Obedience titles: CDX/Companion dog excellent

Step two: The companion dog goes excellent


Once a dog has achieved a CD or Companion Dog title from the American Kennel Club, owners often decide they enjoy the competition and teamwork. Next in the progression of obedience titles from AKC is the Companion Dog Excellent – the CDX, which combines some of the novice exercises with jumping, retrieving, and dropping down on command.

The quest for a CDX is made in the open classes at obedience trials. The individual exercises are: Heel off leash with halts, fast paces, slow paces, and a figure eight; drop on recall; retrieve a dumbbell “on the flat” and over a jump; and leaping a broad jump. The sit-stay and down-stay commands must be obeyed with the owners out of sight.

The leash is removed from the dog’s collar when dog and handler enter the ring. Once the judging begins, the handler cannot touch the dog to guide it into position. The first exercise is the heeling pattern; as in the novice class, the dog is expected to remain at the left side of the handler, his head even with the handler’s left knee. The judge generally instructs the team to heel in an “L” pattern with halts, left and right turns, and fast and slow paces to see if the dog can match the handler’s pace and changes in direction and will sit when the handler comes to a stop. Second part of the heel pattern is the figure eight; the dog must remain in heel position and match the handler’s pace for two patterns around two ring stewards acting as posts.

The second exercise is the drop on recall. The handler leaves the dog to sit and wait where designated by the judge and walks across the ring, turns and faces the dog, and, on the judge’s signal, calls the dog. When the dog reaches approximately half-way, the judge gives the drop signal and the handler instructs the dog to “down.” The dog must quickly lie down and remain down until the judge gives the handler the signal to complete the recall. When he reaches the handler, the dog must sit in front and then return to heel position on command as in the novice recall.

The third exercise is the retrieve “on the flat.” The dog sits in heel position, and, on instruction from the judge, the handler throws the dumbbell and sends the dog to retrieve it. The dog must go directly to the dumbbell, pick it up immediately, and return to sit in front of the handler. The judge tells the handler to take the dumbbell and to send the dog back to heel position.

Retrieve on the flat is followed by the retrieve over the jump – basically the same exercise performed over a barrier instead of on the flat. The dog must go over the jump, pick up the dumbbell, and return over the jump to sit in front of the handler, give the dumbbell to the handler, and return to heel position on command. The jump is set to a specific height for each dog under guidelines set for each breed. Most breeds jump no more than their height at the withers; some jump higher and some jump only three-quarters of their height. The jumps are adjustable; boards range from two inches to eight inches wide with the total height set within two inches of the breed guideline.

The minimum jump height is eight inches, even for dogs that are shorter.

The final individual exercise is the broad jump, a series of boards set to twice the length of the high jump. The dog must jump all the boards, then sit in front of the handler and return to heel position on command.

After at least six dogs have completed the individual exercises, the judge calls the dogs and handlers back into the ring for the group sits and downs. The teams line up as directed, sit the dogs in heel position, place leashes and armbands behind the dogs, and leave the ring with one of the stewards. They remain out of sight of the dogs for three minutes on the sit-stay and five minutes on the down-stay.

Dogs without a CDX show in the Open A class regardless of the experience of the handler. Dogs that have achieved a CDX can continue to show in Open B classes for fun and experience.

As in the novice classes, a perfect score is 200 points and a passing score is 170. Points are deducted for everything from crooked sits to handler mistakes. The teams with the top four scores earn placement ribbons; all other qualifiers earn green ribbons and a “leg” towards the CDX title. Three legs under three different judges are required to earn a title.

Training for the CDX title is much more difficult than training for the CD because it requires the dog to work away from the handler on the jumping exercises and the group sits and downs and requires a string of commands to complete the drop on recall and the retrieves. The most common breeds in the CDX classes seem to be Border Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, and Poodle, and the least common are the terriers (with the exception of the Miniature Schnauzer), hounds, and giant breeds.


UKC titles

The United Kennel Club also offers obedience titles, and because its classes differ slightly from those of the AKC, handlers often compete in both types of shows. To achieve a UKC CD, the dog must do the recall exercise over a jump set to its shoulder height and do the long down as an individual exercise while another dog does the heeling pattern in the ring.

To achieve a UKC CDX, the dog must perform the heeling pattern while a steward walks the “L” pattern in reverse order, i.e., the dog and handler start at the end of one side of the “L” and the steward starts at the end of the other side. The steward walks at a natural pace , passing the dog and handler at least twice on the pattern. In addition to the distraction-by-steward, the dog and handler work while another dog does his down-stay in the ring with his handler out of sight.

On the drop on recall, a steward walks past the dog while it is down; then the handler calls the dog to finish the exercise. Scoring is the same. The teams start with 200 points, and mistakes must not knock off more than 30 points.

UKC trials are not as common as AKC trials, but UKC clubs usually hold three trials in one weekend to give handlers a chance to finish a title in one outing.

[More on the first level title: CD/Companion Dog]
Ozzie Foreman

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