All Together Now

The group exercises in obedience competition require dogs to display an extraordinary level of focus and restraint.

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Does the term “group exercise” evoke images of dogs romping in the park? In formal obedience, the reality is quite different. Group exercises require several dogs to stay in place in close proximity and completely ignore one another.

The basics
In American Kennel Club obedience competitions, a perfect score is 200 points. A dog must earn at least 50 percent of each exercise’s available points, with a minimum total score of 170, to qualify and earn a “leg.” It takes three legs to earn a title. Group exercises are included at the novice (basic) and open (intermediate) levels.

The groups have two components: a long sit and a long down. For each, the dogs line up in catalog order. In novice, the handlers cross to the other end of the ring where they stand and wait for the judge to cue them to return. In open, they exit the ring and are led to a spot out of the dogs’ sight. The novice sit lasts for one minute and the novice down lasts for three minutes. In open, the sit is three minutes and the down is five minutes. If a dog moves out of position before it is released, it fails the exercise.

The casual bystander might not understand many of the moves obedience teams perform in the ring, but there is no mistaking what happens in the group exercises. Jim Thomson, a veteran AKC obedience judge and exhibitor, says these exercises are “the most remarkable to watch. It sends a great message to the general public to obedience train their dogs,” he says.

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