Obedience is a dog sport where a dog and handler work together as a team. The handler cues the animal to perform a behavior and the team is graded on how promptly and accurately the dog executes the behavior.

What: Obedience
Description: Handler cues the dog for behavior. Execution of the behavior is graded.
Training: Training for competition is very intense. Training for home obedience skills is significantly less intense.
Time until ready: This can take quite a while depending on the dog and handler. Some are ready for Novice competition in a few months. Others can take years
Age to start: Dogs can start training at any age

When you talk to someone about Obedience, they typically have two kinds of Obedience in mind. The first is sometimes called “puppy obedience” and the other is “competition obedience” although those aren’t necessarily the actual terms used.

Puppy obedience or just general home obedience covers the idea of teaching a dog what is expected in a home or family environment. Everything from simple sit and down to staying in place to being handled by a groomer or veterinarian are covered in these types of classes. And, for most people, this is what is thought of when Obedience is mentioned. Basically this is teaching a dog some simple manners.

Formal Obedience is more intense. Dogs are taught specific behaviors and are expected to execute those behaviors quickly and with a high degree of accuracy. A sit is no longer just a dog placing their rear end on the floor. Instead, a dog must swiftly place their rear end on the floor while maintaining a specific posture and moving the minimum amount possible from the place where they started to sit. Instead of just manners, you can think of this to be similar to a military drill team, at least in the speed and accuracy compared to a manners type obedience. When a dog and handler are working together as a team, it is very impressive to watch, especially if the dog is having a great time doing it.

Obedience is a great way to spend more time with your dog and give them a task where they have to think and act. Many dogs really like this kind of interaction. A dog of any age can get started in Obedience. However, you may want to wait until the dog is several months old before starting in any kind of competition obedience classes. Any breed of dog is eligible for competition in Obedience. Each and every dog should at least take some simple Obedience so they understand the rules of the human world in which they find themselves.

To get started in Obedience, you should find a highly qualified trainer. In the world of dog training, this is the one area where correction based and aversive methods are used in large amounts. You will find many instructors use these when they don’t know any other way and fall back on the old traditional methods. While these methods certainly work, you should do what you think is best for you and your dog. If you find an instructor that is asking you to do things that you feel uncomfortable with, just move on to a different instructor. Correction based training certainly does work. If it didn’t, then you wouldn’t be able to find trainers using these methods. But more positive methods also work and have less emotional baggage for you and the dog. Be an advocate for you and your dog and don’t hesitate to move on when you don’t like what is being taught.

Competition Obedience has been a sport for a very long time. The first obedience test was in 1933 in New York. The AKC had formalized the sport by 1936. The Whole Dog Journal has an excellent article on Competition Obedience including some more history.

Unlike Agility, there appear to be only a few organizations in North America that offer Competition Obedience as a sport.

AKC American Kennel Club All Breeds
ASCA Australian Shepherd Club of America All Breeds
CKC Canadian Kennel Club All Breeds
UKC United Kennel Club All Breeds

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