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Each year during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, magnificent show dogs are recognized for their adherence to the breed standard, and well-trained purebreds and mixed breeds alike show off their skills in obedience and agility competitions.

But this year, during the final day of the annual dog show, the American Kennel Club is shining the spotlight on another group of dogs as well—those who serve and protect the American public.

On February 16, the AKC announced its new Canine Officer Program, which honors dogs who work in government agencies, including police, military, border patrol, the Transportation Security Administration, and more.

Whether trained in tracking criminals or missing persons, sniffing out explosives or drugs, or patrolling the streets, these dogs possess a unique skill set, temperament, and intelligence, all of which are valued and preserved by traditional performance events. “Purpose-bred dogs serve our communities in various ways that provide an extra level of security for all of us,” said Doug Ljungren, AKC’s Vice President of Sports and Events. For instance, some dogs trained with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are taught using techniques of field-trial training. (Read more about the ATF dogs here.)

Dogs can be nominated for the AKC Canine Officers Program by a local club or breed club (for example, a German Shepherd Dog working for a police department can be nominated by the German Shepherd Dog Club of America). A club member can fill out and submit this nomination form to the Sports Services department.

Dogs selected for the program will be awarded a “certificate of appreciation” in an official ceremony of the club’s choosing and will be featured on Any dog working with a government agency is eligible for the program. Dogs not registered with AKC can receive a free registration, but it is not required.

Dog handlers interested in learning how to nominate a dog for the program can send an email here.

Last December, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that named New York’s official state dog as the working dog, including any canines that provide a service, from police and military dogs to guide dogs and service dogs.

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