Sunday, July 9, 2017

AKC Farm Dog Certification

We recently helped out at an AKC Farm Dog Certification test, one of the first in our area. This new title offered by the American Kennel Club was just added last summer, and now herding clubs are slowly beginning to offer the test.

What is AKC's Farm Dog Test?

Australian cattle dog sitting on hay bale
The FDC test is like a rural Canine Good Citizen test. It's a chance to demonstrate your dog's ability to maintain good leash manners and a reasonably calm demeanor around various aspects of farm life. As one of the judges from our test stated, it's a bit like a test to see if you could work on a ranch and have your dog come along without causing trouble.

What Isn't AKC's Farm Dog Test?

This is not a test of your dog's herding or off-leash skills. It's not intended to be difficult or challenging for most dogs. Every single dog that came to our local test passed. The entire test is done on-leash, and unlike many AKC performance events, this one is open to any breed. We had everything from a Schipperke and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to an Akita and Berger Picard at ours. 

What Do You Have to Do?

The test will vary a whole lot from location to location, the rulebook gives clubs a ton of freedom to put together something that works at their location. The difficulty of the test will primarily depend on the person judging, but so far the attitude seems to be that farm dogs don't have to be perfect. You start by greeting the judge without your dog jumping on or biting them.

Most of the elements of the test can be rearranged as needed by the club hosting it, but they basically involve your dog walking on a loose leash, walking on a tarp, sitting on a hay bale, being tied up while you walk away, staying in a crate while you are out of sight, hearing background noises, passing a dog 10' away, staying still while you open or close a gate, passing farm animals chilling in their enclosures, and being able to look at farm animals and then disengage. 

That's It?

I know, right? The toughest thing for some of our testers was walking on a loose leash while wearing a flat collar. Still, everyone passed because our judges allowed handlers to talk to their dogs, praise them, and correct them as needed. Nobody got disqualified for peeing on course, whining a little when separated from their handler, or needing multiple reminders to walk nicely.

It's worth noting again that the test can vary a lot from one location to the next. You and your dog may be walking past horses, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens, or any kind of livestock. Yes, a facility with only chickens can put on a Farm Dog Certification test. We had testers walking all over the facility, another club had their testers walking circles inside their barn. The common thread between the tests seems to be that the judges and hosts genuinely want your dog to pass. It's a fun, low-stress way to get an AKC title.

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