So many parts of our daily lives have changed in the past few years. While our favorite dog activities — from classes and seminars to shows — have resumed safely, there are now some permanent virtual training options that you can do from the comfort of your home or on vacation. You and your dog can have fun training together, working on your favorite sports and activity, and even earning titles!
The AKC now has the Trick Dog titling program to be accessible via submission of videos that are reviewed and approved by CGC evaluators. If you don’t know a CGC evaluator you can easily search for one. This time of social distancing is the perfect opportunity to get your dog involved in the Trick Dog program. Under the new rules, AKC trick titles can be observed and earned digitally. Full rules and requirements for video submissions and each level of Trick Dog Titles (Novice through Elite Performer) are available online.
If you are someone who is unable to attend training classes every night and every weekend at dog shows, the AKC’s Trick Dog program is a fantastic way to channel your energy by earning titles at home. Even if you and your dog have never competed at a dog show, Trick Dog titles are a wonderful introduction to dog sports.
The program has also led to the AKC Trick Dog National Competition being entirely virtual, allowing dogs from across the nation to easily compete.
Virtual Home Manners
The Virtual Home Manners tests assess ten skills that well-mannered pet dogs need in the home setting. The Virtual Home Manners tests are evaluated online by CGC Evaluators in the same manner that is currently used for Virtual Tricks. There is not an in-person VHM testing process. Virtual Home Manners is a natural lead-in for AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy and Canine Good Citizen (CGC) in-person training.
If you like to get out of the house regularly to walk your dog each day don’t forget about the AKC’s Fit Dog program. Check your local regulations and maintain at least six feet of distance between anyone else you may pass on your walk. For the program you and your dog commit to walking each day either:
- Walked at least 30 minutes 5 times per week for a total of at least 150 minutes per week for at least 3 months. For dogs and people in good shape.
- Walked at least 15 minutes per session at least 10 times per week (e.g., two 15-min walks per day) for at least 3 months. For dogs or people who would benefit from a walk that is a shorter duration, e.g., senior dogs. When you and your dog have achieved either of these benchmarks you fill out the AKC FitDog form and will be sent a free FitDog program magnet!
The AKC Rally Virtual Program, which is now a permanent program, will provide exhibitors an opportunity to stay at home and enter an AKC Rally® event.
This program is designed to have a Rally Novice, Rally Intermediate, Rally Advanced, or Rally Excellent competitor set up a pre-designed AKC Rally® course in the safety of their own yard, record the performance, and submit it to AKC. In turn, AKC will assign a pre-selected AKC Rally Judge to virtually review and score the team’s Rally performance.
There are several pre-designed official rally courses on the AKC website to choose from. To participate, follow the setup instructions provided, video record the performance, upload the video to YouTube, set the required YouTube viewing options, and submit the video link with the entry form and fee to AKC.
Agility Course Tests
Now you can get started in Agility Course Test (ACT) from home! The AKC has provided those with dogs that are ready to test their agility skills a way to try the sport of ACT Agility locally.
The AKC Agility ACT 1 & 2 Virtual pilot program will provide exhibitors an opportunity to stay-at-home or use their local training site and enter an AKC ACT 1 or ACT 2 event. You can buy equipment online.
The AKC Agility Department also expanded the virtual ACT program to include the new ACT Jumpers classes. ACT Jumpers will include two levels. ACT 1J which will be jumps and possibly a tunnel and ACT 2J which will include six weave poles.
Virtual Obedience Test
In the AKC Virtual Obedience Test, two levels of virtual titling obedience classes are offered, with an expansion of the program to be released over time. The first two levels in the Virtual Obedience Test program are Virtual Beginner Novice and Virtual Novice classes. There are five different ring setups for each class to choose from. You and your dog are judged the same as you would be at a regular trial. However, some of the exercises are different than what you will see at in-person trials.
Virtual Scent Work Test
The Virtual Scent Work Test (VSWT) is a basic way for owners to bond with their dog or to get started in Scent Work. Teams can work incrementally at their own pace while developing skills and confidence. When a team is ready, they can demonstrate basic competency in locating an item based on scent by taking the VSWT and capturing it on video. The VSWT consists of three levels: Beginner (VSWB), Intermediate (VSWI) and Experienced (VSWE). Each level has its own set of testing criteria and titles must be earned in order. It takes two passes to earn a title at each level.
Virtual Water Test
Several pointing breeds are required to pass the AKC Water Test in order to be awarded field trial or hunting test titles. The Virtual Water Test is a convenient option for owners to demonstrate their dog’s ability to retrieve over water. The owner or handler submits a video of a dog performing the water test. The dog’s performance is then evaluated by two field trial or hunting test judges. The owner will receive an e-certificate proving their dog passed the test.
At-Home Practice For Every Sport
If you can’t be at your regular training classes, there are aspects of nearly every canine sport that can be practiced at home, even if you live in a small house or apartment. You can always book private sessions with your favorite trainers and get homework specifically tailored to your dog. Even if you don’t work directly with a trainer remotely you can create your own training plans and games for whatever sports you are involved in. You might need to get creative, but there’s a way to work aspects of every sport from home. I’ve even seen home videos from fellow Newfoundland owners who are involved in Water Test/Rescue as a sport working on send-outs and line tows on dry land in their backyards.
Ideas for Training At Home
For AKC Rally practice, you can print signs online or hand-make your own with notecards — even sticky notes will work! Pick some of your dog’s favorite signs and a few signs you need extra practice on and put together a course in your yard if you have one, or even in your living room to create your own at-home Rally course.
In Obedience, you can practice focus as well as cleaning up any crooked sits or messy positions. You can also work on small heeling patterns in your home or yard. This is also a great opportunity to work on stays and other obedience skills like “Go Outs” and scent articles.
To keep up with agility training, set up one or two jumps using a stack of books and a broomstick and work on more technical handling skills like jump wraps. Just make sure to not jump your dogs on slippery or hard flooring. If you have weave poles you can also practice tricky weave pole entries. There are several affordable at-home agility sets you can buy on Amazon.
If you and your dog are experienced in Scent Work, you can set up practice searches in your home and/or yard. If your dog hasn’t tried Scent Work, this can be a fun opportunity to play some introductory indoor scent games together.
Working Toward the Future
Setting and working towards training goals is a great way to add structure to the day for you and your dog. You can set a goal to teach your dog a new trick each week, finish up a title, or practice Scent Work every day. Whatever sport(s) you and your dog play, try to carve out a few minutes of each day for training. Not only will this give you something to focus on, but it also will help you and your dog stay polished and ready to return to classes and competition when there is no longer a need for social distancing.
If you’re someone who thrives on competition or a sense of comradery in addition to earning trick titles from home, you can connect online or by phone with your friends from your local training club or in groups on Facebook. Challenge each other every day or share course maps for Rally courses, Scent Work exercises, or Agility sequences that can be practiced in small spaces. Share videos of your progress and cheer everyone on as we train our dogs at home.