By Merrielle Turnbull



The beginning level for titling in obedience, the Novice class has exercises in heeling, standing for an examination by the judge, coming when called, and two stay exercises. While the first heeling and the figure-8 are on-leash, the other exercises are off leash, including a heeling pattern. The two stay exercises are done in groups (usually of between 8-12 dogs), with all the dogs lined up on one side of the ring. The dogs must stay in a sit position for 1 minute and a down for 3 minutes while their handlers are across the ring.

Baily Rose


The middle level for titling, Open, is worked off leash throughout. The dogs must perform a heeling pattern and figure-8, then move through a variety of exercises. One is the drop-on-recall, where, unlike the straight recall of Novice, the dog must down on command or signal and wait until called again. Other exercises include retrieving a dumbbell on the flat, then over a high jump, and jumping the broad jump. The group stays are longer in duration than Novice, and the handler leaves the ring to be out of the dog's eyesight. Tough for the Velcro dog!



The highest level, Utility, requires a combination of skills. Dogs perform a heeling pattern while responding only to hand signals and have a tougher stand-for-exam than Novice. Other exercises include finding a particular leather and metal dumbbell in a group of others, retrieving the correct one of three gloves placed at different points in the ring, and jumping a bar jump and a high jump after being sent away from the handler to the other side of the ring. There are no group exercises in Utility - although I remember the days of the deadly Group Stand!



Each competition works from a perfect score of 200. Points are deducted by the judge, either minor or major, depending on the actual performance. A crooked sit might earn a ½ point deduction, a lag on the heel might cost a handler 3 points.

To earn a qualifying score (also called a "leg"), the team must have at least 170 points and have earned at least 50% of the points awarded in any one exercise.

If someone is discussing a score and says they got a "7" it's probably an obedience diehard! A 7 would be a 197, only 3 points from perfect.

Each class awards 1st through 4th placements. If two dogs end up with the same score, and are in the running for a placement, they will compete head-to-head in a run-off, executing the heel off-leash exercises. This can also happen for High in Trial, which is pretty exciting to watch!


After earning 3 legs in Novice, your dog will earn the Companion Dog title, or CD. After earning 3 legs in Open, your dog will earn the Companion Dog Excellent title, or CDX. And after earning 3 legs in Utility, your dog will earn the Utility Dog title, or UD.  All these titles are listed after the dog's registered name, and as each is earned, it replaces the former title. So if a dog's name included CDX, then it would have also previously earned the CD.

If you and your dog are enjoying obedience and want to make it a career (so it will seem!), there are advanced titles that make use of the same classes as above. A dog can earn a UDX by qualifying in both Open B and Utility B in 10 trials. This designation follows a dog's name.

The ultimate in obedience titles is the Obedience Championship, or the OTCH, which goes in front of the dog's name. The OTCH is earned by placing 1st through 4th in Open B or Utility B, with each placement earning a certain number of points based on how many dogs were in competition. In addition, the dog needs to have earned at least 3 first place scores and earn a total of 100 points. Currently, there is only 1 OTCH Welshie.