By: Kamal Fernandez
Not words normally associated with Competitive Obedience, but all very much applicable. The ministry of funny walks, the boring poor relation to other canine activity, the serious sport! Nothing could be further from the truth when talking about the true essence of a sport that is fun, enthralling and inspiring!
Thousands of people in the UK currently attend dog training clubs/societies and partake in Competitive Obedience, addicted to the detail and finesse! It is the oldest of the canine sports that can be undertaken with your dog, and underpins all the other activities. Heelwork to Music originated as a result of demonstration of Obedience to Music, which grew into a World wide phenomenon.
It is often referred to as the Dressage of the canine world, Obedience is a unique combination of absolute precision, cues and signals apparently naked to the human eye…. Resulting in almost a telepathic communication between dog and handler, an invisible line of information to the dog. The outcome being a picture of unity and the ultimate display of dog and handler working as a team. If you can tell that I LOVE this sport, you would be absolutely right!!!
The challenge and appeal of obedience is the constant battle between ying and yang, accuracy and drive. The two are in direct conflict with each other, tipping the scales in favor of either resulting in an imbalance the outcome being either a soul-less android or an erratic display of canine chaos!
Competitive Obedience Shows are held at weekends, up and down the country with die hard enthusiast travelling from Exeter to Edinburgh, from Wales to West Suffolk, in hope of winning the ultimate prize… A passport to compete at Crufts. The highest award offered in Competitive Obedience is a Kennel Club Challenge Certificate. The journey to reach this level of competition is the accumulation of winning 1st places at the preceding 6 classes, Pre Beginners open to all those who have never attended or been placed in an Open Obedience Show, Beginners, Novice, Class A, B and C. Participants in C then compete to qualify to work Championship C, where Challenge Certificates or ‘Tickets’ can be won. Handler and dog are required to complete a series of individual exercises, testing various elements of control.
The challenge doesn’t stop there. A challenge certificate is only awarded to teams that lose less then 15 points out of a total of 300. A tall order by anyone standards.The ultimate achievement being to earn the title ‘Obedience Champion’, by winning three challenge certificates, under three different judges.
Obedience Competitions are open to all breeds, and crosses and can be attended by all age groups. In fact the Governing Body, the Kennel Club offer a competition for both Beginner handlers new to the sport (The KC Special Beginners Final) and children, in the form of the Young Kennel Club Competition.
Anyone can partake in an obedience competition!
Obedience is easily accessible for all, you do not need vast amounts equipment as in other disciplines, you can train over you local park or even start a lot of the basics in your living room!!! How great is that!!! You can even ‘reward’ yourself with a glass of wine whilst you do so, however be warned that Obedience requires you to walk in a straight line!
To achieve success in training, the effective use of positive reinforcement is imperative! Dogs that show a willingness to engage and complete the tasks asked of them, show an enjoyment and enthusiasm that is inspiring to watch. This is largely achieved through motivating the dog via play, food, toys etc. Obedience is the only one of the canine disciplines that lacks a self rewarding factor to the exercises, however this is over come by making all training a game and an endless source of fun for the dog. Again, the challenge is the appeal!
Competitive Obedience provides a social, engaging sport that can be enjoyed by both handler and dog. It is a great way to engage with your dog, have fun and make new friends! Over coming the challenges of the sport, give a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Trained correctly, obedience should be fun for both the dog and handler and give you and the dog mental stimulation!
So, go on! Have a go!!! You won’t regret it!!!
Kamal Fernandez – www.eastlondondogtraining.co.uk