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Importance of Obedience Training for Dog Shows

Obedience training is exactly what you expect it to be. It is nothing other than training your dog to understand commands like ‘sit’, ‘heel’, ‘down’, or to do things like fetch a paper or even shake your hand! This is the foundation for what is popularly known in the pet community as obedience trials. When someone talks about going to a ‘dog show’, they are typically referring to conformation shows. A conformation show is one at which purebred dogs are evaluated to determine their degree of adherence to the breed standard, however there is a much less popular kind, that is obedience trials where dogs are judged on the basis of their ability to adhere to a command given by their owners. Obedience trials grew from the efforts of early trainers to popularize their chosen profession and to prove that dog-human partnerships could shine in arenas other than the conformation ring and the field.

Now, obedience competitions begin with exercises that attest to a dog’s good manners – walking on a leash at the owner’s side, standing to be touched by a stranger, sitting and lying down with distractions, and coming when called, obeying all sorts of basic commands, etc. Advanced classes prove the owner’s ability to train the dog to do a variety of ‘tricks’: fetching an object, jumping different obstacles, obeying commands in an instant whether given by hand signal or voice, and finding items touched by the owner. The goal of obedience training is to create a working team, a partnership with both human and canine working in sync.

In obedience trials, like The Great Indian Dog Show and The Kennel Club of India shows, dogs must follow exercises by taking commands from their handlers. The difficulty of these tasks depends on the level at which the dog is competing. Levels include novice, open and utility. For instance, a dog must be able to follow beside its handler while keeping the same speed, as well as stand and sit for extended periods. More advanced exercises include performing jumps, retrieving items and distinguishing its handler's scent on items.

To the untrained eye, these obedience trials may seem to be effortless, however, grueling training goes behind training a dog for an obedience show. It is important to however, make sure that you do not overwork your dog as it is equally important to keep his well being in mind.

Obedience Training

Ideally, training should start with puppy schools, as that is the first step and the easiest way to teach dogs basic manners and commands. Training dogs has advanced over the years. Experts now highly believe in positive gratification, as unpleasant ways can only frighten them and is at the end of the day, borderline cruel. Positive training reinforces them and leaves them feeling happy and thus more willing to take part in training exercises.

The first level at obedience shows usually involves learning heeling commands, where the dog is judged on his ability to walk at heel with the handler on and off leash. Precision heeling demands constant attention from both dog and handler. Keep treats handy, so that your dog can be positively rewarded. Heel training takes a lot of time and until he learns to understand the command, every walk should be considered a training session. Walk at a fast pace and don’t keep a very loose leash, so that in case your dog gets distracted while walking, you can tug him gently back.

In the next level, dogs are usually asked to sit still while the judge comes and pats it on the head and ruffles its hair. This is also a very long process for the owner to teach the dog the command. Once it asks he or she to sit the dog should continue sitting there. The owner should as part of the training make sure that their pet is socializing enough in different types of environments so that he doesn’t perceive every stranger as a human.

The final exercise is recall, where the trainer sits the dog, walks the ring, and calls the dog. The dog must come when called at one go, and then heel on command. This kind of training is also vital for a dog outside dog shows. A dog who responds quickly and consistently when you call her can enjoy freedoms like aimlessly running in parks, around strangers and even in unfamiliar environments. The first step is to make your dog want to come to you. Any time your dog comes to you whether you’ve called her or not, acknowledge that you appreciate it. You can do this with smiles, praise, affection, play or treats.

Some things to remember while training your dog for dog shows

1. Prepare your dog for doing longer sequences without rewards. The biggest difference between training and trialing is usually that we reward our dogs much more often during training. Space out your rewards so that your pet can get accustomed to the idea of endurance training.

2. Train for more than what is required by the rules. Few will perform as good in a trial as they do while training. Make sure that your dog can do a little bit more than what you will be doing in a trial.

3. A pet is as human as you are. Intensive training can sometimes get too rigorous and blurring that line between training and cruelty is very easy. Look out for sings that show exhaustion. Ask yourself how you would react if faced with the same kind of training.

4. Proof for distractions. List all the distractions that could happen at a trial and train for them: A clumsy ring steward, dumbbells right by the jump, cones in your way while heeling, loud speakers.

What are the benefits of training your dog?

It is equally essential to train your dog well and just in time. Life with a well-behaved dog has its rewards and you can trust him to respond reliably and quickly, plus you’ll have a dog that’s a joy to live with. Proper training and socialization are some of your dog's most basic needs. At first, dog training can seem pretty overwhelming, especially if this is your first dog. Truth be told, training your dog is a very big project. Training enhances the relationship that you share with your pet, as during the process, you’ll learn to understand what he/she is saying to you and vice versa. Training will, help correct nuisance behaviors such as jumping on people, digging, barking, and chewing, while providing mental and physical activities for your dog.

Training makes sure your dog is occupied throughout the day without feeling the need to be destructive. A lot of behavioral issues like chewing objects, tearing of furniture etc happen because dogs have a lot of energy that needs to be let out, which if fails to happen leads to destructive behavior. A lot of us have domesticated working dogs like Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Beagles or Huskies they have a lot of physical and mental energy. Using training programs to firstly enhance and utilize those skills are not only beneficial to you but also for the well being of your dog.

Dog Show scenario in India

Internationally dog shows are still quite popular for the aficionados, if not for the general population. In India however, dog shows have almost completely taken a back seat. There are very few places that still hold obedience shows for dogs across the country. Conformation shows are still more heard of and hold a place in the hearts of dog breeders and groomers and with the advent of many other forms of entertainment, they have probably lost their novelty and as a result of which, these kind of shows are rarely popularized and or given importance outside the community of dog lovers and owners. It is a different kind of pleasure to see your dog perform all the commands perfectly after months of training and companionship together. Once again, it is imperative to make sure that these training sessions/classes are not cruel to your pets, as too many hours of intensive training for obedience and agility trials can lead to them developing serious ailments like severe hip dyspepsia, spinal issues, spondylitis degenerative disc disease and others.


Hi, thanks for stopping by!

Pooja Advani

Pet Industry Expert, Canine Behaviourist, Consultation & Training

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