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Obedience training is about more than teaching your Tervuren good manners so he doesn’t drive you crazy. Obedience training for the show ring is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between you and your dog and have a lot of fun in the process. The following guidelines should help you get started.


Make sure you choose a puppy or adult with sound structure and stable temperament. Work with your breeder to pick a well-socialized puppy who is interested in interacting with humans.

Once you bring your new Tervuren home, focus on building a healthy dog-human relationship. Establish yourself as leader, protector, provider, enforcer and best friend.


Don’t wait until your Tervuren is an adult to start obedience training. Youngsters can benefit from puppy kindergarten classes, which introduce basic obedience elements like walking on a leash, sit, down and stay.

As your pup grows, don’t push too hard. Let him mature without pressure to perform. A vital part of a pup’s early education is to introduce him to everything he might encounter later in life: auto travel, crates, ex-pens, different types of footing, hotels (or RVs and tents), people of all ages and sizes, other animals, stairs, elevators and every noise you can think of.

Keep socialization activities light-hearted and pressure free. Don't overwhelm your puppy with too much at once. Socializing should be a positive experience that teaches the puppy that the world is a wonderful, not scary, place.

A confident, well-socialized puppy who looks to you for leadership (and a good time!) will be an enjoyable training partner.


You can train by yourself, out of a book, but what fun is that! Taking obedience classes from local clubs or private instructors is a valuable way to educate yourself and enjoy the fellowship of other obedience enthusiasts.

Make sure you enroll in competition-based classes to prepare for the show ring. Many clubs offer “pet obedience” or “home obedience” classes, and while these are definitely valuable to the general dog-owning public, they will not teach the skills you need to earn obedience titles with your dog.

When choosing an instructor, pick someone who has experience working with a variety of breeds. Avoid “cookie cutter” trainers who only have one method for all dogs, regardless of age, breed or temperament. Your Tervuren will benefit from a training program that emphasizes creativity, motivation and fun versus one based on compulsion, drills and repetition.

Visit with your potential instructor and find out if she uses motivational training, compulsive training or a combination. How does she feel about the use of choke collars, pinch collars and electronic collars? Watch her working with her own dogs. Do they look like a team that embraces the spirit and joy of obedience?

Choose an instructor who is experienced in all levels of obedience. A Pre-Novice class is really a Pre-Utility class!

Finding an obedience mentor is also extremely helpful. Is there a trainer in your local club who you admire? Do you like the way their dogs perform? Most obedience enthusiasts will happily share advice and assistance if you are willing to help them in return by “playing judge,” helping them set up training equipment or just being a distraction while they work through a training session.


ArticlesThe old joke is “All you need to teach obedience is a dog, a collar and a leash.” While that’s basically true, you’ll also need a variety of tasty treats, a few favorite toys that are exclusively for training time, a treat bag, portable water dish, leashes of several different lengths, a gear bag to put everything in, plus a cooler, lawn chair and crate.

As you progress from the Novice level of training, you’ll need a dumbbell, gloves and scent articles. It’s also very helpful to have your own set of portable jumps and several sections of folding ring-gate. Depending on your instructor, you may also need to purchase a clicker, dowel rods and an assortment of other miscellaneous training tools, many of which are simple household items. With the exception of the scent articles, portable jumps and ring gates, obedience equipment is not terribly expensive.


Many clubs have libraries of training books and videos for members to use. Attending seminars is also a great way to get fresh ideas and explore new training methods.Adult running with dumbell

Even if your dog isn’t ready to show, volunteer to work at your club’s obedience trials as a ring steward. Watching the competitors in the ring will help you prepare to take your turn with your own dog.

