Have you ever watched an agility trial and marveled at the athleticism and skill of the dogs in the ring? Just in case you think your pet isn’t cut out for that kind of fun, the AKC’s My Dog Can Do That (MDCDT) program is here to show you that dog sports like agility can be enjoyed by all dogs regardless of breed, size, or age.
At an MDCDT event, members of the public and their dogs sign up to take a trial run around a beginner agility course featuring foundation training obstacles like a wobble board and a small dog walk plank, as well as jumps and tunnels. Some events include an introduction to rally as well. The MDCDT ring is manned by dog trainers, and each owner and dog team is paired with a trainer who gives them an introductory mini-lesson using treats and positive reinforcement.
The Benefits to MDCDT
Program manager of AKC Canine Partners, Penny Leigh, Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), explains, “The main benefit is that owners learn that their dogs CAN do it. When the public comes out and watches dog sports events, I think they enjoy it, but often think, ‘my dog could never do that.’ But when they see their dog going over a low jump or climbing over a small A-frame, they get excited about the opportunities.”
Agility is perfect for MDCDT events. It keeps dogs physically and mentally active, it’s a wonderful confidence builder, and it’s fun. Leigh explains, “The dogs get a chance to climb on stuff, tunnel through stuff, and get lots of food rewards – what is more fun than that?” It’s amazing to see a dog that had never seen a tunnel before running through a full-length one after only a few minutes in the ring.
It’s also great entertainment for the public. Leigh says, “We often have a crowd around the MDCDT ring, cheering the newbies on!” MDCDT also highlights how much fun owners can have with their dogs. Training your dog in a positive way strengthens the dog-owner bond. Participants in the MCDCT ring are always sent home with a list of training clubs and schools in their area so they can expand on their experience.
When MDCDT started about nine years ago, it was a way to promote the AKC Canine Partners program, which is for mixed breed dogs and those not eligible for full AKC registration. Leigh says, “We thought it was a great idea to introduce the AKC to owners, bring them to AKC events, and show them how much fun they can have when they train and interact positively with their dog.” The AKC always offers a discounted enrollment in the AKC Canine Partners program at MDCDT events.
If you get a chance to attend an MDCDT event, don’t pass it up. It’s a great way to be welcomed into the American Kennel Club family. Jumping into the MDCDT ring with your dog can have a great impact on your future life. Having a positive experience and seeing all the cool things you can do together will inspire you to seek out more AKC events.
Leigh and the MDCDT ring will be at The Michigan Winter Dog Classic on Jan. 18-20 where more than 7,000 dogs from over 160 breeds will be competing. You can join in the fun from noon – 5 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “I love this event and I commend the clubs for offering so much for owners to see and do and welcoming the public and their dogs,” says Leigh. There will be conformation shows, scent work, Rally, flyball, dock diving, agility, and even duck herding demonstrations plus much more.