Obedience as a competitive sport can be compared to the equestrian sport of dressage, with an emphasis on precision, responsiveness, and versatility. The extensive range of skills required provides plenty of variety and challenge for both dog and handler. Dogs perform a series of set exercises, including heelwork, recalls, retrieving, scent work, stays, and distance work. The difficulty, length, and complexity of the exercises increases at each of the five levels of competition.
As well as competing for placings, a variety of awards and titles can be earned by Obedience dogs. Companion Dog trials offer the opportunity for dogs to qualify for Companion Dog awards, ranging from Bronze to Gold. A very successful dog may also attain the Test C Qualified award, while exceptional dogs may earn the title of Obedience Champion, or Grand Obedience Champion. Achieving any of these awards means a dog can carry the relevant letters before or after his name.
Modern training methods for Obedience are based on rewards and enjoyment, not force or coercion. While points are not awarded for style or eagerness, a good competitive dog should be keen to work, full of confidence, quick and responsive, and obviously having fun.