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Obedience Balance the Beast

  • Random Thoughts
  • Words, Words, Words
  • STAY as Sweet as You Are
  • What to Wear, What to Wear
  • What's Sauce for the goose...
  • Say NO to "NO"
This is an excerpt from Melinda Wichmann's last BALANCE THE BEASTcolumn in the December 2008 issue of the TNT.  Melinda writes: I'd like to leave you with some random thoughts about obedience training, many of which I learned from Jamie (OTCH U-UD Ariel's Escape Through Time UDX3 VCD2 TD MX MXJ MXP MJP RE NF) who is a wonderful patient teacher. Think positively and surround yourself with friends who think positively. Communicate clearly with your dog.  Show him exactly what you want and help him achieve it.  Gray areas lead to confusion, doubt and inconsistent performances. Give your dog the benefit of the doubt. Be patient.  Training certain skills will take as long as it takes.  (You can speed up the process by being a clear, consistent communicator.) When at all possible, make training look like showing. Check your look in the mirror every now and then.  Is your dog's heel position correct?  How about your posture?  Do you like the reflection you see? How can you make it better? Build a strong foundation.  Do not hesitate to back up and strengthen it if needed. Training happens any time you are interacting with your dog, not only when he is wearing Read More
I had a request from a newcomer to provide some clarification of terms used commonly in obedience, so here goes. AKC OBEDIENCE TITLES What are the titles a dog can earn, and how do you know if a particular dog has a particular title?` Here is a list of obedience titles, which are placed after the dog’s name, except that championship titles and UKC titles (see below) are placed in front of the dog’s name. Companion Dog or CD Companion Dog Excellent or CDX Utility Dog or UD Utility Dog Excellent or UDX Obedience Trial Champion or OTCh Tracking Dog or TD (if a dog has both a UD and a TD, the abbreviation becomes UDT) Tracking Dog Excellent or TDX (if a dog has both a UD and a TDX, the abbreviation becomes UDTX) Variable Surface Tracker or VST Champion Tracker or CT Versatile Companion Dog or VCD 1 through 4 Versatile Companion Champion or VCCH National Obedience Champion or NOC, which can only be earned once a year, by winning the AKC National Obedience Invitational There is a whole series of breed-specific titles for performance events like herding, hunting, lure coursing, etc., as well as a lengthy list Read More
Teaching a reliable stay is the bedrock of most training programs, including obedience, agility, herding, hunting and more.  It's one of the first things most folks teach their dogs. It's not a particularly difficult or complex behavior. So why do so many dogs have so much trouble keeping their little fannies where they were left? I think it's because handlers are in way too big a hurry to get far away from Rover, so they skip all the little steps that produce secure stays. I also think this exercise is more difficult for dogs who lack confidence. If you have such a dog, you'd best plan on doubling or tripling the time it takes to teach the stay, or you'll battle this exercise forever. I'm not going to differentiate between sit, down and stand stays here. The principle is the same. I'm going to start by reminding you about one of the most critical factors in all competition obedience training: dogs do not automatically generalize learning. That means you mustn't assume that a dog that can stay reliably in your living room can repeat this behavior in your back yard, much less at a dog show. Stay must be taught Read More
Collars for the Ring The most recent revision of the Obedience Regulations completely liberalized our choice of collars, with a few exceptions. The collars specifically prohibited are pinch collars, electronic collars and, through a later communication from the AKC, head halters. This means that you can choose a buckle collar, a cloth collar with a plastic snap or a choke collar of any color or material. The restrictions still imposed are that the collar be "properly fitted" and that there be nothing hanging from it. The Regulations also state that "No visible means of identification...may be worn or displayed by anyone..." The reason for this restriction is that the whole process of judging is supposed to be objective, so the judge is not supposed to know the identity of any dog or handler. This is laughable, as anyone who shows long enough to meet the requirements to become a judge is going to know the top handlers and dogs in their area, but I guess the concept of objectivity is worthwhile. My point in mentioning this is to tell you that it's not a good idea to use a collar with your dog's name either printed on it or displayed Read More
As I watched one of my students vigorously stroking and patting her big Gordon Setter, it was clear to me that only one of them was enjoying this activity. The dog had his ears plastered back, his jaw set and was trying to pull his head away from her massaging fingers. I asked the woman if her dog usually came up to her and solicited petting at home. She thought for a moment and then said that it was rare. "So, " I asked, "why are you petting him right now?" She replied, "To let him know I'm pleased with him and that I love him." "Do you think he's enjoying it?" I asked. She looked down at the big guy, who was still trying to avoid her hands. "I never thought about it before," she said. I pointed out the things I had observed. She was flabbergasted and said, "I never noticed those things. Now what do I do?" That was a tough question. She was trying to motivate her dog, but all she was really doing was annoying him. It had not occurred to her to observe her dog's response to stroking and handling, and to see that while Read More
I've said it here before: specific words don't really matter in dog training because dogs don't speak English (or French, or Swahili or any other human language).  Dogs learn to associate certain sounds with certain actions for which they've been rewarded or punished. For example, after a number of repetitions, Rover figures out that when his human makes the sound "sit", he (Rover) has better get his fanny on the floor. How many repetitions it will take depends on a number of factors, including the way the connection of the sound and the behavior is made by the two-legged member of the team, how innately rewarding the behavior is to the dog, how bright and how willing the individual dog is, how persistent the human is, and more. This is pretty common sense stuff, but many people still persist in believing that there is some kind of magic in finding just the right word that will make Rover perform. And if that magic word doesn't work, these folks think, it's because they didn't say it loud enough. Or often enough. Which nonsense brings me to this topic, the judicious use of words. I'm not a clicker trainer, but I certainly Read More
  • Not just a brag, not just a stepping stone to a higher title, not just an adjunct to competitive scores;
  • How is it that some dogs carry themselves with more confidence, and perform with more enthusiasm than others? Is it
  • Dogs can be divided into two groups: folders and crumplers. The folders like everything ritualized and regular and repetitive. It's
  • The first Terv to earn the OTCH, MACH and CH The following was written by Julie Symons, proud owner-handler of