Obedience cannot compete with the adrenaline high of agility, but an Open or Utility run that scores in the high 190's and has exhibited pure teamwork is something to be cherished. Obedience is like dressage.... teamwork perfected.
Although the numbers have dwindled in competitive obedience there are still many new people that want to learn more about working with their dogs and begin rally, or the new AKC obedience classes beginner novice and now pre-novice. Watching these classes helps one appreciate how difficult obedience is and how it takes many months and perhaps years to be able to successfully compete in the highest levels. To obtain a UD, UDX or perhaps even an OTCH.
So why obedience? When Kaffee was very young I entered obedience training to offer him something that would use his mind and body and not put stress on his joints, tendons, muscles, hips, knees.... back.....Coming from the world of horses I remember always hearing that a horse only has so many jumps... and many of us believe that a dog only has so many jumps. Sadly I have seen what has happened to so many dogs who have been asked to jump, and jump and jump or weave, weave, weave Some have early arthritis in their back, others are stiff and lame at a very early age when they get up from rest, others have trouble walking with arthritis in their feet and still others have early dysplasia; Unfortunately for many their active lives have come to an early end.
I watched my first Border Collie become limited in what she could do at age 5 after starting her very early in herding. The fast running, tight turns, circles all took its tole on her body.
So for me obedience has offered a way to perfect teamwork with my dog. To offer them a way to use their minds and bodies and still have fun. I have used tugging, toys, and very high level reinforcement treats as an extension of the fun we have in agility. We move from agility practice right into incorporating work for obedience. The work for Utility and Open can be fun and exciting for the dog if the handler trains with joy, happiness and a desire to connect with their dog.
After taking Susan Garrett's online courses very early on with Myst, I learned about positive dog training and that there was always a way to make learning fun. New behaviors can be thought of in terms of games, body awareness work, and shaping. In fact, much of the body awareness work I have done with Myst has transfered so beautifully to her obedience work. Whenever she hear me say "LETS DO GO- GOS" (the GO OUTS for Utility) she barks with excitement In fact, I can say that she seems as happy doing her obedience as she does agility... perhaps also because I do not drill, drill, drill in any of my work with her remembering Susan's "FIVE MINUTE FORMULA."
Watch her videos in this blog posting and see what you see...I see and experience a happy BC who enjoys any job or task she is given as long as it has been made fun with clear criteria for the performance and subsequent reinforcement.
This video shows our work on fronts, finishes and heeling. In Utility there are 7 fronts and 7 finishes or 14 places to loose points. Perfection in fronts, finishes and heeling is what separates the top obedience dogs from others.