Getting Started in Obedience


Training a dog for competitive obedience is an incredibly rewarding experience!  The word “obedience” comes from a Latin root meaning to listen or to hear. You will train a dog to carefully listen to you and, in so doing, you will learn to listen to your dog.  The relationship becomes so much richer than the ordinary pet relationship.   Developing this human-canine bond takes commitment and consistent work.

You can start training a pup as soon as you get it.  Likewise, you can start obedience training at any time in a dog’s life. If you are interested in multiple dog sports (such as conformation, herding, agility, rally, musical freestyle, etc.), you can intersperse obedience sessions with training sessions for the other venues.  Very short sessions of focused work interspersed with play are how most experienced trainers recommended teaching your dog. Pay attention to building a trusting relationship from the beginning.  Expect to focus intensely on your dog and learn how to teach your dog to give back intensity and focus during your working time.

Each dog has a unique temperament and you will find that each responds to training in a slightly different manner.  The best dog trainers are the people who know how to vary their training methods to bring out the optimum performance from each dog.

Here are some suggestions for learning how to train your future obedience star.

  1. Go to a local show offering an obedience trial and watch the handlers in the obedience ring. The ASCA events page contains a calendar listing all ASCA events.
  2. Ask obedience handlers, while they are not intently focusing on their dogs, for suggestions on getting started in obedience. Find out where they train, what resources they recommend, if they teach lessons, and/or from whom they take lessons.
  3. At the end of the obedience trial, ask the judge for suggestions on getting started in obedience.
  4. Contact a local dog training club and see what classes they offer.

Note: While the best way to learn, particularly if you are new to this endeavor, is with an experienced trainer, you can also benefit from the numerous resources available in print and online.  When choosing to purchase or to follow the advice of any online resource, think carefully about the source of the information.  You want to learn from someone with a proven record and a training philosophy with which you agree

  1. Take an online course.
  2. Watch training DVD’s.
  3. Read training books.
  4. Join an online group (such as those on Facebook and focused on dog training discussions.
  5. Watch YouTube dog training videos.