UKC Obedience in a Nutshell

Geoff Stern
(e-mail: [email protected])

A while ago, Quip and I entered some UKC obedience trials at Weston Dog Training Club in Waltham MA and the American Eskimo Dog Club of New England shows in Russell MA. I’d never shown in UKC and had seen it only once, so I cast around for information on how UKC Novice differs from AKC and ASCA and got some advice from various folks on the Belg-L e-mail discussion list and elsewhere, and I tracked down some other information on my own.

Here’s a quick view of UKC obedience for people accustomed to AKC or ASCA. This isn’t a complete set of UKC rules and regulations, but it’ll get you started.


The only obedience training book I’ve found that specifically covers UKC exercises is “Fido, Come”: Training Your Dog with Love and Understanding by Liz Palika. The approach is pretty conventional, with very little compulsion. Palika’s training recipes are pretty much for post-Beginners students who want some greater precision with their dogs and are interested in competition training. The descriptions of the exercises aren’t especially detailed, but each section includes the relevant portion of the AKC and UKC score sheets which is a nice touch.

There are some excellent online resources for UKC obedience:

You can also check other event calendars such as The Match Show Bulletin for lists of UKC trials.

UKC Novice

Far as I can tell, here are the chief differences between UKC and AKC (or ASCA) in the Novice class:

1. Honor Down exercise

UKC has an Honor Down instead of a Long Down in AKC and ASCA. “Honoring” is taken from field work and hunting where a dog must stay in position while another dog does a retrieve. For the Honor Down, one of the stewards escorts you and your dog into the ring. It’s a kind of individual Long Down. At the judge’s order, you put your dog in a down-stay (leaving your leash behind your dog) and go to the other side of the ring.

Meanwhile, another dog — called the “working dog” — enters the ring and does the Heel on Leash and Figure-8. As soon as that dog finishes the Figure-8, the judge will tell you to return to your dog. When the judge says “Exercise finished,” put your dog on leash, and then one of the stewards will usher you out of the ring. Each dog in the class gets to be an honoring dog and a working dog.

By the way, the Long Sit is the same in UKC as in AKC or ASCA — 1 minute in a group, with the handlers standing opposite their dogs at the other end of the ring.

2. Recall Over the High Jump exercise

Instead of a straight, flat recall as in AKC and ASCA, there’s a Recall Over the High Jump, with the two ring stewards standing on either side of the jump. You leave your dog on one side of the jump, walk around to the other side, and call him over to you. The rest of the exercise is just Ye Olde Fronte & Finishe.

In UKC, the jump height is the dog’s height at the shoulders, measured in increments of 2” and rounded down; the maximum is 24”, and the minimum is 8”. For example, if your dog measures 21”, he jumps 20”. If he’s 30”, he jumps 24”, and if he’s 7½”, he jumps 8”. You specify the dog’s height on your entry form.

3. Voice commands and hand signals

There’s a slight difference in the rules for voice commands and hand signals. UKC lets you use a voice command or hand signal — or both — for all exercises except heeling, where it’s one or the other. In AKC and ASCA, you can use a voice command and hand signal for stays only; otherwise, it’s one or the other.

So, for example, in the Recall Over the High Jump in UKC Novice, you can use a verbal command like “ Come!” or “Jump!” and simultaneously give a hand signal.

However, this belts-and-suspenders approach may not be a good habit, especially if you’re going to be showing in AKC and ASCA.

4. Classes, registration, and titles

UKC has Novice A (for rookies) and Novice B (everyone else) just like AKC and ASCA, but UKC also has a Novice C class for dogs who already have a UCD title but don’t yet have a qualifying score in Open. (This may be changing to allow even more entries in Novice C.) The recent AKC rule change about continuing to show in Novice until you get a leg in Open (or win HIT) is roughly equivalent. If your dog has a CD or similar title from another registry, or if you have a UCD on another dog, you enter the Novice B class in UKC. For example, even though I’d never shown in UKC, and Quip didn’t then have any obedience titles, I still entered Novice B because of the AKC and ASCA titles on my other dogs.

Also, UKC has some rules and about persons other than the owner showing a dog, and there are administrivial differences and some gotchas in scoring (such as starting with the first sit in a runoff). In some ways, UKC obedience regulations are less detailed than AKC’s and allows for judges’ discretion in scoring. Generally, UKC is less formal. For example, practicing on the show grounds is acceptable — some trials will have a practice ring.

To qualify for a title, you need three qualifying scores in Novice at three different trials — same as in AKC or ASCA — but you need only two different judges. This is why many UKC clubs offer back-to-back trials on the same day or weekend, because even if you get two legs under the same judge, they can count towards a title.

