Introduction to Obedience
by Robin Camken
Obedience training isn't just
for people interested in preparing for competitive obedience trials! There
are various types of obedience classes for all ages and experience levels.
Basic obedience will give you the necessary knowledge and skills to train
your dog to become a well behaved companion and welcomed neighbour.
The "manners" your dog will learn through obedience training is a good
foundation to have
before attempting other activities--like agility or drafting.
Your breeder will probably
encourage you to take your new Berner to a puppy kindergarten class. These
classes are designed for ages 2 to 5 months and are great for socializing
and establishing good manners that will make your new puppy a more
enjoyable family member. Puppies are introduced to a variety of situation
that they may encounter in the world, as well as basic commands
as heel, sit, stay, come and down. These classes should be non-stressful and
fun. In most cases, you will be required to provide proof of inoculations
before being allowed to start classes.
If your puppy is over five
months, it's too late for kindergarten, and you will have to start
obedience at the beginners' level. These classes are for dogs with no
formal training. Most courses will introduce the basic obedience skills--controlled walking (heeling) and the sit, down, stay, and come commands.
There are a variety of training methods that can be employed by the
various schools that train in obedience. I recommend that you find one
that teaches using one of the motivational methods, with positive, rather
than negative reinforcement.
Finding a Trainer
In order to learn effectively, both the handler and the dog must be
comfortable with the type of training offered. Unfortunately, there is no
licensing body or minimum requirement to become an obedience instructor or
to open a training school or business. Be advised that just about
anyone can claim to be a dog trainer. For this reason, it is a good
idea to talk to a variety of trainers in your area, and if possible, go
and watch some of their classes before enrolling. Discuss your
training needs with the instructor and see if you like the answers they
provide. Ask what methods are used to motivate and correct the dogs.
Ask about this size of the class, and the ratio of instructors to
students. If your breeder lives near by, ask them to recommend a
school or club where you can start obedience training. Your veterinarian
should also be able to recommend a good place to begin training in your
After you have completed your beginner's level, you may find that you are
interested in moving on to the next class and preparing for entry in
competitive obedience trials. Many people and dogs enjoy the
challenge of advanced obedience training and competition. Obedience is a
fun activity that brings dogs and owners closer together.
To compete in official obedience trials and earn points towards a title,
your dog must be purebred and registered with a recognized canine
registry, such as the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) or American Kennel Club (AKC).
Obedience Titles that you can earn in Canada include:
There are obedience classes and
trials that you can participate in with your Bernese from time he is puppy
until he becomes a veteran.
The picture to the left is my Beaumont (Ch Sacsha's Beaumont, Can/AM CD,
CGC) after he placed fourth in the Veteran's obedience trial at the 1998
Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA) Specialty in Rhode Island.
He was 8 years old at the time.
If you are interested in
learning more about obedience training, here are a couple of website with
Obedience Training Your
Dog by Norma Bennett Woolf
May's Dog Behavior and Basic Training Page
All about Titles: Obedience by Carol & Ellice Hauta