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  • Competition Obedience Classes

    Capital’s upper level obedience classes include the following classes, in order of progression:

    Heeling, Fronts and Finishes → Beginner Novice → Novice → Upper-Level Obedience Skills →  Open →  Utility

    Obedience, originating in the 1930s, is one of the American Kennel Club’s oldest companion events. Obedience is a fun event in which dogs and handlers exhibit precise teamwork in heeling, retrieving, jumping and scent discrimination. Our club has fielded many successful teams over the years, including recognition at the national level with many dogs placing in the top 10 for their breed. In addition, our club members have garnered advanced titles including Utility Dog, Utility Dog Excellent, Obedience Master and Obedience Trial Champion.

    Before pursuing competition obedience, dogs should complete Family Dog 1 and Family Dog 2. Heeling, Fronts and Finishes is the first competition obedience class that should be taken. This class provides intensive instruction in heeling, which is the single most important obedience skill. In addition, fronts and finishes are taught to a high degree of precision. Collectively, these skills are embedded in all other obedience exercises and a strong foundation in these areas is critical to success at all levels of competition.

    After completing Heeling, Fronts and Finishes, students should enroll in Beginner Novice class to learn Beginner Novice competition ring procedures, stays and exams, and to develop sequenced heeling. Novice Obedience class follows Beginner Novice class and is where you and your dog learn and practice the skills needed to compete in Novice level events. This includes stand for exam, off-lead heeling, and an introduction to command discrimination. After qualifying twice in Novice competition (three are needed for the title), students should enroll in Upper-Level Obedience Skills. This class emphasizes the retrieving and jumping skills that are essential to both the next competition level, Open. After earning an Open title, students are ready to train for Utility.



    Heeling, Fronts and Finishes

    This 8-week class is an intensive introduction to the three most critical skills required for successfully competing in obedience: heeling, fronts and finishes. Heeling is the single largest source of points at all three levels of competition and a source of difficulty for many teams.

    Heeling is taught systematically with an emphasis on attention, minimization of errors, and promoting the dog’s understanding of heel position. Many exercises require fronts and finishes, so their mastery is essential to success in competition. Accordingly, fronts and finishes are taught, with an emphasis on speed and correct position. Various training aids are employed, included platforms, frames, and pivot bowls. While teaching these specific skills, attention is also paid to developing and effective and rewarding working relationship between dog and handler.

    Play as a reward, managing the dog’s emotional level, effective use of reinforcement (including marker words), and ring entry/progression are also addressed.

    Topics Covered:

    • Heeling
    • Fronts
    • Finishes
    • Play
    • Ring entry/progression
    • Effective use of reinforcement


    Note: Students must have a clear intention to compete in obedience or rally. Students must welcome feedback and diligently practice between classes.

    Prerequisites: Completion of Family Dog 1 and 2 or permission of instructor. This class should normally be taken before any other upper-level obedience classes. Registration requires permission of the instructor.


    Beginner Novice

    This 8-week class builds upon the fundamental skills learned in Heeling, Fronts and Finishes by introducing students to beginner novice exercises. Students will learn to sequence heeling maneuvers into full heeling patterns. Upon completion of the 8-week class, students will generally need more practice before competing in Beginner Novice, but will be ready to join a Novice class.

    Topics include:

    • Beginner Novice heeling patters using rally signs
    • Novice heeling patterns called by the instructor
    • Sit for exam
    • Stand for exam
    • Figure 8
    • Recall
    • Sit-stay

    Prerequisites: Completion of Heeling, Fronts and Finishes. Note that teams must be able to heel at the start of the class; this class is not appropriate for dogs that have not yet learned to heel; loose-leash walking is not sufficient.



    Novice instruction offers students an opportunity to work with instructors who will help prepare them for showing at the Novice level of obedience competition.

    Topics Covered:

    • Attention
    • Heeling with attention automatic sits and turns, and figure eights
    • Off-lead heeling
    • Off-lead recalls
    • On-lead group stays (with distractions)
    • Ring etiquette and procedures

    Prerequisites:  Completion of Heeling, Fronts and Finishes and Beginner Novice or permission of instructor.


    Upper-Level Obedience Skills

    The traditional approach to learning Open and Utility skills is to master novice skills before learning Open skills and to master Open skills before learning Utility skills. This approach substantially delays teaching foundational skills, such as retrieving, that could well be taught sooner. Teaching upper-level foundational skills and exercises are fun for both dog and handler and promotes systematic training and extended practice. This class teaches specific upper-level exercises in a manner that sequences component skills in an efficient, highly systematic manner. For example, retrieving skills are foundational to exercises at both the Open level (retrieve on flat, retrieve over high) as well as at the Utility level (scent discrimination, directed retrieve), so taking and holding the dumbbell are taught from the very beginning of the class, while concurrently teaching the scent work aspects of scent discrimination. This is an ongoing class and students may join at any time

    Topics include:

    • The components of retrieving (proper grip, not mouthing, not dropping, etc.)
    • Retrieve on flat
    • Retrieve over high jump
    • Scent discrimination
    • Directed retrieve
    • Directed jumping
    • Broad jump
    • Command discrimination
    • Signal exercise
    • Moving stand for exam

    Prerequisites: Completion of Heeling, Fronts and Finishes and 2 legs toward the Novice title or permission of instructor. Ideally this class should be taken before entering an Open or Utility class, but permission is likely to be given to students who have not had the opportunity to take the class sooner. Registration requires permission of the instructor.



    Open instruction offers students who have completed, or who are completing, a Companion Dog title the opportunity to learn the exercises required in the Open level of obedience competition.

    Topics Covered:

    • Off-lead heeling and Figure Eight
    • Drop on Recall
    • Retrieve on Flat
    • Retrieve over High Jump
    • Broad Jump
    • Position Discrimination
    • Stay and Get Your Leash

    Prerequisites: Two legs toward Companion Dog obedience title or by approval by the Instructor.  



    Utility instruction offers students who have completed, or who are completing, a Companion Dog Excellent title the opportunity to learn the exercises required in the Utility level of obedience competition.

    Topics Covered:

    • Off-lead Heeling
    • Hand signals for Heel, Stand, Stay, Sit, Down, Recall, and Finish
    • Directed Retrieve
    • Scent Discrimination
    • Moving Stand and Examination
    • Directed Jumping


    Prerequisites: Two legs toward Companion Dog Excellent obedience title or by approval by the Instructor.  


    AVAILABLE CLASSES (price includes all class sessions, click on blue link for more information)