Obedience & Rally Newsletter

July/August 2010

To AKC Obedience and Rally Judges:

April, 1, 2010 was a landmark date in AKC history, no fooling! On this date the AKC launched its new program called AKC Canine Partners.  This program allows mixed breed dogs and dogs that are ineligible for AKC registration to compete in obedience, agility and rally events. We anticipate many new exhibitors will now be introduced to the world of AKC and participate in our events; including 4-H youngsters. Many of these new exhibitors may not understand all of our regulations or procedures and will be nervous or confused. Your attitude, patience, understanding, courtesy and encouragement will be invaluable toward making their experience a positive one.

Additionally, for your general knowledge out in the fancy and in your communications with clubs; some language for the AKC Canine Partners program needs to be clarified.  When looking at a Canine Partners entry the club’s catalog should not state what a mixed breed dog is crossed with.  It should simply state “All American Dog” as the breed.  You will see some catalogs with “Mixed-Breed” and this is also acceptable for the time being as in the beginning, this is what clubs were told to do.  The catalog should not say “Labradoodle” or “Puggle”.  We realize that you have no control over how the catalog is printed at one of your assignments; this is simply to add to your general knowledge of events so you can be an informed representative of the AKC.

We would love to hear from you regarding any interesting experiences you may have with our new exhibitors, or stories of interest that involve a dog listed in the AKC Canine Partners program.  Please send your comments or stories to akccaninepartners@akc.org

From Exhibitors:

Many exhibitors have expressed that they would like to have a time posted for when the trial will resume after a lunch break.  Posting the time that the trial will resume after lunch allows exhibitors (especially the beginners) to know what is expected of them and when they are responsible for being ready.  Some judges are currently doing this and the appreciation from exhibitors helps to make the trial a more enjoyable experience for all.  We encourage you to make every effort to post a time when you will return from the lunch break to avoid any unnecessary confusion.

There have also been some concerns sent in from exhibitors regarding the fit of the collar and which types of collars are acceptable.  Reports from exhibitors range from extremely tight collars to electronic collars without the electronic device attached.  Chapter 2, Section 17 states “All dogs in the obedience ring must wear a PROPERLY fitted collar APPROVED BY THE JUDGE.”  As obedience judges and long time dog owners you should be very familiar with what a properly fitted collar looks like.  Please do not neglect to express your right to ask the exhibitor to either, loosen or tighten the collar if you feel it is too loose/tight or ask the exhibitor use a different collar if the one the dog is presented in is unacceptable in your opinion. 

From Trial Secretaries and Superintendents:

Chapter 5 in the Obedience Judge’s Guidelines states “Judges must be thorough, neat and precise in marking their books.  The awarding of obedience titles based on a dog’s performance at obedience trials is valueless if the scores are not accurate.  Judges must double check the accuracy of score totals.”  Please do not rush through marking your book in the interest of saving time.  This information is the official record of the exhibitors’ performances; superintendents and AKC staff responsible for entering show results will be able to perform their jobs with greater accuracy and would also be grateful for the extra effort on your part to ensure that scores are not only recorded correctly, but are also legible.  When your books are neat and precise they can be confident that they recorded the correct results based on the information in your book. 

From Judges:

QUESTION: “How do you mark the judge’s book when a dog leaves the place where it was left during the first group exercise?”

ANSWER:  If a dog does not remain in place during the 1st group exercise, please mark the book “Excused. Left Place”. 

QUESTION:  “What is the correct way to mark the judge’s book when an exhibitor leaves the ring before all individual exercises are completed?”

ANSWER:  If a handler leaves the ring before all individual exercises have been completed, mark the judge’s book NQ and state “handler left ring”.  Do not mark this exhibitor “excused”.  Obedience exhibitors are not allowed to excuse themselves.

Judging Program and Start Times:

In the last newsletter we reviewed the regulations pertaining to start times and “To Follow” classes, however the seriousness of this situation cannot be emphasized enough.  Under NO circumstances or situations can a class start before the start time listed in the Judging Program if the class is scheduled before 12 noon.  No “To Follow” class may start before 12 noon.  Even if every exhibitor entered in that class is present and agrees to an earlier start time, the class posted “To Follow” cannot start before 12 noon.  The ONLY exception to this applies to one-breed only specialty trials and group trials in which case a start time for only the 1st class needs to be given.  That is the ONLY situation in which a “To Follow” class may start before 12 NOON.

