If you haven’t looked at dog obedience for a while, you are in for a surprise. There are a lot more choices to enjoy obedience with your dog. The regular obedience classes are Novice (CD or Companion Dog), Open (CDX or Companion Dog Excellent) and Utility (UD). After these regular classes, there are UDX legs where you must qualify in both Open and Utility at the same show, and if you do this 10 times, you earn a UDX (Utility Dog Excellent title). And finally, there is an OTCH - Obedience Trial Champion - which requires many, many shows in which you must win the class in order to gain points toward the OTCH title.
All of this takes great dedication and commitment to training. Not everyone wants to do this or has the time to dedicate to this type of training, but this is not all that obedience is about. AKC has greatly expanded the obedience offerings so that people who enjoy teaching their dogs exercises that require focus and teamwork can enjoy obedience with their dogs.
If you and your dog have earned a CGC (Canine Good Citizen) title, you are well on your way to begin working towards a Beginner Novice (BN) title. The exercises in Beginner Novice are a step up from CGC. The heeling follows simple signs with a left turn, right turn, about turn, slow, fast and sit (an extension of the CGC “out for a walk.”) The figure 8 exercise is a refinement of walking through a crowd. Sit for exam is just like sit politely for petting, except you are in front of your dog not next to him. In the stay exercise, the handler places the leash on the ground, tells the dog to stay, and walks around the room. In the recall, the handler takes the leash off and tells the dog to wait and goes 20 feet away and calls the dog. A little harder than the CGC work, but not that hard. The skills required are reasonable pet skills and are within reach of any responsible dog handler team.
After Beginner Novice (BN), the next classes are Graduate Novice and Graduate Open. The Graduate Novice class involves teaching your dog to carry a dumbbell and jump with a dumbbell in its mouth, to jump over a broad jump, and to drop on recall.
The Graduate Open class involves teaching your dog to down, sit, and come from a distance, to find an article you scent, to retrieve a glove, to stand for examination, and then come to you and go away from you and perform directed jumping. These classes parallel the regular open and utility but are much more user-friendly and dog friendly. The exercises have been modified and distances are shorter.
The people working in our open/utility classes here at North Star find that their dogs really enjoy these problem-solving exercises. They are fun to teach and really enhance the dog/handler relationship.
Obedience is a wonderful way to teach your dogs something new and stimulate their minds. As we learn to become partners in helping them learn, a special bond develops as we grow together working towards a goal.
Have some fun this winter and challenge yourself and your dog by learning something new. Obedience training has something for everyone!
Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 130 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 4 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 30 years. She is also an AKC Tracking Judge. You can contact her with questions, suggestions, and ideas for her column by e-mailing email@example.com.