Companion Dog Training: Basic Techniques Rover Should Know for Competitions

Companion dogs training
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Everyone is aware of the fact that dogs are pack animals by nature therefore if you wish to make your life and the lives of people around easier, then you must start training your little furry friend from an early age. The moment your dog becomes a part of your family, he starts seeing this family as his new pack, and you, being his master, become the new leader of the pack.

That means that it will be your responsibility to make sure that your dog is well behaved, and that he understands the rules so he can survive in the human world.  Additionally, you train your dog not only for your sake, but also for the dog’s sake, because if your beloved friend listens to your commands he will be able to avoid accidents and getting into more serious trouble.

There are many professional programs and instructors who offer their services to either pet owners with puppies or adult dogs. Sometimes pet owners decide to enroll their dogs into competitions and show off how intelligent, obedient and well mannered their dogs are. Some of the most important events and training programs involve: obedience, agility, conformation, tracking, rally, being a therapy dog and many more.

This article will provide you with a simple guide on how to train your dog and where to go if you would like to find out more about companion dog training.

Obedience training

Each dog is different, which means that some are very active and hyperactive while others are nothing more than lazy couch potatoes. It also depends on the breed; however, it is up to you to decide what are the safest and most suitable training exercises and programs for your pet.

Why is obedience important? It is important because this kind of training helps correct problematic behaviors such as: jumping on people, barking, growling, digging, chewing etc. It provides your dog with mental and physical activities making his life healthier and it also deepens the bond between you and your dog. Besides all this, it is fun and enjoyable, and even though it requires a lot of patience and time, the results are more than satisfactory and enjoyable. You can discover what’s required in this article on basic obedience training.

Dog trains with a boy

If you want to have your dog compete in obedience trials, then you have to register him with the AKC (American Kennel Club). The obedience trials include three levels: novice (for the dogs that are just getting started), open (tasks and commands that dogs must do by voice or signal) and utility (the highest level of obedience competition).


  • Heel on leash and figure eight – the dog must show if he has learned to pay attention to the person handling them and adjusting the pace.
  • Heel free – the dog is let off the leash.
  • Stand for examination – the dog must stay calm, this is important when a vet must do a checkup.
  • Recall – the dog must respond to his master’s call when he is off the leash.
  • Long sit (1 minute) – the dog is calm and obedient, for example: when the visitors visit the home.
  • Long down (3 minutes) – the dog is able to remain down for a longer period of time.


  • Heel free and figure eight – it is the same as the novice, except it is off leash.
  • Drop on recall – it is an important command when a dog is ordered to drop something.
  • Retrieve on flat
  • Retrieve over high jump
  • Broad jump
  • Long sit (3 minutes) — similar to the Novice, except that the dog must remain in this position even when the master is not in sight.
  • Long down (5 minutes) – the dog must remain in a down position.


  • Signal exercise – this is the highest level of obedience: a dog must respond to his owner’s hand gestures in order to sit, stay, come and stand while the voice commands are not allowed.
  • Scent discrimination – the dog is able to discern his owner’s scent among a pile of things.
  • Directed retrieve – the dog is able to follow a signal to retrieve a glove and return it to his owner.
  • Moving stand and examination — the dog must heel, stand and stay when the owner moves away and the dog should also allow the judge to examine him and return to the owner on command.
  • Directed jumping — the dog should go away from the owner, turn and sit. Then, the dog must jump when the handler indicates so and return.

Rally obedience training

Rally obedience is a new dog storm that has become very popular. Unlike the regular obedience competition, the dog owners are allowed to encourage their dogs. Additionally, this sport is more fun and enjoyable than the typical obedience trials that must wait for the judge’s orders. This sport is based on obedience and the owner and dog follow the signs and directional arrows while going through the stations.

Rally obedience training

There are three levels of AKC rally:

  • Novice (the first level which consists of exercises that are performed with the dog on leash and 15-20 stations).
  • Advanced (the second level which consists of exercises that are all performed with the dog off leash and 12-17 stations).
  • Excellent (the highest level which consists of exercises that are all performed with the dog off leash and 15-20 stations. The owners are not allowed to encourage their dog physically, only verbally).

One of the main objectives of the rally is that the dog can behave in their home or in the public places including the presence of other dogs and people.

Agility training

Dog agility is a dog sport in which a dog owner directs a dog through various obstacles in a race in which time and accuracy are very important. Agility represents a great chance for an owner and dog to bond and create a great teamwork because trust, patience and understanding are of utmost importance when it comes to agility. A judge creates a set of obstacles according to his own design and the owner can use hand gestures and voice in order to guide a dog to the goal while not slacking off.

When it comes to obstacles, there are: A-frame, dog walk, teeter-totter or seesaw, crossover, tunnel, Collapsed Tunnel or chute/cloth tunnel and other tunnels. When it comes to jumps which are the important part of the agility race, there are: double and triple jump or spread jump, hurdle, panel jump, broad jump, tire jump, other hurdles such as bush hurdle, log hurdle, long hurdle etc.

You can read more in this great article on agility training for dogs.

Tracking training

Dog tracking is a very special technique in which a dog is trained to track various objects, animals or people by their scent. There are several uses for this, and tracking dogs are mostly used in police, where their tasks are to track down dead or missing individuals, recover evidence or find drugs, explosives etc. There are also search and rescue dogs, dogs that are used for hunting and dogs that compete in tracking as in competitions and tracking trials.

Tracking training

Dogs are known for having a very keen sense of smell which is 100,000 times stronger and better than humans, and that makes them the perfect rescuers and trackers. AKC Tracking is a popular sport in which a dog demonstrates its ability to track and recover a lost object; these trials are usually performed in the open where a dog is in a complete charge because only he knows where and how to track.

