Basic training and obedience are essential to having a happy and healthy dog. Not only does training help to correct unwanted behavior, it also helps to build the very special bond between owner and canine. We got to witness some incredible dogs perform their assigned tasks with precision in the AKC Obedience Classic and AKC Junior Classic at the 2016 AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin. Director of Obedience, Rally, and Tracking for the AKC, Pamela Manaton, caught up with us to explain the events, and the overall importance of obedience—especially when it comes to young owners and handlers.
AKC: So tell us a little about obedience and how people get involved in these trials?
Pamela Manaton: So this particular event, the Obedience Classic, this is our fourth time holding it. And we have all levels of AKC obedience, in that we have a novice open utility and then we created a masters class for this event. And so each class progresses in difficulty and it has different requirements. And then in the novice class they’re going to be heeling and coming when called staying but as you progress they’re going to do jumping and retrieving exercises, when you get to utility and masters they’re also going to do what we call scent discrimination. And that’s where you’ll see a pile of like-type articles out there and the handler has touched them so they have to find the human scent that’s on that article to bring the correct one back to them.
AKC: That’s impressive.
Manaton: It’s very impressive. It takes a lot of training. And then we also have the Junior Classic, this is our sixth Junior Classic, and we have juniors competing in beginner-novice, which is a little bit less difficult than novice, and they have signs that they read and so the judge calling the exercises to them so they can read them and perform them. So, we have juniors in beginner-novice, our preferred-novice, and preferred-open classes. We have 39 juniors and their dogs competing.
AKC: Is that the most that you’ve had?
Manaton: It’s down by one or two, but it’s right before Christmas, so it’s a little bit challenging for folks to travel. And we actually filled our Classic event and our Obedience Classic event for the very first time. So we have 72 novice dogs, 64 in open, and 56 in utility and another 56 in masters class.
AKC: So, especially for Juniors, why would you say starting in obedience is a good thing for them?
Manaton: Well, it just progresses and after doing AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) or having basic manners, it’s just a next step for them. We have Rally for them tomorrow, we have obedience today, and Rally is a good stepping-stone between CGC and then heading on into the obedience classes. So, it’s just in Rally they can talk to their dogs and communicate with their dogs, so it’s a little bit easier of a transition.
AKC: Would you say that it’s a good way to build a bond with your dog?
Manaton: Absolutely. It’s great bond-building. It just progresses from you know what they do in everyday life and things are important, like a recall, you think about it, if your dog is out in the yard with you and it starts to run off, and say you live on a busy street, and you can call your dog, right? So you want to have that recall command, it’s useful in everyday life.
AKC: And I bet it gives them structure outside of the show ring as well, probably in their own personal life.
Manaton: Absolutely. You’re going for a walk, you want them to be polite; you go to the park, you want them to be friendly with other people, so it’s part of socialization and everything.
AKC: What’s the age range with Juniors, would you say?
Manaton: I think our youngest junior is 9-years-old, and they go up to 18-years-old. And we have juniors here who have competed every year in our Junior Classic. We have some that have now aged out, they’ve gone past 18, and they’re competing in the Obedience Classic.
AKC: Would you say there’s a certain breed that typically you see more often than others in Obedience and Rally?
Manaton: Well, you see a lot of Golden Retrievers and Labradors, but really it’s all breeds. From an All-American to unique breeds that you don’t see very often. We have a junior in the group, in the ring today, that’s competing with a Spinone [Italiano] and you don’t see that very often.
AKC: So it’s not discriminatory at all?
Manaton: It’s not at all. It’s meant for everybody. We’re really excited, it’s grown every year and overall obedience is important… and this is exciting because we're filled up and everybody’s excited to be here, we have a lot of repeats that come.
AKC: So it’s kind of like building the AKC family, you see a lot of people coming back year after year?
Manaton: That’s exactly right.
Are you interested in building a stronger bond with your dog and giving him more structure by getting involved in obedience and/or rally? Download the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) e-book below, and find out how to get started by clicking here.