Things have been crazy the past few months. Without our usual social gatherings and daily commutes, a lot of us find ourselves with extra downtime. Instead of another Netflix binge, why not work with your dog? A lot of dogs are getting extra walks right now but mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise.
Training will pass the time, entertain both you and your dog, and create a stronger bond between the two of you. On top of the obvious benefits of a well behaved dog, you’ll both be problem solving, exercising the mind, and doing something fun! Plus the mental stimulation is a guaranteed way to wear out your energetic dog when we’re social distancing.
There are so many resources available to us online, you and your dog can learn almost anything. And since you’ll be learning so much why not earn some titles or certifications along the way? Here are four fun ways to beat the boredom with your dog!
Photo American Kennel Club
Canine Good Citizen is a program through the American Kennel Club that certifies your dog meets a certain level of good manners and general obedience. You and your dog will work as a team to learn, and be tested on, 10 skills. These include loose leash walking, greeting a friendly stranger and coming when called to name a few.
Why should your dog be a good citizen?
Having a well mannered and polite dog makes life so much easier! Knowing you can count on your dog to not react to strangers or walk calmly through crowds gives you a lot of peace of mind. It’s easier to take your best friend to dog friendly activities when you know they are comfortable and will listen to you. Plus, who doesn’t love the compliments when your dog is so well behaved? It’s a sure sign that you are being a responsible dog owner.
Learning new skills also helps build your dog’s confidence in everyday life. The world is less scary when they know what is expected of them. CGC sets clear expectations to help you and your dog focus on success.
Another great reason to get your CGC is if you intend to train as a therapy dog, participate in dog sports, or work a job like herding or tracking. These are foundational skills all dogs should have and it will make it easier to train more difficult tasks in the future.
Any dog, mixed or purebred, can participate and there are no age restrictions. You will need to meet up with an evaluator for the test, but until then, you can practice at home and perfect your skills!
Photo Do More With Your Dog
If you’re more into tricks or you already have your CGC check out Do More With Your Dog! Dog trainer Kyra Sundance created a title program for training tricks of various difficulties to encourage fun and teamwork with your pup.
Why should you earn trick titles?
Tricks are usually pretty useless in life but they are great crowd pleasers! Plus you’ll be enriching your dog’s life and wearing them out mentally with difficult tasks. My dog can run for hours and still have energy but after 15 minutes of trick training, she usually needs a nap.
And not every trick is just for fun! Opening and closing doors and putting their toys away are all helpful in everyday life. You can even train them to bring you certain items like your phone or a drink!
DMWYD offers 5 title levels from novice up to champion. Each level requires your dog to perform a set number of tricks from the approved list. Books, videos and ebooks are available to break down each trick so you’ll know how to teach it.
You can also join a Facebook Spark group where you can get tips, feedback, and moral support. Each group is run by a test evaluator and the best part is they can verify your submissions via video! No need to meet up with anyone or leave the comfort of home. Once approved you can then apply for your certificate and title! DMWYD is also open to mixed and purebred dogs. Even cats!
With all of your dog’s new skills maybe they’ll go on to be the next animal movie star! At the very least you can show off your ribbons and brag at the dog park.
Photo Dog Scouts of America
Dog Scouts of America is just as adorable as it sounds! This little known program has been around since 1995 and is growing in popularity. The DSA is a non-profit focused on making dog’s lives better. The program is a bit more in depth than CGC and does require more testing but earning this title is sure to guarantee you have a well rounded dog.
Why should your dog be a dog scout?
Like their motto says, “Let us learn all that we can, so that we may become more helpful.”
DSA focuses not only on general obedience and fun tricks, but also community service and safety. Dog scouts and their handlers must also agree to follow the Dog Scout Laws which are aimed at creating well mannered and safe dogs as well as responsible owners.
To become a dog scout you need to pay the membership fee and pass the certification test, which is similar to the CGC. Once your dog becomes a scout they can start earning merit badges! And yes, they do have bandanas, vests and actual patches!
DSA offers over 100 different merit badges ranging from agility to first aid. They also offer titles for various events including sport scenting, trail dog and treibball. The possibilities are almost endless!
Once you’re in the DSA you can even join a troop or participate in camps! Troops organize group activities in your area including community service, hikes and fundraising. DSA also offers online training courses and tons of resources to help you and your dog along the way.
Photo Fenzi Dog Sports Academy
One of the things I love about the internet is having access to amazing professionals from all over the world. Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is an online school for all things dog sports and gives you direct access to a ton of high level trainers!
Why should you try Fenzi Dog Sports Academy?
FDSA covers a wide range of sports and activities and gives you a focused schedule and curriculum to follow. This organization sets you up for success while allowing for one-on-one help from anywhere in the world.
Each class offers 3 levels for participation (gold, silver, and bronze) at various price points. Gold members get the fullest interactive experience by using videos to share their training with the teacher and class for feedback and assistance. Bronze members have access to the curriculum without video or forum participation. Bronze level starts at $65 and goes up to $260 for gold.
With more than 30 instructors you’ll get to learn from some of the top trainers in their field. And not just sports. Many trainers offer classes for behavioral issues, such as reactivity, and training foundations to help improve your skills.
FDSA operates like a real school with classes only available during certain sessions. They rotate their curriculum every 8 weeks so if you miss something it will come around again soon.
In addition to regular classes they also offer self study, webinars, and workshops! If you’re looking for a way to work on a specific sport or task without leaving home, FDSA is a fantastic resource.
Where to start?
Identifying your specific goals will help you choose what to work on first. If you are wanting to improve general obedience and behavior Canine Good Citizen is a fantastic place to start. Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is your best bet if you want to start or get better at a particular activity. Dog Scouts of America is best for dogs and owners looking to do some good in their community. And Do More With Your Dog is just plain fun!
No matter what activity you choose to pursue, or what level you take it to, you and your dog will benefit from regular training. Working with your dog is a journey with no end point and we should never stop learning and trying to do better. Especially at a time where we find ourselves (dogs and humans alike) lacking the mental stimulation we normally get from our regular social activities. Learning new things provides them with the mental enrichment they need to feel their best and be their best. And don’t we all want the best for our dogs?