Obedience (Formal)

Obedience training with your dog

If agility is like doing show-jumping with your dog, and canicross is like cross country, then competitive obedience is the dressage discipline. At the top end (as seen at Crufts for example), it is about perfect symmetry of dog and handler, working together to demonstrate just what can be achieved.

Aura just turned a year old, winning pre-beginners at her first show!

The starting point is basic puppy training, which every single dog owner must do. These days most people expect to take a puppy to classes, and this is usually the best way to work through the process of getting started with your dog.

Puppy Foundation Award

Lots of puppy and dog training schools use the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme. The Puppy Foundation award covers the following :

  • responsibility and care
  • cleanliness and identification
  • attentive response to name
  • play with puppy
  • socialisation, including
    • with an unknown dog
    • with an unknown person
    • with noise distraction
  • handling and inspection to maintain health
  • recall
  • sit, down and stand
  • walking in a controlled manner
  • stay (approx 10 seconds)
  • take article from puppy
  • food manners

That’s a pretty comprehensive list!

Pixie giving Helen a dumbbell

Good Citizen Awards

Many people stop there and that’s fine, on the whole, but there are 3 more levels on the Good Citizen Dog Scheme – Bronze, Silver and Gold. The gold award covers more challenging handling such as road walking, walking off lead beside the handler, send the dog to bed, being relaxed when on their own, stopping on command and staying, in a down, for two minutes, with the handler in and out of sight.

It can take a few months (or longer) to get to the Gold Award standard, so people continue to this level if they enjoy going to the classes and feel that their dog enjoys the time the spend there. As with all activities to do with your dog, it is time you spend focusing on them and building your bond with them.

Pixie showing off her heelwork

Formal competitive obedience

This video is a great demonstration of the highest level obedience, with my absolute hero, Mary Ray (on right), with her dog Lyric.

There are six ‘classes’ – levels of competitive obedience – available for entry at Obedience shows. New handlers will start in the basic Introductory, Pre-Beginners and Beginners Classes; as you become more experienced you can qualify for the higher classes from Class A to Class C, the highest (and most difficult).

Each class contains a set of exercises which the judge will ask you and your dog to perform.  More details about the different classes can be found on the Obedience Levels and Classes page, but the levels consist of increasing difficulty in the following:

  • heelwork
  • recall
  • retrieve
  • sendaway
  • stays (sit and down, handler in view and out of sight)
  • scent discrimination
  • distant control

Training requirements

Helen, who owns a red merle Border Collie called Pixie, aged 6, says she has done lots of different activities with her and has always done basic obedience with her dogs. She decided to have a go at competitive obedience 18 months ago, so joined a local club.

The club members are very helpful and supportive, Helen says, helping her aim for her first show, which was due to be held in April 2020. She says you don’t need much space. Everything can be done in your garden, but it can be useful to train in your local park, as this can be more distracting for the dog. There is very little equipment required – a dumbbell, some cones or markers and some cloths for the scentwork.

Helen says “I train at a club once a week but will do bits during each day in some way. This might be working on tricks, retrieve and heelwork. I love it when teaching things and it all comes together it’s a great feeling.” Thanks Helen for your insights.

The best dog breed for obedience? Border Collie, of course! Other breeds do compete, but collies are so driven to work, to please, to focus, they are absolutely fantastic at this activity. If you want to get to the top, get a collie!

Miri demonstrating that collies can work perfectly from a very young age

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the Dog Doc blog for more help with training issues.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?


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