When AKC first introduced Obedience to dog sports there were only three classes – Novice, Open and Utility classes. Since then, there have been “A” and “B” options for these three classes and numerous advanced titles that can be earned. Today there are many different levels, titles and opportunities for obedience. There is Regular Obedience and Rally Obedience. Under Regular Obedience, in addition to the Novice (CD), Open (CDX) and Utility (UD) classes and there are a number of Optional Titling classes that have been added to help the exhibitor and their canine companion prepare for the regular classes. AKC has more information here.
The Puli has proven to be a very good obedience dog with a high percentage of success for the number of Pulik that have shown and achieved recognition and titles compared to the size of the breed. (number of registered Pulik). While a number of people are afraid of a Puli’s coat when doing obedience, it is should be emphasized that a Puli does NOT have to be fully corded to compete. You will generally see dogs whose cords have been trimmed short or may even have a short brushed coat. They are also allowed to have hair on the head pulled into a topknot to keep it out of their eyes if desired.
The AKC began offering obedience competitions in the late 1930s (AKC Obedience history) around the same time that the AKC recognized the Puli as a breed. “Dongo” (Kurucz Legeny CDX) owned and handled by Harriet K. Ewing in 1947 was the first Puli to earn a CD and CDX. By June 2015, 646 Pulik had earned a combined 995 titles in the regular obedience classes (note: the statistics for 2015 are incomplete). Titles are awarded for each level of obedience in the Novice, Open, and Utility classes, with continued titles – UDX, OTCH, and OGM – requiring a sustained level of achievement for combinations in the Open and Utility level classes. Pulik have earned 646 CD titles, 227 CDX titles, 93 UD titles, 14 UDX titles, 14 OTCH titles, and 1 OGM title. The number of Pulik earning titles drops sharply after the CD – only 35% of Pulik have earned titles past the CD.
The first Puli (in 1978) to earn the highest obedience title – OTCH – was “Buksi” (CH OTCH Pulikcounty’s Omar Khayaam) owned and handled by Julius Hidassy. (See the article on the history of obedience written by Julius Hidassy.)
Only one Puli, CH OTCH Prydain Edyrnion, (Huggy Bear) has ever received a High In Trial AND Best In Show on the same day, no less, at the Mobile Kennel Club in September 9, 1979. This is a statistic that very few dogs in ANY breed can claim. Huggy Bear was owned by Barb Edwards and Leslie Leland and shown by Leslie.
What makes a good obedience prospect? A dog who: (1) is fit and athletic, with good physical structure; (2) has good energy and sustained interest in working with their human; (3) is intelligent and confident; (4) is biddable (willing to please and has a desire to learn); and (5) has the ability to stay focused.
Looking at dog breeds competing in the obedience ring – the Puli is seldom seen, compared to other breeds like the Golden Retriever. While Pulik are not as numerous as, say for example, Golden Retrievers, and correspondingly, there are also less Pulik successfully competing in obedience than there are for Golden Retrievers – there is actually a higher percentage of OTCH Pulik than there are OTCH Golden Retrievers, relative to the total number of dogs registered in each breed. This interesting fact is something of which we Puli people can be really proud.
The Puli is particularly bright and must be kept challenged. The Puli quickly figures out if the sequence is A then B then C then D, why shouldn’t he/she simply go from A to D? Or “why do I have to wait for the command if I know what comes next.” The human part of the team must keep the Puli on his/her toes and engaged. The sport is about having fun and presenting new challenges to maintain the interest, while also providing precision. Neither the Puli nor the handler can think of themselves as an individual; they are a part of a team.
An obedience dog can complete for many years. There are physical demands and it is important to have regular health checks done. Hips, elbows, eyes, heart, and patellas to name a few, are important to have checked on your dog. The coat of the Puli in obedience is not as important as it is in conformation. The coat can be any length and can be corded or brushed, and the hair can be tied back in a topknot. Frequently, the coat is trimmed to a short length to preclude problems of the cords hitting a jump and causing a bar to fall or be interpreted by the judge as the dog “hitting” the jump instead of clearing it.
PCA has always felt it is important to showcase all of the attributes of the breed including conformation, obedience, herding and agility. The National Specialty includes conformation, regular obedience, and Rally obedience each year, as well as herding and agility in most years. The list of High Scoring Puli in Trial may be found here.
Since 1995, the AKC has held an annual National Obedience Invitational, which is now called the National Obedience Championship. The top OTCH or OTCH-pointed dogs from each breed are invited to compete. As a point to note, that in spite of the relatively small numbers of Puli compared to other breeds (like the Golden Retriever), at least one Puli has been invited every year since the event began.This means there has been one or more Pulik that have earned OTCH points and could be invited; many breeds cannot say this.