Rewording of Descriptions and Explanatory Notes for Obedience Tests

The Kennel Club has reworded the relevant section of the Descriptions and Explanatory Notes for Obedience Tests. All handlers and judges should be aware of the new wording which will be effective from 1st January 2017.

These amendments have come about as a result of concerns expressed within the world of canine activities, about a small number of dogs which appear to have been taught to hold a position in heelwork which entails the dog effectively walking on its pasterns.

This poses a potential issue with regard to the health and welfare of dogs which must remain paramount in all Kennel Club licensed events. Judges should be aware that dogs should be balanced, with rear pasterns vertical, and that dogs which do not conform to this standard must be penalised as a major fault.

The amendment is as follows:

“Annex C to G Regulations


1. General


a. In all Classes the dog should work in a happy and natural manner but should not impede the handler and prime consideration should be given to judging the dog and handler as a team. The dog may be encouraged and praised except where specifically stated.


a. In all classes the dog and handler should work as a team.  In all exercises the dog will work in a happy and natural manner whilst maintaining its natural topline.  Its head position should in no way compromise its topline or impair the natural movement of the dog.  At no time should the dog impede the handler’s movement. The dog may be encouraged and praised except where specifically stated.  The emphasis of all exercises is that the dog must be judged for accuracy.

The following additions to Notes for Judges have also been made:

  • In some cases the tendency to work with almost horizontal pasterns is a result of trying to achieve an extreme head position. It should be noted that most dogs adopting a high head position can do so without compromising rear end movement and careful thought should be given to the difference.
  • It is important to stress that this rule should not be used as an excuse to mark any particular style that is not to the judge’s individual taste. 

Kathryn Symns, Kennel Club Canine Activities Executive, said: “It is often argued that the way obedience training has evolved over the years has resulted in some dogs not necessarily working in a particularly natural manner. Nevertheless, ‘happy and natural’ are the words supported by this amendment, so this is what judges will be looking for going forward.”

There is a FAQ document on the Kennel Club website relating to this matter.