Obedience training for dogs Importance, how to, and confirmation classes

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Overview of the differences between confirmation and obedience classes at an AKC dog show. Requirements for championship titles, breed standards, and obedience titles given.

Many new purebred dog owners will decide they wish to attend and “show” their new puppy.

What they don’t realize are the choices available for showing.

The most common event in AKC (American Kennel Club) shows is “Conformation.” Simply put, conformation has a judge evaluate a dog against several others of the same breed while looking for the one that comes closest to the breed standard. The breed standard can easily be found in any issue of the AKC’s official publication “The Complete Dog Book.” Anyone looking to start showing in conformation is highly encouraged to purchase one of these books.

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In The Complete Dog Book a short history of each breed, the group they belong to and the breed standards can be found. The standards a judge will evaluate each dog on will include the general appearance of the dog. This general appearance will include whether or not a dog looks in proportion to its size. A Collie would be marked off on if she appears to be as long as a Basset Hound or if the head seems to be three times the size needed for the body.

The head in itself has many factors in judging. A judge will look at the shape, smoothness, and size of the head. He or she will evaluate the muzzle, bite, eye set and overall expression of the dog as well as the set and carriage of the ears.

Moving on down the dog, the neck and shoulders will be looked at. The dog should not look like his head was screwed straight onto his shoulders. Certain breeds the neck is a major factor in judging.

The shoulders should be well set with the proper slant to provide the dog with ease of movement. In fact, the judge will have you move the dog around the ring to look at its movement. This is an important factor in working and herding breeds.

The back will be looked at to see if it is straight, swayed or humped while the hips will be checked out for proper slope. Tail length and carriage, feet formation, coat and overall attitude will all go into picking the right dog.

In conformation there are “Champion” titles given to dogs. These titles are earned by winning points at several shows. Points at a show are determined by the number of dogs entered in a specific breed and run from one to five points per show. To earn a title, a dog must win fifteen points with at least three of them being major point shows under three different judges. “Majors” are shows where three or more points are given.

Conformation classes require the dog to be at least six months of age, registered with the AKC and be “whole.” This simply means the dog cannot be spayed or neutered or have undecended testicles.   

For those whose dogs that do not meet the standard, there is the option of showing in obedience.
These classes are open to all AKC registered dogs over the age of six months and sterility is not an issue.

In obedience trials, a dog is judged by his or her ability to obey specific commands. There are varying levels in obedience classes that range from the novice Companion Dog (CD) through open, Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) to utility, Utility Dog (UD).

For each level of class, a dog must earn three “legs” to achieve a title. Each leg will have the dog competing for at least 170 out of 200 possible points.

In the Companion Dog class, each dog is judged on heeling on and off lead at varying speeds, sitting, staying with other dogs on command and also standing for a brief examination.

The Companion Dog Excellent class requires the dog to work completely off leash, perform all the exercises mentioned above for extended lengths of time as well as jumping obstacles and retrieving.

The Utility Dog must complete the above requirements but obey visual commands instead of verbal ones. He or she will have more difficult obstacles and maneuvers as well as performing scent tests.

Regardless of which type of show class you decide to enter your dog in, start out in a small manner. Check with local dog clubs and find when they may be having a puppy match. These matches are a great start for beginner dogs and handlers/owners. A puppy match is judged along the same standards as a regular show but everything is more laid back, the people are friendlier and there have been innumerable times when a judge will stop the group of dogs he or she is showing, walk up to a beginner and offer tips on what they may be doing wrong. These judges can be of immense help to the beginner who is willing to ask questions, listen to answers and accept constructive criticism.