An Obedience Competition Is a Test of Teamwork!

| AKC Pet Insurance

If your dog loves to work with you, obedience competitions may be for you! Learn the basics of this sport and how to get started with your dog today.


If your dog loves to work with you and you enjoy precision competition, obedience may be for you. It's the perfect combination of teamwork, dog training, and quality time with your pet!

How Does the Sport of Obedience Work?

Obedience is a sport in which a dog and handler complete certain movements or patterns while being judged. The patterns are pre-determined and are always the same for each level of obedience competition. The beginner levels of obedience are judged on-leash, but each subsequent level is performed off-leash. Each dog and handler team begins with a perfect score of 200; any imperfections in their pattern equals point deductions.

Eligible Breeds

AKC Obedience is open to any purebred or mixed-breed dog. There is some jumping involved in the upper levels of obedience (like broad jump), and the jump height is based on the size of the dog.

Getting Started in Basic Obedience Training

The basis for dog obedience competitions is great teamwork. Dogs and handlers that enjoy training together will excel in this sport. There are many skills that can be taught and learned at home, while others lend themselves to learning with a trainer or in group classes. For example, in the Novice level, dog and handler teams perform group stay exercises with other dog and handler teams in the same ring.

Training for Obedience

Obedience is a precision sport, and handlers must adhere to the rules and regulations of the sport. Reading and understanding the rulebook can give structure to your training sessions. There are a variety of exercises to perform at each level, but every level includes heeling.

Heel position is when the dog stays at your left side without forging ahead or lagging throughout turns, halts, changes of direction, and speed changes. Other exercises, depending on level, include retrieving, recall, staying with distractions, jumping, position changes at a distance, and scent discrimination.

Equipment for Competition Obedience

One of the best parts about obedience is there is very little equipment needed. At the first two levels, there is no equipment at all, aside from a collar and leash. In the upper levels, you will need a dumbbell for your dog to retrieve, scent articles for your dog to discriminate between, and gloves to retrieve.


Obedience competitions are known as trials and involve all levels of the sport. Trials are broken down by level: Beginner Novice, Novice, Open, and Utility. These levels are further broken down by class. The A class is for dogs and handlers who are brand new to obedience. The B class is for more seasoned handlers.

Titles and Recognition

To advance through the levels of obedience, you are required to obtain three qualifying scores. A qualifying score in obedience is 170 points or more. Once you obtain three qualifying scores at a particular level, you and your dog earn a title.

The obedience titles correspond to each level: BN for Beginner Novice, CD (or Companion Dog) for Novice, CDX (or Companion Dog Excellent) for Open, and UD (or Utility Dog) for Utility. Dogs and handlers can continue to compete in the Utility class to earn the UDX (or Utility Dog Excellent).

Breanne Long is a dog trainer and a member of the AKC GoodDog! Helpline team. The Helpline provides seven-day-a-week training and canine behavioral advice to its clients. Professional dog trainers man the line. The service is good for the life of your dog, and there is no limit to calls or questions. For more information:

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