Obedience is designed to show a dog’s ability to follow the handler’s commands with promptness and precision. Early levels focus on companion dog skills such as heeling, stay, and come. Advanced levels focus on retrieving, jumping, and independent working skills. Most organizations have three levels of competition in increasing difficulty: novice, open, and utility.
Novice exercises typically include heeling on and off leash, Figure 8 pattern, recall (sometimes over a jump), stand for examination, and stays and/or honor exercise.
Open exercises typically include off leash heeling, drop on recall, retrieving on flat and over a jump, broad jump, and out of sight stays (except in CDSP)
Utility exercises typically include signal exercises, scent discrimination, directed jumping, directed retrieving, and moving stand or recall exercises.
Rally obedience is a competition where dogs and handlers make their way through a course of numbered signs. Each sign is an exercise that the dog and handler perform. The team works independently, and attitude is considered more important than precision, so deductions are not made for tiny mistakes as in regular obedience. For more information, see our rally page.
In agility, dogs are judged upon their speed, precision, and athletic ability. Each team of dog and handler make their way through a numbered course of obstacles, including tunnels, jumps, ramps, and weave poles. Course faults are given for a dog that takes an obstacle out of sequence, knocks a bar off a jump, misses an obstacle, or otherwise doesn’t perform an obstacle correctly. Time faults are given for going over the course time. The faults are added up, and the dog with the least number of faults wins. In a tie, the dog with the faster time wins.
When most people think of a dog show, they think of conformation. In conformation, purebred dogs are compared to a predetermined standard for that breed. The dog that fits the standard best wins. The purpose of this competition is to encourage dogs that are sound and well-built according to the purposes of the breed.
In tracking, a dog must follow a scent trail left by a human and find object(s) dropped on the track. Depending on the level, dogs face challenges such as turns, cross tracks, obstacles, streams, and difficult surfaces such as concrete, gravel, or asphalt.
In weight pull, dogs are scored on the amount of weight they can pull in relation to their body weight. Dogs wear a harness attached to a cart that moves on wheels, rails, or snow and pull as much weight as they can across a prescribed distance. Since scoring is based on body weight, small dogs are just as competitive as large dogs.
Sighthounds (e.g. greyhounds, whippets, basenjis, Rhodesian ridgebacks, etc.) are the only dogs that compete in lure coursing. Lure coursing is a race set up on a system of ropes and pulleys. Attached to the rope is a “bunny”(a white plastic bag). A motor pull the rope around a course and the hounds give chase. The dogs are judged both on their speed and on the accuracy of their follow; therefore the fastest dog does not necessarily win.
Children aged 9 to 18 compete in junior showmanship to exhibit their ability to show their dogs as if they were in conformation. In this class the dogs are not judged on their conformation, rather the junior is judged upon his/her ability to show the dog.
There are MANY other competitive events, including coonhound night trials, hunt tests, herding tests, ring sport, and many, many more. This list is a short list to give you an idea of the multitudinous events in which our students compete. The world of competitive dog sport is virtually limitless!