Companion Events

A Beginner’s Guide to Companion Events – Obedience • Rally • Tracking • Agility

Welcome to the world of AKC® Companion Events! These events were developed so ANY dog and anyone of any age could show off their athletic abilities and demonstrate
the bond that can develop between a well trained dog and its owner. Companion Events consists of four different events: obedience, tracking, agility and rally. Obedience trials are one of the AKC’s oldest traditions; it is truly a sport of finesse, precision and accuracy. Tracking evolved originally from obedience, but it has grown and developed into its own event that demonstrates the dog’s natural ability to recognize and follow a scent. Agility is a fast-paced obstacle course that relies on nearly flawless communication between handler and dog. AKC Rally® is the newest event to join the Companion Event family and it was developed after rally-style auto racing. The dog/handler team must navigate a course made up of directional signs. Each course is unique and different; it is great for first-time competitors or anyone new to Companion Event. For complete information visit the AKC website for A Beginner’s Guide to Companion Events

Am I Eligible?

To be eligible to compete in obedience, tracking, agility or rally trials, a dog must be:

• Registered with the AKC.
• Enrolled in the AKC Canine Partners program. A program for mixed-breed dogs and dogs ineligible for AKC registration to participate in obedience, rally, tracking and agility.
• Enrolled in the PAL (Purebred Alternative Listing)/ ILP program. A program for purebred dogs that cannot be fully registered with the AKC to participate in AKC events.
• Be a member of a Foundation Stock Service® (FSS) recorded breed

How Do I Get Started in Companion Events?

The best way to start is to join a local dog-training club. A list of clubs is available at Local clubs frequently offer training classes for all different types of competition. Even if competition is not your ultimate goal, the relationship that training forms between you and your dog will be very rewarding. Local clubs also have “fun matches,” where you and your dog can test your skills in the ring. Training and handling your dog in any Companion Event is an exceptional and enjoyable experience. From your first attempted trial to earning your first AKC title, you and your dog will develop a bond. Training classes offer the best hands-on way to practice for the ring, and watching exhibitors at actual trials will gain you expertise. These events bring many hours of fun for you and your dog. You will make lots of friends in the sport, and you and your dog will take pleasure in your new hobby for many years to come.

Tips for the First-Time Exhibitor

• Make sure your dog has an AKC number.
• Be sure your dog is current on all inoculations.
• Learn from an experienced trainer in order to compete competently and safely.
• Join a local training club.
• Become familiar with the AKC regulations for the sport you are interested in. These are available on the AKC website.
• Attend trials and become familiar with the ring procedures.
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the experienced exhibitors.
• Attend training classes with your dog.
• Visit the AKC website at to find a club in your area.

What is AKC Agility?

It is one of the fastest growing dog sports in the USA!Agility is a sport that appeals to all dog lovers – from young people to senior citizens. It has great spectator appeal. Agility is designed to demonstrate a dog’s willingness to work with its handler in a variety of situations. It is an athletic event that requires conditioning, concentration, training and teamwork. Dog and handlers negotiate an obstacle course racing against the clock.

The AKC offers three types of agility classes. The first, Standard Class, includes contact objects such as the dog walk, the A-frame, and seesaw. Each of the contact obstacles has a “safety zone” painted on the object and the dog must place at least one paw in that area to complete the obstacle. The second is Jumpers with Weaves. It has only jumps, tunnels and weaves poles with no contact objects to slow the pace. The third is FAST, which stands for Fifteen and Send Time. This class is designed to test handler and dog teams’ strategy skill, accuracy, speed and distance handling.

All classes offer increasing levels of difficulty to earn Novice, Open, Excellent and Master titles. After completing both an Excellent Standard title and an Excellent Jumpers title, handler and dog teams can compete for the MACH – faster than the speed of sound! (Master Agility Championship title.)

Agility began in England in 1978. The AKC held its first agility trial in 1994.  Agility is one of the fastest growing dog sports in the United States and is the fastest growing event at the AKC.  A trial is a competition. Clubs hold practice matches and then apply to be licensed to hold official trials. At a licensed trial, handlers and dogs can earn scores toward agility titles.

An advantage to AKC participation is that dogs can earn titles in a variety of events such as conformation, lure coursing, earth dog, retrieving and field trials, obedience, rally (as of 1/1/05), and tracking, as well as agility.  In the first year of AKC agility there were 23 trials. In 2003, there were 1,379 trials. The number of trials held in 2007 was 2,014.  In the first year of AKC agility (1994), there were approximately 2,000 entries in AKC agility trials.

AKC agility is available to every registerable breed. From tiny Yorkshire Terriers to giant Irish Wolfhounds, the dogs run the same course with adjustments in the expected time and jump height.   The classes are divided by jump heights in order to make the competition equal between the different sizes of dogs.

Frequently Asked Agility Questions

What is AKC Obedience?

Demonstrating the usefulness of a dog as a companion to humankind, AKC Obedience is a sport with rules, regulations, judges, conditioning, training, placements and prizes.  Dog and handler teams are judged on how closely they match the judge’s mental picture of a theoretically perfect performance as they execute a series of specified exercises.

Accuracy and precision are essential, but the natural movement of the handler and the willingness and enjoyment of the dog are very important. Helen Whitehouse Walker devised the first obedience “test” in Mt. Kisco, New York in 1933 to show the intelligence of her poodles.  The first AKC licensed obedience trial was held in 1936 with approximately 200 entries in 18 trials.

Each level of obedience competition – novice, open, and utility – requires mastering a specific skill set, which increase in difficulty, before advancing to the next level.

Novice Class demonstrates good canine companion skills such as heeling, both with and without a leash, coming when called, standing for a simple physical examination, and staying in both a sit and a down position with a group of dogs.

In the Novice Class, dogs earn an AKC Companion Dog (CD) title after receiving three qualifying scores under two different judges.

The Open Class is more challenging as more exercises are done off leash and retrieving and jumping challenges are added.

In the Open Class, dogs earn an AKC Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) title after receiving three qualifying scores under two different judges.

The Utility Class, which includes scent discrimination, directed retrieves, jumping and silent signal exercises, is the most challenging class.

In the Utility Class, dogs earn an AKC Utility Dog (UD) title after receiving three qualifying scores from two different judges.

Upon completion of the UD title, dogs may earn the Utility Dog Excellent (UDX) by receiving 10 passing scores in both Open B and Utility B at the same show. In October of 2004, numeric designations were added to the UDX.  The highest UDX title to date is a UDX71, OTCH Jo’s Xpensif Hobi O’Redfield UDX71 MX MXJ.   The Obedience Trial Championship (OTCH) title is often referred to as the “PhD” for dogs, is the highest obedience honor a dog can receive.

To obtain an OTCH title, a dog and handler team must receive 100 points by placing first, second, third or fourth in the Open B or Utility B classes and a first place in Utility B and/or Open B three times.  To compete in the AKC National Obedience Invitational dogs must be the top OTCH and OTCH-pointed dogs in each breed.

The AKC National Obedience Championship title (NOC) is awarded to one dog each year.  Only dogs winning the AKC National Obedience Championship are permitted to have the prestigious NOC letters precede its name in AKC records.

There are 14 NOCs in the seventeen-year history of this event 3 dogs having won the award twice.

Dog Obedience Training Resources