Obedience is Hard!

Jun 23, 2023
competition obedience AKC

Today we talk about soccer moms, growing up, I had a dog show mom. We competed together in the 1970s, and she introduced me to every venue available. I competed in Junior Showmanship, Conformation, Obedience, Tracking, and Field Trials.

While in college and for several years after, I only competed in obedience. It was a good match for my available time and money. Many years later, I became involved in field trials again.

The two sports intrigue me for very different reasons. In the field, my dogs are naturally motivated to play the game. I love the challenge of requiring the dog to be obedient when his instinct is telling him not to be.

Conversely, in obedience, I must train my dog to perform many behaviors that are not naturally motivating. It is my job to teach the dog, not only how to perform the exercises, but to love the activity.

If you are like me, intrigued by the difficulty that obedience offers, and your goal is to have motivated dogs that are having fun performing, consider this challenge!

Obedience Road Challenge

1. Accept the Obvious- Obedience is Hard!
Today, there are lots of venues available. Some are more time-consuming and difficult than others, but they are all more naturally motivating than obedience. The scenting sports (Tracking, Nose Work, Barn Hunt) focus on a natural skill. Once a dog can navigate the Agility obstacles, the speed and excitement of the event is a great motivator. Breed-specific sports such as carting, herding, and water tests, are designed to be instinctively motivating for the dog participating. Motivating a dog in the Rally ring, is allowed as handlers can talk to their dogs.

2. Agree to the Goal- To Teach Your Dog to be Engaged and Enjoy Training.
I want you to wake up every morning, and think “I can’t wait to go train my dog. We are going to have so much fun!” When your dog is engaged and enjoys training, you will both have fun! You will be thrilled by the communication the two of you develop!

3. Find the Most Powerful Reward for Your Dog!
This might be food, or a toy, or a game (tug-o-war), and perhaps you are fortunate enough to have several rewards that your dog finds important. You cannot count on the obedience activity to be self-rewarding. Your dog may enjoy retrieving, jumping, or even heeling, but for the less motivating activities (ie. sitting straight or pivoting accurately), you need a powerful reward available.

4. Make a List of Momentum Builders, Momentum Killers, and Momentum Neutral Exercises
Get a piece of paper and create three columns. Momentum Builders are the activities your dog already enjoys (ie. Jumping, Retrieving, etc. ) Momentum Killers are the skills/exercises your dog does not enjoy. The third column is Momentum Neutral for the skills/exercises that do not seem to affect your dog’s attitude one way or another.

For example, perhaps this describes your dog:

Obedience Road


I believe we share the same goal…to have motivated dogs that are having fun performing.

Join this week’s challenge to Accept, Agree, Find, and Make your list!

Finish this week’s assignment and watch for more information next week. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send them to me!


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