Obedience competitors work at different levels / classes depending on their own and their dog's experience and previous success. Although each class increases in difficulty, the types of the exercises remain similar for the different levels.
The different exercises which each dog and handler team are expected to do are listed below:
Each judge will design a pattern of heelwork (it looks rather like a rail map) that each dog and handler in the class will complete. The complexity and content is dependent upon the class being judged. It is quite simple and straightforward for the Beginner and Novice classes, straight lines with right left and right about turns. Class B introduces changes of pace, slow and fast. Class C heelwork can involve circles, weaves and multiple turning manoeuvres.
In Beginner and Novice this is a recall to sit in front of the handler. The dog must wait while the handler walks away, turns and calls the dog to sit neatly in front and then go to heel. In Class A it is a recall to heel. The handler walks away and then calls the dog while continuing to walk forwards. The dog must catch up and walk to heel with the handler as in heelwork until told to stop.
In all classes the dog sits at the handler's side while an article is thrown. It is then sent to retrieve it, return smartly to sit in front, give up the article and then go to heel. Beginner dogs can retrieve whatever their handler provides, Novice and Class A it is a dumbbell, in Class B and C the judge will provide a similar article for each dog. The stipulations are that no item can be food; it must be clearly visible and capable of being picked up by each dog.
The dog is sent to a designated place within the ring, it must drop to the down, smartly, on command from the handler. The dog must then wait until called to heel. The sendaway area is usually set out by markers and the judge will stipulate where the dog must land within this section. During its career a dog will be expected to cope with a variety of sendaway areas. This test is quite difficult to teach well as it requires the dog to understand but not anticipate the various needs of the test.
All classes have a 'sit stay' and 'down stay' and all the dogs in the class do these two exercises together as a group. The dog is expected to remain in the designated position while the handler walks way, out of sight in the higher classes, for a designated time. It may only move when allowed to do so, when the handler returns to the dogs' side. For the Beginner Class the 'sit stay' lasts for 1 minute and the handler remains in sight. The 'sit stay' increases in difficulty to 2 minutes and the in Class C the handler is out of sight. For the Beginner Class the 'down stay' lasts 2 minutes with the handler in sight and builds up to 10 minutes with the handler out of sight for Class C.
Exercises for more Advanced Classes
Dogs naturally have a far superior sense of smell to humans. The scent discrimination test is first introduced in Class A where the dog must find a cloth with the handlers scent on it from a line of 5 other blank (non-scented) cloths. In Class B up to 10 cloths can be set out in any pattern but this time one has a decoy scent on it. In Class C the dog must locate the cloth with the judges' scent on it, multiple decoy cloths may be used at this level.
Distant Control is only found in Class C. The dog is left in a sit, stand or down position while the handler walks away to a distance of between 10 and 20 paces. The dog is then given a combination of 6 positions including sit, stand and down. The dog must not move more than its body length, in any direction, during this exercise.