Obedience training may just be the best gift you can give yourself, your family, and your pet. It teaches your dog appropriate social behavior with both people and animals; helps correct annoying behaviors like jumping, digging, barking, and chewing; and keeps your dog entertained and happy. A win-win all around!
When to Start Training
The sooner, the better! It’s easier to train a puppy how to act properly than it is to retrain an adult dog who may have already established less-than-ideal behaviors. Still, it’s never too late to train your dog—it just may take a little longer before he adopts new behaviors. Much like people, every dog is different. Some are hyperactive. Some are laid-back. Some are serious. Others are silly. Some are shy, and yet others have too much confidence. Regardless of these differences, training is necessary for all dogs and beneficial to your entire family.
Take a Class and Practice at Home
Taking a class at your local AKC club is the best way to train your dog in obedience. But that’s really just a stepping stone because you can’t rely on classes alone: you have to practice at home as well, and your instructor will tell you how often and how long practices should be. While it’s important to practice regularly and frequently, sessions should be short and interspersed with playtime and rewards.
All dogs—purebred and mix breeds—are welcome to participate in AKC obedience training classes. Classes are taught by experienced trainers who have won obedience competitions with their own dogs. They know the latest training techniques, are familiar with training all breeds of dogs, and oftentimes can help solve behavior problems.
Your local club will usually offer three types:
- Puppy class, designed for dogs 3-5 months old. Young pups will learn basic household commands and how to socialize with people and other puppies. You’ll learn about nutrition, grooming, housebreaking, and troubleshooting common problems.
- Basic class, for dogs 5 months and older. You’ll learn essential training commands to keep your dog safe, such as heel, sit, stand, down, stay, and come. Instructors will also teach you about proper nutrition, grooming, and solutions to common problems.
- Companion events classes, which prepares you and your dog for competition in obedience and other AKC events like rally, agility and tracking. You’ll learn about the various levels of competition and titles available, how to teach your dog the required exercises, and will help you to learn the regulations for competing.
Additionally, Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Class may be a separate class or a part of a beginner class at AKC clubs and other organizations. CGC is a certification program that is designed to reward dogs that have good manners at home and in the community. Your dog will need to know the commands and exercises taught in a basic training class to qualify for a passing score on the CGC test. Dogs that pass the CGC test receive a certificate from the AKC and are recorded in the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Archive. Get more information about CGC.
Go Further! Consider Competing
For many dog owners, obedience classes are their own reward. But for others, the experience of obedience training inspires a desire to continue onto the competitive level. If that’s you, there are two types of AKC Obedience competitions (“trials”) to explore:
- All-breed Obedience trials: The most common types of trials, these offer competitions for the 193 breeds and varieties of dogs recognized by the AKC; also eligible are Foundation Service Stock breeds. Mixed breed dogs are also eligible, but they must be spayed or neutered in order to compete.
- Specialty trials: These competitions are restricted to dogs of a specific breed or to varieties of one breed. But under certain circumstances, specialty clubs can be allowed to hold trials with all-breeds and mixed breeds alike.
- You may also want to explore Rally trials, which are similar to Obedience trials, but rally is a fun way to show how your dog can complete exercises all while you are able to communicate with them throughout the performance.
To compete, your dog must be:
- At least 6 months of age.
- Physically sound.
- Have an AKC number via one of the following:
- AKC Registration as one of the 193 recognized breeds.
- AKC Canine Partners, which is for mixed-breed dogs and dogs ineligible for AKC registration.
- Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program, which is for purebred dogs that cannot be fully registered with the AKC to participate in AKC events.
- Foundation Stock Service®(FSS), which is for recorded breeds on the road to full AKC recognition.
- Spayed females and neutered males are eligible to participate but females in season are not.
- Dogs that are blind are not eligible to participate.
- No dog can compete if it is taped or bandaged or in any way has anything attached to it for medical purposes.
No matter how far you go, Obedience is arguably the most valuable training you can do with your dog. It will provide life-long skills, and each time he does something you ask him to do, you will burst with pride (and your family will be super impressed!)
Information About Obedience Trials
The AKC offers a wide variety of resources to assist anyone interested in obedience, whether you are new to the sport or want to know how to hold an obedience trial. Contact AKC Customer Service at 919-233-9767 or Orderdesk@akc.org to inquire about the following resources:
- Obedience Regulations, Obedience Judges Guidelines, The Steward in Obedience — a comprehensive booklet giving the regulations and guidelines for AKC Obedience Trials at which titles are earned.
- “Getting Started in Companion Events” — Informative brochure which outlines the basics of getting started in AKC Companion Events.