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April 23, 2014
AKC In The Zone

Dear AKC Obedience Judge:      

Group Exercise FAQ’s regarding changes effective May 1, 2014

Q1.  With the required minimum 4 feet between dogs and a minimum 4 feet from the ring barrier, how many dogs can a judge have in the ring for a set of group exercises?
A. In part, this depends on the size of the dogs and how much space they occupy.  On a 50’ side the maximum # of dogs would be 9; see table below:

Ring Length

Maximum # of Dogs











Q2.  These numbers will affect the dog per hour (dph) rate; has AKC adjusted the dph rate?
A.  No, the numbers will be watched and adjustments will be made if needed.

Q3.  The Obedience Regulations now state, “Dogs must be under control at all times when entering and exiting the ring.” But it doesn’t state if there is a penalty for the dog not being under control.  Should a lack of control be penalized?
A.  Yes.  As with all other specified do’s or don’ts, when the regulations state the exhibitor or dog will do ”X”; or that  “Y” is not allowed, forbidden or prohibited and the penalty is not specified, the penalty is left up to the judge.

Q4.  May judges continue to excuse dogs for uncontrolled behavior?
A.  Yes, in accordance with the Obedience Regulations, Chapter 2, Section 25; any uncontrolled behavior must be penalized according to the seriousness of the misbehavior. The judge may excuse the dog from further competition.  
When the uncontrolled behavior is enough to warrant an excusal by the judge the dog is excused immediately at the point the behavior takes place.  The dog is not allowed to return for the group exercises. Remember, if a dog is excused, write “Excused” and state the reason in the judges’ book.

Q5.  If a dog has demonstrated uncontrolled behavior, why would a judge not excuse that dog?
A.  AKC has long suggested judges excuse uncontrolled dogs.  However, the Regulations state, “the judge may excuse” and some judges choose not to, because, in their opinion, the behavior was not serious enough to do so. The seriousness of “uncontrolled behavior” is somewhat subjective.   In the opinion of each individual judge, there exists some level of uncontrolled behavior that is between excusable and not excusable.

Q6.  What are some common examples of uncontrolled behavior where a judge has chosen not to “excuse” the dog but with these changes must “release” the dog from groups?
A.   A dog that is playful; gets away from its handler a time or two; or receives multiple commands during the heeling; or runs towards the gate on the drop on recall, but with some coaxing comes back to its handler.

These are some examples of dogs that receive a non-qualifying score but are seldom excused.

Q7.  May exhibitors be “released” from exercises other than the groups?
A.  No. The release is from the group exercises only; a dog may only be released if the dog has non-qualified during the individual exercises.

Q8.  Does a “release” apply to all classes in which there are group exercises?   
A. Yes.

Q9.  When does the judge make the decision to “release” a dog from the group exercises?
A.  Immediately following the last individual exercise the judge will inform the handler if the team should return for the group exercises.  The decision to “release” is considered only if the dog non-qualified during the individual exercises.  

Examples of communication:
“You’ve qualified so far, see you for groups.”
“You didn’t qualify today, but see you for groups.”
“You didn’t qualify today and you will be released from groups.”

Q10.  A dog that has been “released” from the stays may not return for the group exercises correct?
A.  That is correct.

Q11. When a judge releases a dog from returning for groups, how should the judges’ book be marked?
A.  In the group boxes the judge would write “Absent-Released” and write an “NQ” in the Total Score box and leave the Final Qualifying Score box blank.

Q12.  If there is an aggression problem between two dogs while lining up outside the ring for groups, the steward brings it to the judges’ attention, but the judge didn’t personally see it; should the judge excuse the dog(s) from the groups?
A.  No, the judge must be the one to witness the potential problem and act based on what they saw.

Q13.  Should the judge “release” a dog that gets up on the first group exercise to roam the ring?
A.  No. The decision to “release” does not replace the procedure for a dog that leaves the place where it was left.  The judge must excuse the dog that leaves the place where it was left and note it as such in the judges’ book i.e. “Excused- left place.”

Q14.  What if the dog moves from the required position, but is under control, after the judge says, “Exercise Finished,” but before the entire sentence of, “Put your leash on your dog. Maintain control of your dog.” has been completed.  Does AKC want us to penalize that?
A.  No, this should be judged the same as all other responses to judge’s orders.  Anticipation prior to the judge giving the order would be penalized.    

With the opportunity to “release” a non- qualifying, questionably controlled dog from the group exercises, it is our hope judges will be more vigilant and cognizant of the safety of all dogs at all times.


Pamela Manaton
Director of Obedience, Rally & Tracking

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