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Dog owners are increasingly aware and thinking about their dogs’ fitness. While light walks and pee trips are regular, keeping your dog active and fit can help improve your dog’s overall physical health and get out any restless energy. It can even help prevent or alleviate problem behavior in the home. The AKC Fit Dog program began in 2018 to encourage people and dogs to be more active together, and now beginning in January 2023 you and your dog will be able to officially earn Fit Dog Titles!
How to Earn AKC Fit Dog Titles
The new AKC Fit Dog Title program has grown to help dog owners create structured and individualized fitness plans to do with their dogs. There are three different titling levels that dog owners can achieve with their dogs: Bronze, Silver, and Gold.
The AKC Fit Dog Titles are the newest aspect of the AKC Fit Dog Program which is designed to provide a structured way for owners and dogs to fit together. The titles are designed to help dogs and their owners improve and maintain their health and fitness. While earning these three titles, dogs and owners will earn points in six different fitness categories. To earn these titles dogs, need 5 points for the Bronze title, 10 points for the Silver title, and 20 points for the Gold title from at least two of the following categories for each title:
- AKC Fit Dog Course
- Community runs, like the AKC’s annual Fit Dog Turkey Trot
- Walks and hikes, either independently with your dog or as a FIT Dog Group
- ‘Unique to You and Your Dog’ activities, such as Parkour or swimming
- AKC Performance Titles that are fitness related, such as Agility, Dock Diving, Fast CAT, Rally, or Obedience.
- AKC Parent Club Performance Titles, including Sledding, Carting, and Draft Dog
These new Fit Dog titles are designed to reward and enhance the fitness routines and activities you already do with your dogs. So long as a dog is cleared by their veterinarian for physical activity, there are many ways that they can participate. This includes both slow and gentle walking up to advanced athletic sports and fitness courses.
What Dogs Can Participate in AKC Fit Dog
Before starting any kind of exercise program it’s important that your dog is healthy and that any increased fitness won’t be overworking them, which can lead to exhaustion and injury. Talk with your dog’s veterinarian about the specifics of the Fit Dog Program to ensure these activities are appropriate. Dogs must be at least six months old to earn the Bronze title. There are also age requirements for other sports that count towards the AKC Fit Dog titles that must be taken into consideration.
Generally, these titles are versatile and accessible to a wide variety of dogs and owners. There are accommodations that can be made at each title level for both a handler’s and a dog’s disability to allow them to participate. Per the Participation Guide for the new program, dogs with disabilities can join as long as they can safely perform the required skills. Additionally, to earn AKC Fit Dog titles, dogs must have an AKC, PAL, or Canine Partners registration number when their owner submits the title application.
Depending on which of the six activity categories you choose to pursue with your dog, the equipment necessary will vary. For example, if you take a Fit Dog Level 1-3 course with an AKC Fit Dog Instructor, they may have all the fitness equipment available to borrow, or you may need to purchase some to have at home, especially if your class is online.
For other activities, like earning your dog’s free AKC Fit Dog Magnet, there are tracking forms available from the AKC to document your activity. However, for most activities to earn your dog’s titles, you’ll need to provide your own proof of completion. This could be a copy of a title certificate or you’ll need to have proof of the distance walked or ran. You can do this fitness tracker like a Fitbit or an Apple Watch, a dog fitness tracker like a FitBark or Fi Smart Dog Collar, or use a Health app or running app. Then just screenshot how far you and your dog go as documentation to include with your title application. AKC has also provided paper documentation forms for those who don’t have access to apps or devices.
Getting Started in AKC Fit Dog
Although you can’t submit for the AKC Fit Dog titles until January 2023, you and your dog can begin working on them right away. Until further notice performance sports titles that were previously earned are being grandfathered in, which means even if you earn them before next year, they will still count towards your titles. Check the Participant Guide, which has all the information that you’ll need to get started and explains how to start documenting the fitness activities that you and your dog are doing this fall and winter.
Because the Fit Dog titles are noncompetitive, you and your dog aren’t competing against any other dog/handler teams, meaning you’re only working against your will to get active. You choose which activities are most appropriate for you and your dog and have fun bonding while doing so.