Obedience trials are competitions that test the ability of dogs to obey a series of verbal or nonverbal commands. Most obedience trials are held in conjunction with dog shows, which they resemble closely in organization and scoring. At obedience trials dogs compete in three progressively difficult test-classes—novice, competing for the companion dog (CD) title; open, for the companion dog excellent (CDX) title; and utility, for the utility dog (UD) title. Dogs may also earn tracking dog (TD) and tracking dog excellent (TDX) titles.
Six basic obedience skills are tested at novice trials. These skills include heeling on the leash,heeling free, the stand for examination, the recall, the long sit, and the long down. In heeling exercises, the dog paces along beside its handler, keeping its shoulder and head even with the handler's left hip. To stand for examination the dog must remain perfectly still on command and allow a judge to examine it closely. To execute the recall the handler orders the dog to sit, withdraws to a distance of 6 m (20 ft), and commands the animal to come. The long sit and long down exercises require a dog to sit or lie still for varying periods in the absence of its handler.
The open and utility trials require mastery of more difficult skills. Among these are retrieving, tracking of scents, jumping over hurdles, and responding to hand signals. A dog receiving qualifying scores from three separate judges in authorized obedience competition progresses toward a title in its competition category.