The sport of dog obedience trials began in America in the 1930s. Unlike many other dog sports like agility, earthdog trials or conformation showing, obedience can be performed by a majority of dogs, their owners and a minimum of equipment. It takes a lot of hard work to get the dog to perform a Novice pattern on and off-leash and then to perform the pattern in front of others.
You’re sure to be nervous, which your dog can pick up on. You’ll be less nervous if you know what to expect. Ideally, you should attend at least one dog obedience trial competition before competing in Novice A level (beginners), but if you can’t do that, here is what to expect.
Lots of Waiting Around
Due to the growing popularity of dog obedience trials, there will be a lot of competitors waiting their turn before the judges. Only one dog and owner perform for the judges at any one time. This means that there will be a lot of waiting around. Be sure to bring toys, brushes and water for your dog to relax with while you are waiting. Most competitions do not provide chairs, so plan on bringing your own chair and a crate for your dog.
During this time, you can brush up on some simple commands such as sit and lie down. You can also let a friend check your dog over in the way a judge will check your dog during the class. Keep these sessions only a few minutes long so not to bore or tire your dog before he steps into the ring. If the trials are being held outdoors, find a shady spot and relax.
There are usually no announcers to call contestants to the ring, so you need to pay attention to when you and your dog are scheduled to perform for the judge. Novices are the first group to compete. Novice A group competes before Novice B. Individuals usually compete before the final group competition, when all of the dog and handler teams compete together.
You also will be expected to memorize the competition pattern. There won’t be anyone cueing you as to what you and your dog need to do next. Make sure your dog is good with strangers, because a judge often examines each dog. Novices are often allowed to enter more than one dog per class, but for your first time, just compete with one dog.
Don’t expect to win at you and your dog’s first obedience trial. Expect to compete in the first class of the competition. There still could be a lot of waiting around, so bring things to keep your dog occupied as you wait your turn to compete. After you and your dog perform individually and then later on with all of the other dogs and handlers in your class. You and your dog have to perform in the group in order to get a score. Try to get your dog to urinate or defecate before going into the ring.
- Competitive ObedienceTraining for the Small Dog. BarbaraCecil, et al. Dogwise Publishing; 1994.
- Dog Training forDummies. Jack Volhard, et al. John Wiley & Sons; 2011.
- Hubpages. “Your First Obedience Trail.” Hope S.