Obedience Judging Guideline



This is a standing Committee. If at any time you have a question or a suggestion, you are encouraged to contact the Chairperson or a Member of this Committee. The Chair and the members are listed on the committee page. 


You are encouraged to join these two chat lists: ASCA Obedience and ASCA Obedience Judges. Both lists are available through Groups.io or you may contact the Obedience Chair for directions on how to get on these lists. Much information, questions, and ongoing discussions on these two lists keep judges current on motions, new rules and regulations, and questions or comments anyone might have regarding the discipline of obedience whether as an exhibitor or as a judge.


You should have read in its entirety the ASCA Obedience Rules and Regulations. The most current rulebook may be downloaded from the ASCA website on the Rulebook Page, or the semi-annually updated hardcopy may be ordered from the ASCA Business Office (979-778-1082). The hardcopy Rulebook is updated twice a year (January and June). It is your responsibility to always have in hand the most current edition for referral when judging for ASCA. Clubs should have a current rulebook at the judge’s table but in case they do not, it is recommended that you bring your own copy with you to your judging assignments. Reviewing the rulebook the night before an assignment is always a wise decision.


Clubs should furnish you with a judging contract. If they don’t, you might want to design your own. Items to be addressed are: travel, dress code (some clubs have themes during the year), meals, housing, airport parking, rental car, classes to be judged, and judging fee. Although you’d like to get out of packing the items the club said it would have on hand, it’s still prudent to simply have the items you’ll need packed and ready to go every time you leave for a judging assignment just in case an item was inadvertently omitted by the club. Keep these together in a packed bag, and remember to check this bag upon your return from any assignment to be certain nothing is missing so you’re ready for the next assignment. The items to pack in this bag would include but not be limited to: stop watch, pens (more than one), calculator, rulebook, tape, golf tees or chalk for marking start areas or retrieve areas in the ring, measuring tape, Kleenex, unscented sanitizer, slip lead (more than one if you have room in your bag) and a clipboard. Another useful item that it’s nice to request the club have on hand for you since it is obviously hard to pack is a blackboard or poster upon which the run-orders can be posted.


You should look professional and appropriately dressed for any assignment (i.e., club themes & weather factored in). Jewelry, perfume or cologne should be kept at a minimum. You should avoid apparel that might make distracting noises or that have fringe. Choose shoes that are quiet and not distracting when walking, and definitely choose ones comfortable as judging can be hard on the feet and legs, especially if judging on cement floors.  If utilizing a hat, choose one that won’t blow off or flop.


Plan to arrive at least one hour prior to your judging assignment. Immediately upon arrival, check in with your show secretary. Be sure you know where the restroom is and that the show secretary has the paperwork in order for the trial. Normally the show secretary will still be taking entries upon your arrival, so try not to steal too much of the show secretary’s time during registration.

If the club set out a hand sanitizer, double-check to be certain it is not scented.

The order of sits/downs and individual exercises must be done as listed in the flyer. Some clubs do sit/downs before individual exercises and some do sits/downs following individual exercises. Be sure you have double-checked the flyer to know what class order you will be following and how sits/downs are to be handled.

Choose the order of exercises for your Open and Utility classes and post this order no later than 30 minutes before the trial is scheduled to begin. Post it where it can be readily seen by the exhibitors.

Then perform the following checklist:

___ Double-check the obedience equipment to be certain all meet regulations.

___ Walk your obedience ring to be certain it is clean, hopefully level, and observe where the sun is rising or setting. You’ll not want to jump dogs into the sun, or have handlers giving signals to dogs blinded by the sun.

___ If there is wind, be sure that the club has taken measures to stake any baby gates.

___ Walk your novice, open and utility pattern to be sure the patterns are smooth, practical and functional. You should avoid running or jumping dogs towards the ring entrance or walking them into the baby gates or jumps.

___ Decide where you’ll have dogs line up for the sits/downs and be sure you know where the out-of-sights will be held.

___ Mark your start for the heel work.

___ Choose your start line for heel work. When marking lines or distances for the jumps or tossing of the dumbbell, you may utilize chalk, golf tees, or stanchions.

___ Be sure the show club has marked off the applicable area around your ring where no set ups, grooming, walking or standing spectators may appear.

___ FRATERNIZING: Visiting with your friends is great fun, but it’s best to ask your friends to visit with you following the trial. Try to be as professional and courteous to the club and exhibitors as possible, leaving no room for speculation or gossip with regard to favoritism in scoring.


Be sure your phone is turned off when the trial start time arrives. Utilizing a phone for telling time is fine, but vibrating phones can be a distraction. Please announce to the audience that all phones should be on vibrate. And then double-check to be certain your table stewards have turned off their phones (theirs should not be on vibrate).


