Perhaps you’re wondering what competition Obedience is exactly? The term Obedience suggests that the dog obeys well, which many pet dogs do.
At the competitive level, Obedience is about teamwork and precision. The dog should be very focused on the handler. The team performs a variety of exercises depending on the level.
In Obedience the beginning levels of Pre-Novice and Novice include a lot of heeling, off leash heeling in Novice, recalls, a sit or stand for exam and a group stay in a line of other dogs.
The more advanced Open and Utility levels are performed entirely off leash and include retrieves, a fast drop on recall, jumping, a group stay in a line of other dogs while the handlers leave the room, scent discrimination and and an exercise where each command is given only with hand signals, no verbal signals. In Obedience the Judge calls the heeling pattern as the handler walks, telling them when to turn, stop, and start, and gives instructions for each exercise. The handler can only praise the dog between exercises, not during the exercise, so the dogs have to be taught to keep working for short periods of time while the owner remains silent.
In Rally, there is a pre-set course with a sign at each station. The handler and dog start the course on the Judge’s command and perform the exercise required at each sign. In Rally, the handler can praise and encourage the dog throughout the exercises. The exercises at the signs, depending on the level, include straightforward to difficult heeling turns, pivots and serpentines, pace changes jumps, stays, recalls, sideways and backward heeling, and heeling around distractions such as food or toys.