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AKC Patriotic Puppy Program

Mission & Program Overview

Decrease U.S. dependence on foreign suppliers of dogs by supporting domestic efforts to provide suitable detection dog candidates.

Help breeders and trainers raise confident puppies that can become successful candidates for dog training programs. We provide remote support to program participants, guiding dogs’ development from birth through approximately one year of age.

We ask participants to gather valuable data on puppies’ development and responses to rearing and training techniques. We will use this data to help develop best practices for socializing and training prospective working dogs and to help address the shortage of domestically bred and trained explosives detection canines.

Who should participate?

Interested and engaged breeders/owners who want to raise confident puppies to excel as detection dogs and see more domestically bred dogs used to protect our nation as detector dogs.

Breeders/owners who are interested in taking on a new challenge, who are willing to work with new ideas, and who will record their progress.

Detection Dog Developmental Path

This chart shows how the emphasis changes during development for the seven categories of activities (Environmental Stability, Socialization, Reward Object Engagement, Olfactory Acuity, Search, Physical Exercise, and Play).

We have identified seven broad categories of activities:

  1. Environmental Stability activities build up the dog’s ability to work in novel and highly variable environments without the environmental factors detracting from their ability to stay on task. This includes noise, visual stimulus, uneven/shiny/unstable footing, moving objects, smells, etc. The dog needs to be able to confidently move over, under, through, and around obstacles of any kind in a wide variety of settings.
  2. Socialization teaches the dog to work around humans and human activities. The dog must not be afraid of people but must not be distracted from his work by their presence. It is important to ensure the dog encounters people of all ages and races, including people with disabilities.
  3. Reward Object Engagement develops the dog’s desire to obtain, play with, and retain a variety of reward objects, such as tennis balls, tug toys, kongs, etc. This builds up the dog’s possession skills, which play a critical role in determining the dog’s suitability for detection roles.
  4. Olfactory Acuity develops the dog’s ability to sniff and discern between odors. The goal is not necessarily to teach the dog a particular target odor, just to have the dog practice behaviors that will help them learn faster when it is time for them to learn a target odor.
  5. Search uses the dog’s innate curiosity and desire for reward to build effective search behavior. It starts off extremely short and basic when the puppy is young, and as the dog develops, search exercises will incorporate more and more activities from the other categories.
  6. Physical Exercise is any activity that builds the dog’s strength and stamina. Active puppies who are not overweight develop into happier healthier dogs for a lifetime, so keeping them moving is important!
  7. Play for a young puppy is all fun, no rules. Once obedience gets involved, it’s not play, it’s obedience. As the dog matures we gradually add rules until play morphs into training exercises, which the dog enjoys just as much as their younger self enjoyed unstructured play.

Assess your pup!

Participating dogs complete behavior assessments at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and at 12 months. These are submitted as unedited digital videos. The assessment is not rehearsed or trained, which gives us a reliable picture of character/personality development. These are videos and descriptions of the test on the assessment tab and in the blogs.