So You Want to Be a Star ....

Originally appeared in the June 1998 ESAA Newsletter

Are you and Spot starting to look a lot like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers? If so, "you ought to be in pictures"! This month I will take a break from the nuts and bolts of training and discuss where you and Spot can go to strut your stuff.

The ultimate in obedience stardom is to compete in the Heinz Pup-Peroni Dog Obedience Classic (formally the Gaines Classic). This competition is designed to determine which of the country's finest obedience-trained dogs are tops in the Novice, Open, Utility and Super Dog classes. Unless you have already been competing, it's a little late to think about competing in this year's Classic which will be held in Houston at the Astro Arena Hall on November 21 & 22. However, it's never too late to begin planning for the future. Although the Classic is not an AKC sanctioned event, and you can't earn legs toward any titles, the competition is conducted in concurrence with the current AKC obedience regulations. Teams must meet certain qualifications to be eligible to compete in the Classic. I will use the novice level to explain the requirements for 1998. The exhibitor must have earned a confirmed Companion Dog title in an approved Registry, prior to October 28, 1998, may not have earned a third leg toward a CDX prior to that date, and must have earned three scores averaging 195 or better in Novice A or B competition at licensed trials between October 27, 1997 and October 28, 1998. Don't despair if you had a bit of a slow start and didn't get an average of 195. You can still qualify for the Classic if you place in the top ten novice dogs at a 1998 Pup-Peroni regional competition. You are eligible to enter a regional if you have earned three scores averaging 193 or better in Novice A or B competition. You may compete twice annually at regionals, and there are three regionals each year -- the Eastern, Central and Western. This year's Eastern Regional was held in Macon, GA on May 23 & 24; the Central Regional will be in Duluth, MN on September 19 & 20; and the Western Regional was in Sacramento, CA on May 2 & 3. I personally have never competed in a Classic but have competed at the regional level. I have ring stewarded twice at the Classic and several times at regionals. If you live in the upper Midwest or in Texas, you might go watch one of these competitions. These highly accomplished dog and handler teams put on quite a show.

Notice that credentials for the Pup-Peroni competitions can be earned in trials sanctioned by "an approved Registry." AKC is an approved registry, but not the only one. I mention this because there are three different registries offering obedience competitions where you and Spot can strut your stuff, earn obedience titles and maybe even qualify for lofty competitions such as the Classic. The other two registries available to English Setters are the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) and the United Kennel Club (UKC). Each registry puts its own spin on the obedience exercises. I've tried them all and have found each rewarding. I offer U-UD Can OTCH Gwinn-Dell's Hurricane Windsor UD, AD, ADC, OAC OGC, EJC, CGC, TDI as evidence of my addiction (sorry he doesn't have spots). Of course, not all of that alphabet soup comes from the obedience ring (maybe someday people will ask me to write about my favorite dog sport, agility). Nonetheless, obedience provided the necessary foundation for all of his accomplishments. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears not to mention a small fortune in entry fees during the four years that I trained and showed that dog (he was 6 when I acquired him). In earning each of those titles, I learned much about dog training. Preparation for each different type of competition added to my collection of training tools. As a result of competing in non-AKC events, I found new ways to train for the AKC exercises.

Many of you are familiar with the CKC as it is the Canadian equivalent to the AKC. It is not uncommon for English Setters to have both American and Canadian championships, and there are quite a few who have earned obedience titles in both countries. At both the novice and open level, the obedience exercises are analogs to those of the AKC with only minor differences. If you follow the rules for AKC obedience, you will be able to compete successfully in Canada. Canadian utility has a few notable changes from AKC utility such as the seek-back exercise in which the dog must go out and find the leather glove dropped by the handler during the heeling pattern and a third scent article (wood). When I last competed in CKC utility three years ago, there was no moving stand exercise. Instead the dogs did a group stand-for-exam like the old AKC exercise. I know there has been discussion about changing this but am unaware of any changes made. I suggest that you obtain the current regulations before entering trials. The Canadian titles are CD, CDX and UD placed after the dog's registered name just like the AKC titles.

Now for the registration about which you are probably unfamiliar -- the UKC. Founded in 1898, UKC is the largest working dog registry in the world as well as the second oldest and second largest all-breed dog registry in the United States. Some types of events sanctioned by the UKC are conformation shows, obedience trials, agility trials, Coonhound field trials, water races, nite hunts, hunting tests for the retrievers, Beagle field trials & terrier hunting trials. Since the UKC recognizes 289 different breeds, many of them rare breeds, you get to see some unusual dogs at trials. I find UKC obedience trials to be less stressful than their AKC counterparts. For example, it is legal to have a ring complete with jumps available for exhibitors to use in warming up. You may practice any or all of the obedience exercises prior to entering the competition ring. This same philosophy is used in the Pup-Peroni events. I enjoy UKC trials and recommend them to my students as good places to start competing. I must admit my bias as I am a licensed UKC judge for all obedience classes.

At the novice level, there are two differences in the obedience exercises as compared to AKC. First, there is only one group stay exercise -- the one minute sit. The down stay is done as an honor exercise. Spot performs the down with the handler across the ring while another competitor is executing the heeling/figure 8. The other difference occurs in the recall exercise where the dog does the recall over a barrier -- a high jump set at wither height. At the open level, the exercises are almost identical to the AKC exercises, except for the presence distractions in the ring. The down stay is done as an honor but, this time, with the handler out of sight. During the execution of the heeling pattern (off-lead), the dog meets and passes a walker twice. During the drop-on-recall, a steward walks passed the prone dog. In both cases, the steward doesn't do anything to distract the dog other than walk. The rest of the exercises are the same as in AKC. UKC utility is quite different (and in my opinion more difficult!) In UKC utility, the jumps are not present in the ring until needed for the directed jumping exercise. The exercises consist of the signal exercise (identical to AKC), the scent article exercise (only one article, metal), the directed marked retrieve, the directed signal retrieve, the consecutive recall exercise, and the directed jumping. The directed marked retrieve comes closest to the AKC glove exercise. The ring setup is reminiscent of a baseball diamond with homeplate at one end of the ring and second base at the other end of the ring. You and Spot are positioned at homeplate, and the three gloves are located at first, second, and third base. The dog retrieves the glove specified by the judge. If you are unlucky and have get #2, the dog must go all the way across the ring passing the two closer gloves. This exercise is followed by the directed signal retrieve. The ring setup is the same as before, but this time you send the dog away on a line toward glove #2. You must sit the dog midway between gloves #1 and #3 (a dreaded short go-out). At this point, the judge will tell you which glove the dog is to retrieve. These two exercises are a bit challenging. The consecutive recall exercise involves executing two recalls -- first a drop-on-recall then a straight recall. The last exercise is the directed jumping exercise ala AKC. The UKC titles are the U-CD, U-CDX, and U-UD and are listed at the front of the dog's name along with any conformation titles. UKC has an obedience trial championship that is earned through competition in the utility and open classes after completing the U-UD like that in AKC. A set of criteria for accumulating championship points is used which is different from that of AKC. If you want to learn more about alternate obedience forums and have access to the World Wide Web, check out the links provided in this column.

I'm planning on discussing targeting next because it can be taught even to young puppies, the dogs love it, I think it is necessary for anyone who wants to train agility, and it is useful for training a number of obedience exercises. By the way, is there any interest in columns about agility? Let me know what future topics you would like to see in this column. I would love to talk to folks at the National. I also accept cards, letters, email -- heck, I even have room in my coop for carrier pigeons!

UKC Obedience

AKC Obedience Regulations

Direct suggestions, comments, and questions about this page to Arlene Courtney,
Last Modified November 9, 1998