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July 2006 Barker

Obedience Trial?

By successfully competing in obedience classes, a team may earn an AKC Champion title, much like conformation classes; however, that is about where the similarities stop. Obedience classes are broken into 3 levels: Novice, Open and Utility.

To earn the Novice title, Companion Dog (CD), I must qualify in the Novice class at 3 separate Trials, under 3 different judges. To qualify in the Novice class, I must achieve a score of at least 170 points and earn at least 50% of all possible points for each exercise in the class. The Novice exercises are: heel on lead, figure eight, stand for examination, Heel off lead, recall, a 1 minute sit-stay and a 3 minute down-stay. In the Open class, we, my dog and I, can earn the Companion Dog Excellent title (CDX) if we successfully complete the heel off lead, figure eight, drop on recall, retrieve over the high jump, retrieve on the flat, the broad jump, a 3 minute sit-stay out of sight, and 5 minute down-stay out of sight. In the Utility class, we can earn the Utility Dog title (UD) if we successfully complete the signal exercise, directed retrieve, directed jumping, scent articles, and moving stand. The qualification requirements for Open and Utility classes are the same as for the Novice class.

Sounds pretty simple until I find out that I can lose from ½ to 5 points if my dog fails to sit perfectly any, and all, of the numerous times that he is required to do so as we perform the various exercises. One point can be lost for each time that my dog lags, forges or bumps me while we are heeling. I can lose from 3 to 5 points if I give him the same command twice (either voice and/or signal), talk when I am supposed to be quiet, move any part of my body when I am supposed to be still, stop when I am supposed to be moving, turn in a direction other than what the judge directed, turn too soon or too late, or hesitate after a turn. Varying numbers of points can be lost for any number of other common, petty mistakes that are usually caused by nervousness when I know my dog and I are being watched VERY carefully. Not as simple a picture as it might first appear.

If, after earning the UD title, I care to continue competing in Obedience classes, I can enter in both the Open and Utility classes at the same Trial. If we manage to qualify in both classes, at the same Trial, 10 times, we earn the Utility Dog Excellent title (UDX). And if I am really determined to keep punishing myself and I am not totally stressed out (or completely insane) by this time, we can eventually accumulate enough points (100) to earn the Obedience Trial Champion title (OTCH). The manner in which OTCH points are accumulated is very complicated and would take a book to explain.

The bottom line, after all this, is that it is often easier to put a breed Championship on a three legged dog (no offence meant to all of the three legged dogs out there) than it is to earn an obedience OTCH. Dante and I have come as far as the UD title and we are working on the UDX. On days that I feel really insane, I tell myself that we will continue and strive to earn the OTCH; on days when I am more rational, I wonder why I occasionally fall into such insanity.

Anybody have a three legged dog that they do not need?

Dee Carlson
President – Sammamish Kennel Club

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