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Over 9,000 dogs from all over gathered in Orlando, FL, from December 12-17 for the AKC National Championship and all of the events being held in conjunction with it. One of these events was the 10th annual AKC Obedience Classic, which took place on December 16 and 17 at the Orange County Convention Center. Dogs and their handlers competed in Novice, Open, Utility, and Masters Obedience classes, crowning the winner of each division based on number of points on Sunday.

First through Fourth places in each class were awarded cash awards, a rosette, cozy blankets, and a J & J gift certificate. Placements fifth through tenth received rosettes.

Novice Obedience Winner

Melanie Haid

The Novice Obedience class is for dogs that are getting started in the sport of obedience and can work on- and off-leash. Exercises include Heel on Leash and Figure Eight, Stand for Examination, Heel Free, Recall, Sit Stay, and Group Exercise Sit and Down Stay.

This year’s 2023 AKC Obedience Classic Winner in the Novice Class is Golden Retriever Topbrass The Show Must Go On CD RN, owned and handled by Annette Sizemore. Bred by Jackie Mertens and Tom Matterer.

Open Obedience Winner

Melanie Haid

The Open Obedience Class is for dogs that have mastered Novice exercises to include more complicated tasks. The dog should be able to do a variety of tasks at this level, and follow commands by voice or signal. Exercises include Heel Free and Figure Eight, Command Discrimination (Stand, Down, Sit), Drop on Recall, Retrieve on Flat, Retrieve Over High Jump, Broad Jump, Stand Stay — Get Your Leash.

This year’s 2023 AKC Obedience Classic Winner in the Open Class is Border Collie Norwood’s Can Ewe Keep Up CDX RM RAE HSAd HSBd AX OAJ XF TKN, owned and handled by Emily Scott. Bred by Joyce A. Norris.

Utility Obedience Winner

Melanie Haid

The Utility Obedience class is for dogs that have surpassed Novice and Open exercises. Exercises include Signal Exercises, Scent Discrimination, Directed Retrieve, Moving Stand and Examination, and Directed Jumping.

The winner of the 2023 AKC Obedience Classic in the Utility class is Golden Retriever High Times Stir’N The Pot UD SH, owned and handled by Robin Fargus. Bred by Bridget Carlsen.

Masters Obedience Winner

The Masters Obedience Class is the highest of the obedience levels, where handlers and their dogs participate in six classes: three Open and three Utility.

The winner of the 2023 AKC Obedience Classic in the Masters obedience class is Kimberly Berkley of Caseyville, IL, with her 7-year-old Border Collie, “Zayne” RNC TC OTCH11 AGCH MACH5 PACH RACH Norwood Color Me Zayne UDX11 OGM RM4 RAE3 HSAd HSBd HXAd HXBd MXC PDS MJC PJS MJPB PAX MFG TQX T2B5.

“It feels amazing to win. I finished second twice in 2015 and 2016 with my first Border Collie, “Rev,” so this is a huge accomplishment and achievement. I’m very proud of Zayne,” Berkley says. “We train obedience because we think it’s fun to train for the competitions, but we keep obedience as fun as we can for them. They think it’s just a big game to go into the ring and play with us.”

Melanie Haid

Berkley is no stranger to big wins. Berkley took first place at the 2023 AKC Rally National Championship with and second place in Obedience at the 2023 National Obedience Championship with Zayne just this past summer. Zayne’s son, “Zuko,” is also moving up in the rankings of both sports, and placed fourth in Masters Obedience at the 2023 AKC Obedience Classic.

Zayne only got 5.5 points off in first place, whereas Zuko got 8.5 points off, making the distance from first to fourth place in the Masters class one of the most competitive. Zayne’s grandson also won the Open Class competition this year, handled by Emily Scott.

Zayne, Zuko, and Berkley’s other dogs also participate in other sports. “It kind of keeps them fresh to get to do other things, too,” Berkley says, noting their involvement in AKC Rally, agility, and herding as well.

Want to Get Involved in Obedience?

Any dog can compete in the sport of obedience. It’s best to start training your dog early, but no dog is ever too old to learn something new! Most AKC clubs hold a variety of classes in different dog sports, often instructed by award-winning trainers who have handled dogs in the sports themselves.

Practice makes perfect! Training your dogs at home as well as in class will help keep them sharp. Eventually, they’ll know the exercises like the back of their hands. For best results, you and your dog should try frequent, short training sessions, with plenty of play and rewards.

Learn more about getting involved in obedience.

Related article: AKC National Championship Winners Through the Years