A dog owner cannot teach or train his dog how to track, but we can train our dogs what and when to track. It is known that dogs love tracking, so if you train with your dog and teach him that tracking can always be fun and ends up with him being rewarded, then the dog will be motivated to do an even better job. It is important to remember to see the limitations of your dog and never to push or punish him.

Additionally, there are various factors that influence a dog’s tracking ability and some of them are age and sex. The older a dog, the weaker is his ability to track because his sense becomes weaker. It has also been noted that male dogs are better when it comes to tracking, mostly due to the olfaction differences in sexes.


Conformation is another term for dog shows. The title may seem glamorous and fancy; however, the true purpose of dog shows is to evaluate the breeding stock. This means that conformation stands for a dog’s overall appearance and ability to produce purebred puppies. That is why mixed-breeds and neutered dogs are not allowed to compete in dog shows.

Since dogs are variable animals, there is no only one standard and there are no strict requirements. There is a standard for each breed and details that make a dog conform to most of the items of description. Therefore, the standards are all about a dog’s mental and physical characteristics that make him the perfect breed standard.


Herding can also be a competitive dog sport in which a dog’s ability to move and control the livestock is measured and tested. Dogs usually go through the initial test called the Instinct Test and there is no need to train your dog for this. Some of the popular dog breeds suitable for herding are: Corgi, German Shepherd Dog, Puli, Border Collie, Australian Cattle Dog, Sheepdog, Swedish Vallhund and many more.

The basic herding commands include: come-bye or just bye, away to me, or just away or ‘way, stand, wait, (lie) down or sit,  steady or take time, cast, find, get out or get back, hold, bark or speak up, look back, in here, walk up, walk on or just walk and that’ll do.

Therapy dogs

Therapy dogs are dogs that are trained and used to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, schools, retirement homes, disaster areas and other. It has been proved that interaction with therapy dogs reduce stress and affects the brain in a positive way. Therapy dogs can also help children with difficulties in reading and learning – the children read to dogs which relax them and build their self-confidence.

Therapy dogs

In order for a dog to become a therapy dog, he or she must be able to handle sudden, loud and strange noises, walk on unfamiliar surfaces comfortably, is not afraid of people with canes or people who are in wheelchairs and get along well with children, older people and mentally disabled people. These are the basic requirements for a dog to be able to become a therapy dog.

There is also a difference between therapy and service dogs. Service dogs are dogs which are trained to perform specific tasks in order to help a person with a disability, for example, a visually impaired person. These dogs have a special privileges and an access to public places such as planes and restaurants. Therapy dogs do not have these privileges and they work together with their owners.

If you’re interested in your canine becoming a therapy dog, you should see what’s involved in the process by checking out how to train a therapy dog.

Canine good citizen

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is a program that was established by American Kennel Club in 1989. This program encourages pet owners to enroll and train their dogs to be well mannered and good dogs, so they learn to behave in society and around other dogs, animals and people. The dogs that pass the evaluation test receive the Canine Good Citizen certificate and it is a great starting point for advanced training. If you would like to show off and reward your dog for being a good mannered doggie, then this may be a great idea to get a proof for that.

CGC certificate

The CGS test includes:

  1. Accepting a friendly stranger – the dog allows a complete stranger who is friendly to approach and talk to him;
  2. Sitting politely for petting — the dog allows a complete stranger who is friendly to approach and pet him;
  3. Appearance and grooming — the dog allows a groomer or veterinarian to check his ears and front feet;
  4. Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead) – the dog is able to walk on a loose lead next to his owner;
  5. Walking through a crowd – the dog is able to walk in a crowd politely without disturbing other people – he walks next to his owner and passes at least three people politely;
  6. Sit and down on command and staying in place – the dog must listens to his owner’s command and sit and stay down in place when the owner moves away.
  7. Coming when called – the dog must come when his owner calls him and the distance should be at least 10 feet on a leash;
  8. Reaction to another dog – this test demonstrates the dog’s ability to react positively to another dog, presumably the unfamiliar one. The dogs approach each other and greet each other.
  9. Reaction to distraction – the test consists of trying to distract a dog by dropping a chair or by using some other means of distraction;
  10. Calmly enduring supervised separation from the owner – this is an important test that shows a dog’s ability to stay calm and well mannered in a presence of another person. It also means that the owner can leave the dog to another person’s care if there is a reason for that.  For example, the evaluator would ask the owner something like ‘Can I take a hold of your dog?’ and the owner would get out of dog’s sight for three minutes. The dog will pass the test if he does not bark, growl or show any signs of aggression or nervousness. The dog does not have to stay calm for the entire time or to not move at all; however, the evaluator should not touch the dog, just hold him on the leash.

To sum up, it is important to train your dog from an early age, because it will be easier both for you and him to learn the commands later on.

Additionally, it is a great chance to bond and understand each other more. However, if you wish to take this a step further, then enrolling your beloved furry friend into competitions and trials is a great idea because it can be fun and motivating.

Canine good citizen

In this article we mentioned herding, dog shows, tracking, agility, rally and the basic obedience competitions and tests. You must teach your dogs some basic commands and tricks, and most of them are covered by The Canine Good Citizen program. It is your responsibility to make sure that your dog is safe and that he behaves properly.

It is of utmost importance to teach him basic commands so he would not get into trouble or cause trouble for the others, however, it is up to you whether you would take it steps further and go to the competitions and trials in order to receive certificates. However, these trials and competitions are the proof of good relationship and communication between the owner and dog and it is always fun to be part of them.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.