A Tribute to Obedience

I have been reading and hearing a lot of things lately that are poo pooing obedience.  Obedience is described as boring, too serious, snobby, and old fashioned.  Of course most of these things are said by people who have never even experienced the sport.  While obedience is not for every dog or for every person, I truly believe that most people just need to give it a try before criticizing.

The truth is that obedience is what you make of it.  Training for obedience can easily be a high energy sport that can leave you breathless!  Heeling is not marching around in a circle but is sprinting fasts, stalky slows, zig zag turns, and exclamations of true joy.  Boring does not fit anywhere in our training .  I love showing dogs that obedience is FUN!

The serious aspect is your own goals.  In the end, a title is a title whether made up of 170's or 200s; and they don't print the scores on the green ribbons!  Working towards perfect fronts and finishes doesn't have to be your goal even if it's mine.  I personally love obedience for that constant challenge of maintaining performance while still making it fun.   At the end of each run you will see team after team hug their dog and reward generously regardless of a Q.  Obedience people still love their dog above else. 

While obedience trials are quieter than agility or flyball trials, it doesn't mean people aren't cheering for their friends and competitors.  The newcomers are more stressed over their 5 minutes in the ring (compared to 30sec in agility) and the experienced ones are respectfully quiet as they cross their fingers while another person goes.  People are generally more focused on their dogs, but the applause and congratulations are heartfelt, and especially present towards the A crowd.  The number of people I've met who do not fit this image are few and equal in percentage to the other sports I participate in.

As for old fashioned, well obedience people are still loving dog owners.  The sport is slow to change but it is evolving and will only be led by example.  If you want more "positive" trainers in the ring than come join us!

Ninso  – ( March 13, 2012 at 9:18 AM )  

I used to think obedience was boring, but like you said, that was before I tried it! I love it! It is fun and challenging and my dogs have fun too!

Shenna Lemche AKA Project Leader  – ( March 13, 2012 at 10:26 AM )  

While I am definitely too terrified of those five silent minutes to probably ever show, I really enjoy training! Finding the positive way to make what could be dull behaviors FUN has been a great challenge. And I love watching a happy and skilled dog in the ring, so much more of a connection comes across than in agility.

Nancy  – ( March 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM )  

What an awesome message!! Any activity you do should only be done if you find joy in it. If you don't, then you shouldn't do it. But then it's also not appropriate to condemn others that DO find joy in training. I have always loved the challenge of training my dogs in obedience trials to get that balance of drive and focus along with the precision aspects of it. You have to juggle things and put JOY as the number one requirement. Most people that do not like obedience (whether they ever competed or not) will complain about others or talk about the "pressure" or other negative aspects. If we all just took responsibility for making our activities fun, then you can no longer blame others. Other people can NOT affect you, if you don't let it happen. I agree completely with you that if you just enjoy the journey and allow mistakes to happen so that you know what you need to work on, then no one can rock your boat. People are too quick to blame others for hurt feelings and mistakes. Obedience competitors are HUGELY supportive, including the very top exhibitors. They are very focused at the trials in trying to get their dogs to the highest level and to do well. But they are some of the MOST supportive people when it comes to appreciating a great performance for someone with specific goals (which might not be the same as theirs). There will always be negative people at the trials - obedience, agility, herding, etc. It's the same percentage anywhere you go. If you let them bother you, then it's your fault. The majority of exhibitors are WONDERFUL. Thanks for writing this, Laura!!

K-Koira  – ( March 13, 2012 at 11:13 AM )  

I find obedience training fun, in a completely different way that flyball training is fun. And, I don't really mind about sloppy sits and crooked fronts (though I may start to if/when we compete), but I DO care enough to spend months retraining a box turn that looks too low. You certainly don't have to be nit-picky to do obedience.

And, Koira loves it. With her injured, obedience is one of the few things she has been allowed to do (though with some restrictions) to keep her mind occupied. I find it to be a great contrast to the loud, rushing, running, hurly-burly of flyball.

With the added benefit of being able to say- in your FACE- to those people who tell me flyball dogs are out of control, have no training, etc.

Ximena  – ( March 13, 2012 at 12:45 PM )  

I used to be one of the naysayers! That was before I saw a top exhibitor perform with her dog -- such a happy, working dog who was having so much fun in the ring even without toys or food.

I think the quiet atmosphere will be better, too, for Elli just because she's fairly distractable with noises -- something I have had trouble trying to find ways to train against. Once we've got our relationship up to par, I'm definitely excited to compete. :)

andrea  – ( March 13, 2012 at 7:33 PM )  

such a great post ...

"If you want more "positive" trainers in the ring than come join us!" love it - even though me and my mixed breeds won't be doing obedience in a ring any time soon!

Anonymous  –   – ( March 13, 2012 at 10:57 PM )  

Thank you for such a nice piece on obedience and it's merits.

Obedience is the basis for whatever you go on to do - breed, agility, field, tracking, competitive obedience or an obedient companion that is welcomed nearly everywhere.

Life with your canine companion has so many more possibilities when communication is opened up through obedience.

Kathy  – ( March 22, 2012 at 12:16 PM )  

I think obedience is FANTASTIC, I think the way some think obedience has to be trained is crap, but gosh to see a happy, motivated, well working dog doing obeience is a tribute to the trainer and the methods, if someone can train that they understand training and the dog understands working!!!

achieve1dream  – ( April 4, 2012 at 6:27 PM )  

That last sentence says it all perfectly!! I love it!!

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