Ring Size:
Are you checking ring size? Rally rings can be larger then an obedience ring. If your ring has been used for Rally and is larger then 40 x 50 it must be reduced to 40 x 50 as much as possible given site conditions. It is not permissible to use a ring larger then 40 x 50.  Larger ring sizes affects how several of the exercises are performed in obedience; Directed Retrieve and Directed Jumping are some examples of how a larger then regulation ring size could affect a dog’s performance. 

Jump Height Order:
Chapter 1, Section 3, gives clubs the option to arrange entries according to jump height order in all classes in which jumps are used. If a club should choose this option, it will be stated in the premium list what jump height will begin the class and if the order will be ascending or descending.
The order does not need to be the same each day. The first day could be in ascending order and the next day in descending order. This has to be stated in the premium list.  Starting dogs in reverse catalog order is considered in catalog order. The judge’s books will list the dogs in the order they are to be judged that day. Example:

Saturday’s judge’s book:
301 302 303 304 305 306 307 308 309 310
Sunday’s judge’s book:
310 309 308 307 306 305 304 303 302 301

Judges Directions:
Chapter 2, Section 4 states “The orders and signals should be given to the handlers in a clear and understandable manner……”  Several judges have been observed using only one word for an order that requires more then one word to be used. Example: “left” for “left turn”, “about” for “about turn” “send” for “send your dog”. This confuses exhibitors who are not familiar with your judging procedures or may be new to the sport. Please use the orders as they are stated in the Obedience Regulations for every exercise.

Accepting Assignments:
Assignment Limitations change January 1, 2011. Beginning in January 2011 three legs can be earned under two judges to earn an obedience title in all classes.  In addition to this the 30 days/200 miles conflict changes to 30 days/100 miles.  Please keep these new changes in mind when accepting assignments in 2011.  These changes were designed to help clubs with their expenses and to assist provisional judges with possible assignments.

Optional Titling Classes and Move-ups

There are no move-ups from a Regular class to an Optional Titling Class or vice versa.  Optional Titling Classes have no restrictions on them, any dog can enter in any order; these classes are not pre-requisites to get to “the next level class (i.e. Novice to Open).” 

New Classes:
Beginner Novice – Effective July 1, 2010
This optional titling class has generated a lot of interest from old and new exhibitors. If you are asked to judge this class, please be sure that you understand and are familiar with the exercises before you get to the trial. This is not the pre-novice class and it should not be assumed that all of the exercises are judged in the same manner.  Please note: for this class only, an exhibitor may earn three legs under two judges. For all other classes the three legs under two judges does not go into effect until January 1, 2011.

Beginner Novice Run-Off Procedure
In the case of a tie in the Beginner Novice class, the run-off procedure will be the Novice Heel on Leash exercise as performed in the regular Novice class.  All applicable penalties listed under the Novice Heel on Leash exercise will apply.  This information will be included in a future insert to the Obedience Regulations. 

Obedience Advanced Teamwork – Effective January 1, 2010
This new Non-Regular class is for any dog eligible for obedience competition.  There are no prerequisite titles required to enter this class.  We are providing you with some detailed information about the exercises in this new class.  The following links are included with permission from author and fellow obedience judge John Cox and will be published in Front and Finish.

Read the article

Samples of postings, steward instructions, worksheets:

Obedience Advanced Teamwork – Send Away Scoring. 
Anticipating the handler’s command and/or signal to go to the designated area; failure to leave the handler; failure to sit, stand or down at the pylon and/or inside the square as directed, or remain in the required position until otherwise directed will result in all points being deducted for the exercise.  Minor or substantial deductions will be for a dog that receives an additional command to sit, stand or down after the dog has stopped, or that anticipates the handler’s command to sit, stand or down.  Depending on the extent of the violation, minor or substantial deductions will be made for slowness or hesitation in going out to the pylon and/or square.  All appropriate penalties listed under the Novice Heel Free, Novice Recall and Directed Jumping will apply.  This will be added to the Obedience Advance Teamwork class in a future insert. 

If you have any questions regarding this new class, please do not hesitate to contact the Companion Events department or the AKC obedience field rep in your area to discuss it.


Please be sure to check the courses you are using regardless of how you obtained the course. There are still courses surfacing at trials that do not meet class requirements. The requirements for Advanced courses must contain a minimum of three Advanced level signs (sign numbers 32 through 45) in addition to all of the other requirements. Excellent courses must contain a minimum of three Advanced level signs (sign numbers 32 through 45) and a minimum of two Excellent level signs (sign numbers 46 through 49) in addition to all of the other requirements for the Excellent level class. 

