Launched by AKC in the early 1930’s, Obedience is the oldest of organized canine Performance sports. Thru mid-2021, well over 600 Bulldogs have titled. Once you have established a good, working relationship with your dog and taught him the basics, you can pursue the more challenging, but very rewarding, goal of putting an obedience title on him. At all levels of obedience, the dog must be able to Heel - maintain position at the handler’s left side both when the handler is standing still and as the handler moves about the ring in pre-set patterns established by the judge. These Heeling patterns will be various sequences of going along at a normal pace with about turns, left & right turns and halts, and will also include a fast & slow pace.
At the Optional class entry level (Beginner Novice), in addition to the Heeling pattern on lead, the dog must also Heel on lead in a Figure 8 around 2 cones. The dog will have to: Sit for Exam (hold a sit at the handler’s left side while the judge touches the dog), come when called (Recall), and do a long Sit-Stay while the handler walks the inside perimeter of the ring.
At the Regular class entry level (Novice), in addition to the Heeling pattern & Figure 8 on lead, the dog will have to do the following off lead: the Heeling pattern, Stand for Exam (hold a stand 6 feet in front of the handler while the judge touches the dog), and Recall. The dog will also have to do long Sit & Down-Stays on lead with other dogs in the ring.
For the next level up in the Regular classes, (Open), all exercises are done off-lead, and in addition to the Heeling pattern & Figure 8, the exercises are: Command Discrimination (Stand, Down & Sit position changes - dog remains in first position as Handler walks away and then does the other 2 positions when cued by the handler from a distance), Drop on Recall (drop into a down when cued while moving toward the handler, then complete the recall), Retrieve on the Flat (go out and fetch a dumbbell tossed by the handler, bring it back & give it to the handler), Retrieve over the High Jump (go out over a jump to retrieve the tossed dumbbell and bring it back over the jump to deliver to the handler), Broad Jump (clear – go over without touching – a spread jump with the handler standing beside the jump), Stand Stay – Get Your Leash (hold the stand position where placed while the handler walks away to get the leash & returns).
At the top/most challenging Regular class level (Utility), the exercises are all done off lead and are comprised of:
(1) Signals – dog must do the Heeling pattern ending in a stand-stay while the handler crosses the ring and then from that distance cues the dog to down, sit and come – the entire exercise is done by hand signals only – no verbal cues allowed;
(2) Scent Discrimination – dog must go out from the handler and discriminate an article scented by the handler placed in a pile of 8 other similar articles that do not have the handler’s scent on them, and pick up the scented article and carry it to the handler. This must be done with two articles made of different material – one metal, and the other leather or wood;
(3) Directed Retrieve – 3 gloves are placed at the end of the ring: one near each corner & the other in the center, while the dog & handler wait with their backs turned. The dog must then follow the handler’s direction (indication with hand/arm) to go retrieve the glove pointed to;
(4) Moving Stand & Exam – the dog must stop and hold a stand while heeling with the hander when the handler cues it stop & stand as the handler continues moving forward 10 feet. The dog must hold position while examined by the judge, then come when called by the handler;
(5) Directed Jumping – dog must go out across the ring between two jumps placed to the sides, then wait for the handler to cue him to come back across one of the jumps. The dog then goes out again and is cued to come back over the other jump.
Other Optional classes are Graduate Novice & Graduate Open which consist of exercises from the Regular classes that have been modified to use as stepping stones between Regular class Novice to Open, and Open to Utility. There is another set of classes called Preferred which follow the same title progression and exercises as in Regular with a few differences such as lower jumps and no group stays.
In Obedience, precision is strictly scored in half-points and the dog must respond promptly the first time a command is given, so there is little room for error. The dog must learn to focus on its handler, no matter what distraction or temptation may arise. Each dog enters the ring with a perfect 200 score from which points are deducted for not successfully completing an exercise, and for imperfections in heeling (lagging, forging, crowding, going wide), crooked sits, slow responses, etc. Titling can seem like a monumental feat to a beginner, but consistency and practice in many different environments will usually yield success.