The following article was originally written by Judy Keller for the book, The Staffordshire Bull Terrier in America, published by Multi-Image Presentations in 1986 and edited by Steve Eltinge. It is with his permission that we reproduce both article and photographs here. The dog clearing the hurdle, above, is Ch. Trumate Shadow's Showcase, NA, owned by Rachel Redsun.
Obedience trials are a more objective test of man and dog than are shows for conformation. In obedience trials, the dog must complete a series of predetermined exercises that will be evaluated by the judge. Staffords that may compete in obedience trials include those qualified from the show ring under the breed standard, spayed bitches, and neutered males.
The three levels of obedience trials are: Novice, Open, and Utility. At each level, handlers and dogs must demonstrate ever-greater proficiency. Owners exhibit dogs for an AKC obedience title at each level. The three titles are:
1) Companion Dog (CD)
2) Companion Dog Excellent (CDX)
3) Utility Dog (UD)
Beyond these preliminary titles, two "tracking titles" may be earned: Tracking Dog (TD) and Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX). These are among the most demanding of competitive events entered by a human/dog team!
Staffords learn quickly, performing their tasks with unlimited enthusiasm, yet the stubborn side of a Stafford's nature may cause an owner to wonder why he or she ever decided to begin training. A clever handler soon learns that a Stafford will do almost anything to please its trainer, but he or she cannot TELL a Stafford what to do.
If you own a puppy, you may wish to enroll it in kindergarten puppy training classes. A puppy is going to learn rapidly at this young age and early training will help it acquire good habits.
Dogs of every breed can benefit from a ten-weeks' novice obedience class conducted by a competent instructor. It would be wise to visit a class during a training session before signing up with a trainer. Never enroll your dog in a class where there is unnecessarily rough handling. Handlers learn how to train their dogs to respond to these commands: "Sit," "Down,", "Stand," "Come," "Heel," and "Stay." Even though there are some excellent books available on obedience training, classes will give a Stafford (and its owner) the advantage of working with a variety of other dogs in a controlled situation.
When training a Stafford, it is important to be patient and persistent, firm yet never rough. Maintain your perspective; it won't be the end of the world if your Stafford sits up on a down stay. In all circumstances, maintain a sense of humor -- a Stafford will! If things are not going well during one day's lesson, stop for the day but don't give up the training. Hopefully training will be easier the next day and you will be surprised by how much your Stafford has learned.
Many owners with Staffords in a first-time obedience class have not thought about entering their dogs in obedience trials, but those who have followed their instructor's directions and have practiced with their dogs at least fifteen minutes each day take on a new pride of ownership. The challenge of preparing their Staffords for obedience competition begins.
A Staffordshire Bull Terrier receives an obedience title when it has earned three "legs". To earn a "leg", or qualifying score at any one obedience trial, the dog and its handler must score a minimum of 170 points out of a possible 200 points, and score at least 50% in each of the prescribed exercises. In addition to properly executing the commands given by its handler the dog should demonstrate a willingness to perform and an apparent enjoyment of its work.
1. NOVICE -- COMPANION DOG (C.D.)
Novice training includes fundamental exercises required to make a dog a good companion. The Novice A and Novice B classes are open to dogs no less than six months of age that have not won the title C.D. The Novice A competition is limited to owners who have never before received a C.D. title with any dog. The exercises and methods of scoring are the same in both classes.
The exercises and maximum scores in Novice Classes A and B are:
1. Heel on Leash and Figure 8 -- 40 points
2. Stand for Examination -- 30 points
3. Heel Free -- 40 points
4. Recall -- 30 points
5. Long Sit (One Minute) -- 30 points
6. Long down (Three Minutes) -- 30 points
Maximum Total Score -- 200 points
2. OPEN - COMPANION DOG EXCELLENT (C.D.X.)
According to the Obedience Regulations Handbook published by the AKC, the Open A class is, "for dogs that have won the C.D. title but have not won the title C.D.X." The Open B class is, "for dogs that have won the title C.D. or C.D.X." Handlers may continue to show in Open B class to compete for high-in-trial scores even though they have already earned the third title, Utility Dog (U.D.).
The exercises and maximum scores in the Open Classes are:
1. Heel Free and Figure 8 -- 40 points
2. Drop on Recall -- 30 points
3. Retrieve on Flat -- 20 points
4. Retrieve Over High Jump -- 30 points
5. Broad Jump -- 20 points
6. Long Sit (Three Minutes) -- 30 points
7. Long Down (Five Minutes) -- 30 points
Maximum Total Score -- 200 points
Some other special rules apply in the Open Classes. For the Long Sit and Long Down exercises, handlers must remain out of sight of their dogs during the entire Sit or Down period. Except for certain designated breeds, the height of the High Jump shall be one and one-half times the height of the dog at the withers. The AKC stipulates that the broad jump shall, "cover a distance equal to twice the height of the high jump as set for the particular dog." Staffordshire Bull Terriers are required to jump these designated heights. Certain other very large breeds and breeds with short legs have reduced heights.
Many well-trained dogs have earned the title Companion Dog (C.D.) in three straight trials. As the difficulty of the exercises increases the odds also increase against earning a title in the first three tries.
3. UTILITY - UTILITY DOG (U.D.)
After a Stafford has earned the title C.D.X., it is eligible to compete for the title, Utility Dog (U.D.).
The exercises, maximum scores and order of judging in the Utility classes are:
1. Signal Exercises -- 40 points
2. Scent Discrimination (Article #1) -- 30 points
3. Scent Discrimination (Article #2) -- 30 points
4. Directed Retrieve -- 30 points
5. Directed Jumping -- 40 points
6. Group Examination -- 30 points
Maximum Total Score -- 200 points
Rarely does a dog of any breed complete its Utility Dog title in the first three attempts.
Exhibitors who continue to compete in (2) Open and (3) Utility tests after their dogs have earned the titles are seeking special recognition, such as Highest Scoring Dog In Trial, Highest Scoring Champion of Record, and Highest Scoring Terrier.
Tracking exercises are a highly complex series of tests not usually attempted by owners of the terrier breeds. Anyone interested in acquiring more information about these tests should request the latest edition of Obedience Regulations from the American Kennel Club. (See below for a link to the AKC website and the obedience regulations)
Obedience training for competition requires patience. The practice time spent with a Stafford can be an enjoyable experience, and the results, a source of great accomplishment and pride for its owner. Obedience training, that special time when an owner gives his Stafford 100% of his attention, challenges both the owner's skill and a dog to perform at the peak of its ability. The majority of Stafford owners do not take time to train their dogs for competition and obedience trials, but those that do will have a Stafford that wins with top scores.
AKC Obedience Regulations
Competitive Obedience Links - Helpful links involving all aspects of the sport
Getting Started in AKC Obedience & Tracking - Part of the AKC's "Getting Started" series
The Obedience FAQ - Prepared and maintained by Cindy Tittle Moore
UKC Obedience Regulations