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Starting your Ridgeback in performance events

Ridgebacks, being versatile hounds, are eligible for several AKC performance events, including obedience, lure coursing, agility, tracking and, unofficially, herding instinct tests. (The RRCUS recognizes the HIC title for it’s versatility title.) So how does a person go about getting started?

Who can participate? While age requirements vary with the event, all dogs must be at least six months old to participate in any AKC-licensed event. Any dog that is registered with the AKC or has an AKC Indefinite Listing Privilege (“ILP number”) may be entered, including those that are spayed and neutered. Anyone can handle their own dog in these events.

The easiest way to find out when and where any AKC event is being held is to subscribe to the AKC Gazette, a monthly magazine. The magazine is accompanied by another publication, Events, which is a comprehensive listing of all AKC-sanctioned trials. Or, check the on-line “Events Calendar” on AKC’s website under “Dogs in Competition.” Many of the AKC-licensed shows throughout the country have added one or more of these events as special attractions or exhibitions and all these activities make for an interesting family outing.


Obedience trials test a dog’s ability to perform a prescribed set of exercises on which it is scored. In each exercise, you and your dog must score more than 50% of the possible points (ranging from 20-40) and get a total score of a least 170 out of a possible 200. Each time your dog gets that magical 170 qualifying score, we say he’s gotten a “leg” toward his title. Three legs and your dog has become an obedience titled dog! There are three levels at which your dog can earn a title and each is more difficult than the one before it. In addition, each level has an “A” and “B” division. Basically, “A” is for beginners whose dogs have never received a title, while “B” classes are for more experienced handlers.

Novice: The first level requires your dog to demonstrate the skills required of a good canine companion. The exercises are to heel both on and off leash at different speeds, come when called, stay (still and quiet) with a group of other dogs and allow a standing physical exam from the judge. The title awarded your dog for getting three legs in the Novice class is that of Companion Dog, or “CD,” after his registered name.

Open: In this class the dog must do many of the same Novice exercises but all are off-leash. In addition, there are jumping and retrieving tasks and the group “stays” are for a longer period with the handler out of sight. The title earned for this class is called Companion Dog Excellent, or “CDX.”

Utility: The “creme de la creme” of the obedience world go on to earn this title. In addition to more difficult exercises, like the directed retrieve and jumping, the dog must do scent discrimination tasks. The title earned in this class is called Utility Dog, or “UD.”

OTCH and UDX: The best of the best can go on for more titles. Utility Dogs that continue to compete and earn legs at 10 shows become Utility Dog Excellence (“UDX”). Utility Dogs that are ranked first or second in Open B or Utility classes can earn points toward a title called the Obedience Trial Champion, or “OTCH.”


Ever watched a show or movie where the bloodhounds track the criminals through the swamp? Well, AKC Tracking Trials allow dogs to demonstrate their natural ability to recognize and follow human scent. Unlike Obedience Trials which require three legs, Tracking titles can be completed with only one track. A dog is required to follow a human scent that can be from 30 minutes to two hours old over 440- 500 yards with turns.

Tracking also has several levels, including Tracking Dog Excellent (“TDX”) and Variable Surface Tracking (“VST”).

Getting Started in Obedience or tracking

If all this sounds like fun (and it is!) then here are some ideas and resources:

  1. Don’t wait! Puppy kindergarten classes are designed for two to five-month old puppies and really focus on the very basics of training. Many basic training classes start puppies at five to six months of age. Just like kids, puppies pick up lessons very quickly when learning is made into a fun activity.
  2. Local dog clubs may hold classes that are taught by people knowledgeable in the sport and can help you train for these exercises. There are five kinds of dog clubs to look for
  • Obedience clubs;
  • Tracking clubs;
  • All-Breed clubs;
  • Group clubs (devoted to a variety groups, like Hounds or Toys); and
  • Local Specialty clubs (those devoted to one breed.).

  1. There may be either one, several or all of these types of clubs in your area that either hold classes and/or publish newsletters with articles. Getting involved with a club can teach you many more things about your dog that can be helpful. You can access the AKC’s web site for the geographical listings of clubs across the U.S.
  2. The AKC will supply you with information on all of these events. To request this information, access their web site or write and ask for free rules and regulations on your favorite event.
  3. Local libraries, book stores or pet supply stores will usually carry several books on training your dog. You’ll find that every author has his or her own method — no one has a patent on the right method! It’s best to explore many methods and find what works best for you and your dog.
  4. Once you’re started, test your budding skill at matches. These are informal, inexpensive practice shows put on by dog clubs or groups. While you won’t earn legs toward your title, you will get a taste of doing it “for real.”
  5. Attend some trials to observe and mingle. You’ll see skilled dogs and handlers (and many who need to work some more!). You can meet people who have the same interests as you and can give you some tips or direct you to other classes and events in your area.
  6. Agility

    Agility is one of the newest AKC events and it is open to every breed. Dogs must be at least one year old to participate. In an agility trial a dog demonstrates its ability to negotiate a complex course which may include a walk over a bridge, jumping through objects, going through tunnels and pausing on command. There are different height categories so each dog is tested fairly on the course. Agility is exciting for the dogs, handlers and spectators. There are sanctioned agility clubs and there are also many breed and obedience clubs that offer agility competitions. Many of these clubs also offer classes and less formal matches for beginners. You can read all about agility rules and regulations on AKC’s web site .

    Lure Coursing

    Lure coursing trials consist of dogs following a lure around a course on an open field. (The lure is generally a while plastic bag, meant to simulate a rabbit.) Coursing dogs are scored on speed, enthusiasm, agility, endurance and their ability to follow the lure. There are other sighthound breeds besides Ridgebacks that can course at the same trials.

    Training for coursing trials is a great way to keep your dog physically and mentally fit. A dog must be a least one year old to run at an AKC event. Dogs with breed disqualifications are not eligible, which means Ridgebacks without ridges cannot participate.

    Many clubs offer non-competitive lure coursing clinics for those new to the event. Check AKC’s list of geographical clubs for the club nearest you or look for lure coursing tests at AKC’s web site .

    The American Sighthound Field Association (“ASFA”) also has numerous lure coursing events around the country and you can check their events on-line.

    Got more questions? Read Bonnie Dalzell’s unofficial Lure Coursing Home Page .


    Although not eligible for an AKC title in herding, Ridgebacks can participate when local groups hold herding clinics and offered a certificate from their local club to any breed that passes the instinct test. The best part about this test is your Ridgeback INSTINCTIVELY KNOWS WHAT TO DO! It’s the most AMAZING thing you’ll ever experience! Check and find a local herding club or look for herding tests in the Gazette or on-line at the AKC’s web site . Last, get in touch with some herding club members so that they can tell you when the events will be held.