Upon arrival, find out who will be your stewards. Be sure your stewards are of a reasonable age, such that the dogs perceive them as young adults or adults. Try to use the same two stewards for each competing group (same two for novice, same two for open, same two for utility) so that all competitors are subject to the same stewards in their competitive class. Let your stewards know what you expect of them such as 1) no running in the ring, 2) no loud voices in the ring, 3) no eye contact with the dogs when standing for the figure 8, 4) no food in their pockets, 5) no distracting clothes, jewelry or shoes, 6) arms crossed during the figure 8 and eyes straight ahead, 6) which steward is responsible for the dumbbell or articles or gloves or leash and how these should be handled, and 7) how you wish your sits/downs to be handled.

Often stewards are handling the dumbbell or articles. If stewards have strong smelling lotion or bug spray or sanitizer on their hands and then handle the articles or the dumbbell, these smells can negate a dog from wanting to pick these items up, or flood a scent pile with their scent causing a dog to flunk. Food smells on the steward’s hands are also distracting so remind stewards to wash their hands after eating. Be sure your stewards know to pick up the dumbbell by the end and how you wish the articles to be held when they are placed into the scent pile.


Double-check your paperwork to be certain all the required forms are there. Instruct your steward or show secretary as to what their part is in your paperwork. You may add your scores or they may do it for you, all pursuant to your preference. Remember you will be writing total points off, not points earned for each exercise. No corrections to any paperwork may be made without your initial and approval. Upon leaving, double-check all paperwork to be certain everything was filled out correctly, time was listed, date is correct and signature placed where applicable and that you have your copy for your records.

Remember exhibitors may not see their score sheet. Once you’ve scored a team, place the score sheet face down or cover it. Be sure these are weighted down if the trial is held outside. There is a recap score sheet available in the show packet your stewards may provide to the exhibitor for feedback purposes.


If there are any conflicts, your stewards or competitors should advise you as promptly as is feasible to do. Be flexible but reasonable. Many clubs will host trials or shows with multiple events ongoing, and it will be your responsibility to work with the clubs to see that the competitive experience for all exhibitors is equitable for all involved. Flyers often list what discipline will be given preference time-wise if there are conflicts, so double-check so you are in-the-know.


Patterns in novice should include at a minimum: normal, fast, slow, halt, about turn, left turn and right turn. You may use the left turn, right turn, about turn and halt more than one time if desired. Walk your pattern several times to be certain you have it memorized and that the pattern is fair to the team exhibiting insofar as terrain, ring entrance, and outside distractions. Be sure the level of difficulty is applicable to the class level.


Placing your figure 8 where it falls at the end of your heeling exercise will make your ring flow smoother. Mark the spots where your stewards will stand. Be certain there is enough room for both large and small dogs to comfortably complete the figure 8. You should be able to view both the inside and outside work done by the dog in this exercise. Any movement you make to be certain you can see both should not be distracting to the exhibiting team.


Be sure the exhibitor’s number and breed of dog correspond to your paperwork. Double-check to be certain the dog’s collar is legal. There are some cloth collars with prongs hidden. Do not grab a dog’s collar to check, but you may ask the handler to show you the collar.

Always double-check jump heights prior to calling the next dog into the ring. When the exhibitor enters the ring, it’s courteous to ask the exhibitor if the jump heights look correct.

Be certain the dumbbell is legal and determine which steward is in charge of bringing it to you.

Double-check that articles are legal and what process will be used to select the articles to be scented, i.e., you or the steward using tongs or exhibitor’s choice.


If you desire, you may measure the jumps to be certain they are regulation in height.

Broad Jump: When situating the broad jump, double-check to be certain it is not set in a high distraction area, such as people walking by on an ongoing basis. Be sure that you have the proper measuring equipment on hand to ascertain if the jump is set for the correct distance. Be sure your stewards understand what board to remove or add for the broad jump and how far from the baby gates these boards should be situated. Instruct your stewards how you want the boards lined up (such as flush right).

Try to set up all starting positions so that the handler can move easily from one exercise to another with a minimum amount of walking. This will expedite your judging time also.


Your responsibility is to mentally or physically note how far a dumbbell must be tossed for it to be a legal distance for the retrieve. Be courteous when allowing an exhibitor to re-throw as most exhibitors are very nervous when this occurs. Do not send dogs to retrieve dumbbells tossed under a ring gate.


Double-check gloves to be certain they are legal. Ask the steward to place the gloves palm up, fingers extended towards the baby gate. Be sure your steward knows where to place the gloves and where to stand once the gloves have been placed.


Go over with your steward how far apart to place the articles, whether you wish each article to be touched and how much, and where to stand once they have finished placing all articles.


