signals in place of verbal commands, not in conjunction with.
  • Hide toys in your pockets to gain your dogs attention.
  • Physically guide your dog such as placing the dog in position with your hands, or straightening the dog with your knees or feet.
  • Take your dog into, or out of the ring, without being on-leash.
  • Discipline your dog in the ring.
  • Signal corrections to your dog from across the ring.
  • Praise your dog exuberantly in the ring (Moderate praise and petting is allowed between exercises only, provided the dog is under control).
  • Have tags hanging from your dog’s collar. Unapproved collars (like pinch or choke collars) are NOT allowed in the ring or anywhere near the venue itself (Plain well-fitted collars are allowed, as well as martingales).

A Judge may excuse you from the ring for any of the above infractions.

Your dog may wear a form-fitting jacket or sweater whilst competing, if required (this rule was introduced in 2012).

Trial participants who have earned a score of 170 or more receive a ribbon. The handler with the highest score in a class e.g. Novice, Open or Utility receives a High in Class Rosette. At the end of the day the handler with the highest score in the trial (Novice, Open and Utility combined) receives the High in Trial Rosette.

On completion of their CD title, all Lakewood Club receive a plaque at the year-end function. Shingles are handed out for subsequent titles (AIOC and CKC) to be hung from the plaque. Lakewood Club Members are eligible for trophies at the year-end function as well. These are as follows:

  • Novice A Trophy for the overall highest scoring Novice A handler and dog team for the year.
  • Novice B Trophy for the overall highest scoring Novice B handler and dog team for the year.
  • Open A Trophy for the overall highest scoring Open A handler and dog team for the year.
  • Open B Trophy for the overall highest scoring Open A handler and dog team for the year.
  • Highest Aggregate Score Trophy for the overall highest scoring handler and dog team for the year (Novice, Open and Utility combined).
  • Utitility Trophy for all handler and dog teams who have received their Utility title in a given year.

There is also the Highest Scoring Lakewood Member Trophy which is handed out at the Lakewood Trial. All Lakewood Members entered in this trial are eligible for this trophy (Novice, Open and Utility combined).

Competing in Obedience takes a lot of dedication and is hard work, yet it’s a lot of fun and a great way to meet wonderful people and their dogs.

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