In an effort to obtain efficiency, some judges are sacrificing quality in their courses.  An example of this would be; when the same jump is used in both directions, occasionally a single sign is used to get the team turned around to go back over the jump.  The signs used might be “About Turn”, “Left About Turn” or “About U Turn”. When a single sign is used after the jump the course design forces the handler into heel position with the dog rather than the dog being evaluated on the promptness of returning to heel position to the handler. One possible solution to this would be to use a “270 Right” and then a “Left Turn” in order to reverse the direction of the course. 

From time to time there is a suggestion that there be a specified distance between signs on a Rally course. It is the opinion of the Companion Events department that this would be too restrictive in designing creative and challenging courses.  When you design a rally course, take your own dog through it a few times to get a personal feel for how each sign goes into the next.  Rally courses should flow when being maneuvered; this does not necessarily require a specified distance between signs.  An example of this to make it a little more visual would be; two signs placed side by side touching each other. The first sign could be sequential sign number three in the course with the station “Call Front – 1, 2, and 3 Steps Backward”.  Sign number four could be the “Fast” sign.  Although there is zero space between the two signs, after performing the one step, two steps and three steps backward there would be adequate space before reaching the “Fast” sign and the course would flow smoothly. 

For quite some time we designed courses that ran parallel to the ring barriers, it is good to see more courses that are using diagonals. It is a much more efficient use of that 40 X 50 foot ring that most clubs provide for Rally and it makes for a more fun and interesting course for the handler.  Something to keep in mind when designing courses that use diagonals; do not use turns that specify a certain number of degrees to be performed by the dog and handler team in order to get into a diagonal path.  For example a “Right About Turn” specifies a 180 degree turn as do several other turns.  If the course design requires the team to perform a 135 degree turn in order to enter a diagonal instead of a 180 degree turn specified by the sign it is not the same test.  There are several options for guiding the team into a diagonal path; these include the Straight Figure Eight, the Serpentine, the Spirals and the Offset Figure Eight. 

Turns and pivots:
There continues to be variation when evaluating turns and pivots.  It has been said before but it is worth repeating: “a turn can be a pivot but a pivot can never be a turn.”  Yes, a pivot is a type of turn, but it is a turn in place.  Once the handler has stopped imagine they are standing on a dinner plate. When they pivot, regardless of the footwork they use, they start on that dinner plate, never leave that dinner plate and end the movement on that dinner plate. Anything else is a fault that should be penalized. How much should the penalty be? Depending upon the performance, it can range from a relatively minor deduction to a decision that the dog would not have accomplished the requirements of the sign without the aid of the handler.

Recently a discussion was started regarding the scoring of a particular sign.  The sign involved is #35 (Halt-Turn Right One Step-Call to Heel-Halt). In this situation the handler approached the sign, stopped, and the dog sat. The handler turned, stepped and halted. The dog got up, moved to heel and sat without an apparent audible cue from the handler. (For purposes of this discussion, assume the dog sat straight.)  How should this be scored? One position is that the situation may be compared to the Recall in Obedience and so that without an obvious command or signal the dog has anticipated. However, the sign description requires the dog to be “Directed” to heel position and must move and sit in the new location before moving on to the next station. Since the dog fulfilled all the requirements of the sign, both the principle parts and the non-principle parts, the Rally Regulations should apply not the Obedience Recall Requirements.

Remember to UPDATE your contact information!!
If your contact information has changed or does not appear correctly in the searchable online judges’ directory, please complete this form and submit to this office by August 31, 2010.  You may also use this form if you would like to go emeritus.  While you may always update your contact information, this deadline ensures the correct information is published in the 2011 Judges’ Directory.

Please update your address books!
As of August 13, 2010, Tommi Powell (tep@akc.org) will no longer be working for the American Kennel Club.  Kim Mitchell will be taking over the position and questions regarding judging observations, applications, etc. should be directed to khm@akc.org.


Curt Curtis, AVP Companion Events
And the Field Staff … Roger Ayres, Bill Thayne, Larry Warsoff, Diane Schultz, and Betty Winthers

If you know of an obedience or rally judge who is not getting the newsletters, please have them contact contact Tommi Powell at 919-816-3557 or at tep@akc.org.

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