To show in UKC, your dog must have a UKC registration. This isn’t difficult to arrange. Check the UKC Web site for more information. UKC recognizes several breeds not recognized by AKC. Also, keep in mind that UKC is allied with the American Mixed Breed Obedience Registry (AMBOR,) so you can also show your “,all-American” dog at UKC trials.

UKC titles are prefixed with U — thus, UCD, UCDX, UUD, and UOCH. The titles used to have a hyphen, but that’s been dropped. By convention, UKC puts all titles, not just championships, at the start of the dog’s name. Thus, Quip is properly:

UCD Klaar Boldface Quotation CD ASCA-CD HIC CGC

UKC Open

In the UKC Open class, the chief differences from AKC or ASCA are the Honor Down, again, and the role of the steward as a distraction in the Heel Free and Drop on Recall exercises.

The Honor Down in Open is pretty much the same as in Novice, except the handler goes out of sight. The steward will escort you out of the ring and back in when the working dog finishes heeling.

In the Heel Free, one of the stewards walks the reverse of the heeling pattern as a distraction — usually, you’ll “encounter” the steward twice in the heeling pattern. Otherwise, it’s the same old stroll in the park, followed by an off-leash Figure-8.

In the Drop on Recall, while your dog is down, a steward will walk past the dog. Once the steward has gone by, the judge will have you call the dog to front, and things then go pretty much the same as in AKC or ASCA.

For the Broad Jump, there’s a slight difference in how the jump height is calculated. In UKC, the Broad Jump is set to twice the dog’s height at the shoulders, rather than twice the high jump. So, for example, a dog who’s 25” at the shoulders jumps 50” on the Broad Jump. (On the high jump, that dog jumps 24” which is the maximum in UKC.)

The other exercises — Retrieve on the Flat, Retrieve Over the Jump, and Long Sit — are the same as in AKC and ASCA. Also, UKC specifies some breeds jump only ¾ height (pretty much the breeds you’d figure), and Veteran dogs (8 years or older) may elect to jump ¾ height, too.

UKC has Open A for those seeking a UCDX, and Open B for those seeking a UOCH — or dogs having the equivalent of a UCDX from another registry, such as an AKC CDX. (In other words, if your dog has a similar title in any other registry, you must show in the B classes in UKC.)

UKC Utility

UKC Utility is rather different from AKC and ASCA, and the consensus is it’s harder. (Yikes.)

The Signals exercise and Directed Jumping are pretty much the same as in AKC and ASCA. In Scent Discrimination, the biggest difference is that UKC has only metal articles— no leather (as in AKC and ASCA) and no wood (as in CKC). Also, UKC doesn’t allow a “turn-and-send” option; the dog must do a sit, and you have to wait until the judge tells you to send the dog to the article pile. There are some other minor differences, too.

What really makes UKC Utility harder are the two Directed Retrieves and the Consecutive Recalls.

For the Directed Retrieves, instead of the gloves being lined up at the one end of the ring, glove #1 is near the left barrier, #2 near the center of the far barrier (as in AKC or ASCA), and #3 near the right barrier. Conceptually, the gloves are the bases of a baseball diamond, with you and your dog at home plate. Also, the gloves are placed in full view of the dog and handler — you’re not facing away from the gloves as in AKC and ASCA.

In the Directed “Marked” Retrieve, you send the dog from heel position to fetch one of gloves (judge’s choice) as in AKC or ASCA.

In the Directed “ Signal” Retrieve, you first send your dog to the center of the diamond — conceptually, the pitcher’s mound — a kind of go-out or send-away with a sit on command, similar to Directed Jumping. You then signal (or signal and command) the dog to whichever glove the judge indicates. This is one case where you must use a signal, not just a voice command. It’s a tricky exercise.

In the Consecutive Recalls, the dog first does a Drop on Recall and then does a straight Recall — from the same spot. (Fortunately, there’s no distraction with the stewards this time.) Unlike the Drop on Recall in Open, you can’t use both a voice command and hand signal; here it’s one or the other.

Directed Jumping is the same as in AKC and ASCA — high jump and bar jump. The stewards have a bit of shlepping to do, moving the jumps in and out of the ring, because of the space needed for the other exercises. Utility takes a little longer in UKC.

UKC has Utility A for those seeking a UUD, and Utility B for those seeking a UOCH — or dogs having the equivalent of a UUD from another registry (such as an AKC UD). Also, UKC awards UOCH points based on scores, rather than class placements. The OB and UB classes don’t have “ scrambled” orders as in AKC, but UKC Utility is probably tough enough in a standard order of exercises.

© 2002 Geoff Stern rev. 021214
Thanks to Elaine Hamill, Tammy Doherty, and other reviewers and advisers.
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