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Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act

"Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act, by Judy Byron and Adele Yunck, addresses obedience training and showing for the first time trainer as well as the seasoned obedience competitor. This comprehensive manual leaves nothing to the trainer's imagination. Every aspect of training and showing is covered, from terminology to teaching the exercises incrementally, proofing, and ring procedure. Careful and complete explanations make reading and following instructions very easy. One of the highlights is Judy's and Adele's attention to providing serious trainers with a variety of methods to proof each exercise. Bravo to Adele and Judy for this great new training book!"

Sandy Ganz, Coauthor of
Tracking Dog eXcellent: A Handbook;
Tracking from the Ground Up;
The Proper Care of the Shetland Sheepdog;
and writer/producer of the video:
Tracking Fundamentals

"I especially appreciate the balanced approach that this book gives. These methods have proven to work beautifully with a variety of dogs and breeds! I particularly loved the detailed explanations, illustrative examples, and variety of options and approaches. Judy and Adele make the training fit your dog instead of trying to make your dog fit the training!"

Jane Jackson, Owner of Labrador Retriever:
OTCh. U-CDX Plymrock's Black Diamond UDX, JH WCI, Can CDX
Winner, 1997 World Series Novice division;
Winner, 1997 Classic Novice division;
Winner, 1998 Easter Regional and Classic Open divisions

"Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act is an excellent reference that explains how to teach, motivate, and proof the exercises from Novice to Utility. It also describes how to transition from teaching to showing. Judy and Adele have trained a variety of different breeds from the Sporting, Terrier, Non-Sporting, and Hound groups, and the methods presented reflect their experience with training dogs that have different personalities and temperaments. The ideas in the book are useful for instructors as well as people training their own dogs. Speed and Chase give it 'two paws up'!"

Terri Clingerman, Owner of Labrador Retriever:
OTCh U-CDX Candlewoods High Speed Chase, UDX JH Can CD
10th Place 1998 World Series Top Dog division

Title: Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act
Author: Judy Byron and Adele Yunck
Publisher: JABBY Productions
Length: 396 pages
Price:$35 (plus $5 shipping)

Best Thing: Wonderful chapter on fundamental words, including a very useful and sensible approach to teaching the foundations of attention.

Worst Thing: Poor quality binding for such a large paperback book; my copy started to fall apart almost immediately. (Note: this review was written soon after the first printing, whose binding was sadly problematic. Subsequent printings had a different type of binding that has been trouble-free.)

Cool Quote: "STRESS is a four-letter word with six letters. Work is play and play is work. This attitude about training should make going into the zing just another walk in the park!"

Appropriate For: Anyone with a serious interest in competition obedience.

In Brief: If you're going to own just one obedience book, this would be the one to buy. It covers everything you can think of about competition obedience, from selecting a puppy to competing in the ring. Byron and Yunck do not pretend to have produced a revolutionary new training "method." Rather, their book is a synthesis and careful organization of all the best ideas that many different motivational trainers have developed over the last decade, along with quite a few useful ideas of their own thrown into the mix. Simply put, digesting this book will make you a better dog trainer.

I was musing the other day about just how many books and videos treating the broad subject of competition obedience are out there: there are books dealing exclusively with attention, retrieving, teaching novice, teaching open, teaching utility, judging, showing... a person could go broke fast. And really, the cynic in me always wonders with each new review I write just how much more can there be to say, really? Why yet another book that promises to help us turn our imprecise, inattentive dogs into those dogs who strut their way to an easy OTCH? But then along comes a book like Judy Byron and Adele Yunck's Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act to banish all lurking thoughts of cynicism from my head. This one really is a book that should have been written.

Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act is almost 400 pages long and contains no fewer than 20 chapters and two appendixes, each divided into countless numbers of sections. The book is aimed at competition trainers who aspire at the very least to a UD title. As they write, "We firmly' believe that with the right dog, within the breed of your choice, you can accomplish whatever you wish to accomplish in competition obedience. Your goals are yours, though we think you should aim as high as you and your dog are capable. Some people are limited by time and money, some by physical constraints. By using the following training methods faithfully, you should achieve a level of performance of which you can be proud. Above all, you and your dog should be happy and enjoy training. This is our goal when we train our own dogs. Isn't that what a sport is all about?" (1). And they're serious about the "balancing act" of the book's title: Byron and Yunck try very hard to maintain a careful balance between motivation and correction, and that moderate philosophy is laced throughout the training methods discussed in the book.

Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act is truly a collaborative venture, both between Byron and Yunck and (tacitly) with a number of motivational trainers whom the two authors cite and discuss. Occasionally the two each recommend a slightly different training method, and in those cases both methods are discussed. (Yunck, for instance teaches the down command from a sitting position, while Byron teaches it from a stand. Each is thoroughly covered, leaving the reader to decide which one might be best for her dog.) In addition, when the authors believe that another trainer has an effective method, they own up to that fact without attempting a sleight-of-hand to claim the general idea for themselves. (For example, the chapter on scent discrimination covers proofing the exercise in detail, and also provides a good summary of the tie-down-board method. But their recommendation for teaching the exercise is to purchase Janice Demello's video Around the Clock Method of Scent Discrimination, pure and simple. That's a refreshingly collegial attitude that many other trainers might do well to heed.) Information about the books and videos they recommend is provided in an appendix.

I hate to end a review by saying something to the effect that this book belongs in everyone's library, but this particular book really does belong in the library of anyone who considers herself a serious trainer. I feel lucky to have read it, and it really makes me eager to do it right with that mythical Next puppy, the one I haven't messed up yet. In addition to providing a solid foundation for you and your dog, Competition Obedience: A Balancing Act will give newbies to serious dog training a good idea of other books and videos to explore as they build their libraries and consolidate their training methods. This book will be a hard one to top!

Heather Nadelman
Media Hound, Front & Finish