Upon completion of the obedience class, the leash should be readily available to the exhibitor. Stewards should walk towards the exhibitor and hand them their leash. At no time should a steward run in with a lead. At no time should  an exhibitor leave without putting a leash on their dog prior to exiting the ring.


It is your responsibility to keep yourself, your stewards and the handlers and dogs safe in the ring. Periodically observe outside the ring to be certain there is nothing going on, like a loose dog that might adversely affect your ring or compromise safety. Keeping an extra slip lead at your table in case it is needed for a roaming dog from sits/downs or a loose dog at the show site is wise. Ask your exhibitors prior to sits/downs if anyone has a dog that is shy/reserved if you had to catch it, or if an exhibitor has a dog that could be problematic with the adjacent dogs (amorous, aggressive, roaming, and talkative). Dogs should enter in catalog order, but you have the right to move a dog  to the end of the line or add more space between dogs to make your ring safer for all involved.


Always ask if the exhibitor has any questions or concerns and then wish the exhibitor good luck. Once an exhibitor tells you they are ready, you may begin with the first command at which time judging of the exercise commences. Your tone of command and your hand signals should be clear, concise and easily understood. Advise your exhibitor that if they cannot hear you, have a problem seeing you, or become confused that they should stop and ask you to repeat   the command. Commands to be given are listed in the rulebook; you should not deviate from the verbal commands.

During the heeling exercise, utilization of a clicker to count points off as the team performs is not recommended as it can be very distracting to the handler and the dog both.


You may immediately excuse from further competition any dog that disturbs, or threatens to disturb another dog during the performance of the group exercises. Note the reason for the excusal in your judge’s books.


Remember, handlers may be allowed to excuse themselves from competition for any reason. Handlers may do this before, during or after their individual exercises.


You MUST expeditiously handle any incidence of dog aggression you evidence towards people or other dogs.

EXCUSAL: As evidenced by you, you should excuse a dog that attacks another dog or appears to you to be threatening to other dogs in the ring/trial area. Further you may excuse a dog that shows any sign it may not be safely approached or examined. (NOTE: If a dog has been excused two times for an incidence of dog aggression, it will fall under the disqualification rules. It is not your responsibility to tell this to the dog owner or handler. A notification of disqualification will be sent to the owner by the Business Office after review by the Board of Directors.)

DISQUALIFICATION: As evidenced by you, you should disqualify a dog that attacks or attempts to attack a person in the ring/trial area. Once done, post a sign indicating your ring is on a break (hopefully you can do all paperwork and notifications within a fifteen minute period of time). This dog shall be ineligible to participate in any ASCA event in ANY discipline, unless and until that dog is approved for further competition and reinstated by the Board of Directors. Therefore, if the dog you disqualified is entered in other events that same day (or cluster), this dog may not compete in anything once you have disqualified it. Please have one of your stewards locate the Show Committee Chair or Show Secretary and have them come to your ring where you can explain the disqualification.

The Show Chair or Show Secretary may then timely notify those in charge of the other events held that day or within that cluster that this dog may no longer compete.

Attach an explanation utilizing the disqualified or excused dog forms.


Your decisions and scoring are final. Do not engage in arguing or lengthy explanations. If a handler has a complaint such that a simple explanation from you was not sufficient, please ask the handler to visit with you and the show secretary following the conclusion of the trial. Be courteous.  Refer to and utilize your rulebook to make AND to back up all your decisions.

Once in a while, you will have an exhibitor in your ring that is not prepared for the class they entered. ASCA shows are sanctioned, and therefore corrections or teaching in the ring are forbidden. You have the right to excuse a team for lack of preparation. More often this happens in sub novice but it can also happen in the upper divisions.

Avoid giving advice during the trial. You may ask a team to see you following the trial at which time you may advise them.


Remember to let your exhibitor know if they have qualified. Sometimes you’ll be doing this after sits/downs and other times immediately after the individuals.


Let your stewards know how you wish to present the awards. Will the steward hand you the ribbons and awards to present, or will you name the winner and they hand the winnings to that team? When addressing the audience and exhibitors, be sure you’ve stated the minimum required to qualify and give the name of the class. Always ask who has earned their first leg? Second leg? Third leg? Title? Bonus Legs? Remind your class winners that they are qualified for high in trial (Aussie, other breed or overall) so they don’t leave the show site.


Publicly thank your stewards, the show secretary and the club, plus the exhibitors who showed to you. Encourage folks to participate in obedience. Then let exhibitors know you are available for any questions they might have following win pictures.


You are encouraged to attend workshops and seminars on obedience. It is your responsibility to be current on all rules and regulations.


Once you are back home, it is nice to send a thank you note to a club. They have many judge choices, and this time they chose “you.” Let them know you appreciated the opportunity to judge for them.