Animal Athletes: Obedience
This year, each issue of HealthyPet will feature all-star canine athletes and provide information on the events they participate in. And what better sport to kick off the series than obedience? Considered the starting point for all other canine athletic events, obedience showcases a dog’s ability to follow commands while maintaining focus on the owner.
The stakes are high, and five-year-old golden retriever Dream has a mission to accomplish. Scattered on the concrete ground around her are several items similar in size and weight. Her owner, Dee Dee Anderson, touched one of these items moments before (without Dream watching), and it is up to Dream to find that item and present it to her owner. With brief yet determined sniffs, Dream swiftly moves from item to item, finally settling on the wooden dumbbell that carries Dee Dee’s scent. Dream gathers it in her mouth, trots over to Dee Dee, and promptly sits in front of her.
This successful play helped Dream become the winner of the American Kennel Club (AKC) National Obedience Invitational. She prepared for this event, which also required her to follow silent commands through hand signals, by beginning training at only seven weeks of age.
Since her big win, Dream has used good manners in volunteering as a therapy dog. “Dream is a great dog,” says Dee Dee. “She knows what people are thinking.”
Classes—Sub-novice (optional), novice, open, utility.
How to go pro—To “qualify,” a dog must earn a score of no less than 50% on each exercise and a total of at least 170 points. Each dog must qualify at least three times to move to the next class.
Titles earned—Companion Dog, Companion Dog Excellent, Utility Dog, Utility Dog Excellent, Obedience Trial Champion, National Obedience Champion.
Types of exercises—Depending on class, these range from heeling (walking next to the handler) and recalling (coming when called) to clearing jumps and retrieving items.
Special veterinary care needed—A complete physical examination with a negative stool sample and a negative heartworm test, along with any other tests the veterinarian feels are needed.
How to get started—Begin training early, and attend obedience shows. It is also helpful to complete the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen certificate program.
Benefits of the game—Obedience results in a unique and special relationship between the dog and her owner. “Of all the sports you can do with your dog, obedience creates the strongest bond,” says Dee Dee. “You learn to know what the dog is thinking and vice versa.”