By Laurale Stern

Obedience competition is one of the earliest Companion events offered by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The first obedience ‘test’ was devised by Helen Whitehouse Walker in Mt. Cisco, NY, in 1933. The first AKC licensed trial was held in 1936. In that year, 200 dogs were entered in 18 trials. The first Border Terrier to earn an AKC obedience title was Mrs. Anthony Cerasale’s Philabeg Duchess, who earned a CD in 1953. The first CDX was awarded in 1965 to CH Cinjola Toluidine Daisy, owned by Francis and Maxine Hoyne. The first UD was awarded in 1972 to CH Chief of Lothian, who also earned a TD (Tracking Dog title), becoming the first BT to be awarded a UDT. He was owned by Nancy Hughes. The first OTCH was awarded in 1978 to Pete, owned by Floyd Timmons.

As quoted from the AKC Obedience Regulations, “The basic objective of obedience trials is to recognize dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs in a manner that will reflect credit on the sport of obedience at all times and under all conditions.” The AKC obedience judge carries a mental picture of the perfect performance for each exercise and judges each team against this standard. Not only must the dog and handler comply with the regulations, but the dog must display the utmost of willingness, enjoyment and precision combined with naturalness, gentleness and smoothness on the part of the handler. (CH. 2: Section 2. AKC Obedience Regulations.)

There are three basic levels of competition; Novice, Open and Utility, with each requiring a specific set of skills, and difficulty increasing at each level.

The Novice level includes skills like heeling on and off leash, coming when called, standing while the judge pets your dog, and staying next to a group of other dogs while on a long sit and down. The title earned is Companion Dog or CD.

The Open level is all off leash, and adds retrieves (both on the straight and over a jump), a recall with a drop (down) in the middle of the exercise, a broad jump, and another long sit and down, this time with the handlers out of sight. The title earned is Companion Dog Excellent or CDX.

The Utility level adds scent discrimination; handler-directed glove retrieves and directed jumping, in addition to heeling with hand signals only. The title earned is Utility Dog, or UD.

To earn a title, the dog and handler must receive a minimum of 170 out of 200 points, including at least half of the points for each exercise, in three trials under three different judges. (In 2011, only two different judges will be required.)

Beyond the UD title, there is a UDX (Utility Dog Excellent), OTCH (Obedience Trial Champion), and even a NOC (National Obedience Champion, awarded to only one dog a year). The UDX title beyond requires that the dog qualify in both Open B and Utility B at ten separate trials under at least three judges. The OTCH, which also requires that the dog qualify in both Open B and Utility B at the same trial, is based on a points system. Points are awarded for the first four placements depending upon the number of dogs entered in those classes. The dog must earn 100 total points, with some coming from each level (Open and Utility) and must include three 1st places, with one from each level a necessity. These placements must also come from three different judges.

There is a variety of non-regular non-titling classes, as well as some new optional classes, for which titles are awarded.

However, obedience training is so much more than earning titles. Working together to teach your Border Terrier to pay attention, walk attentively at your side, retrieve a dumbbell or glove ( without killing it!), and staying or coming as commanded, all help you to develop a relationship with your dog that is far beyond any relationship with a dog that you may have previously had. The control taught while obedience training your Border Terrier provides the groundwork for all other activities, such as agility, earth dog, tracking, hunting, therapy and police dog work.

So, go out and enroll in a puppy or beginner obedience class with your BT and catch the bug!!