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Obedience 101

What is dog obedience?

Obedience is a command-driven competition that tests a dog’s ability to comply with the asks of the handler. Commands can include a combination of sit, stay, jump, retrieve and scent discrimination. All dogs, purebred and mixed breeds, can compete in Obedience events across the U.S. to showcase the desired skills of a model dog.

What are the skills a dog and handler must master?

There are three levels of classes an obedient dog must master: Novice, Open and Utility. Novice refers to beginner dogs learning basic commands like sit and stay. The Open level refers to intermediate commands like jumping and retrieving and Utility refers to the most advanced level of obedience where a dog is able to identify specific scents.

What’s the Best Dog Breed for Obedience?

Any dog can participate in Obedience events across the U.S. including mixed breeds if they are registered to compete through the American Kennel Club (AKC), AKC Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program, Canine Partners Program or Foundation Stock Service (FSS). Lineage does not need to be known. Spayed/neutered dogs are welcome. To get your started in Obedience, visit AKC’s site here.  

What are the most common breeds seen at the Obedience Championship? 

All dogs, both purebred and All-American (mixed breed) dogs, are eligible to compete in Obedience. The most popular breeds currently are Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherd Dogs.

How does a dog become eligible to compete at the Masters Obedience Championship?

Obedience dogs can achieve many titles. This competition consists of those dogs that have “mastered” the highest level of the sport. The top-ranked 200 dogs based on Obedience Trial Champion points earned will receive invitations to compete. Entries will then be selected on a first received basis. There will be 25 dogs entered in this competition.

How does a dog win at the Masters Obedience Championship Competition?

The sport of dog obedience demonstrates a handler and a dog’s ability to work as a team. A judge evaluates the team’s performance as they navigate through a set of exercises.

The Masters Obedience Championship at Westminster is a unique event in the sport of Obedience in that it consists of two rounds of AKC-approved exercises. One round will contain Open B exercises and the other round will have Utility B exercises. First through fourth placements will be awarded in each round, with the highest scoring team from either round awarded High in Trial. The Masters Obedience Champion will be determined by the combined individual qualifying scores from both rounds. The Westminster Kennel Club donates $5,000 to honor the winner of the Masters Obedience Championship to an AKC training club of their choice or to the AKC Humane Fund.

What are the benefits of Obedience training with your dog?

  • Obedience can provide a variety of mental and physical activities for you and your dog
  • It deepens the human-canine bond and enhances communication
  • Ensure your dog's safety and well-being
  • Good canine manners benefit your family, neighborhood, and community
  • Proper training can prevent unwanted behaviors such as jumping on people, digging, barking, and chewing

To learn how to get started in Obedience, visit AKC’s website here.