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New puppies are exciting and adorable. But they are also a lot of work. For example, you need to socialize your puppy, tackle puppy potty training, and teach your puppy good manners. All steps toward being a responsible puppy owner. It can all seem a bit overwhelming. However, the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program is here to help.

What Is AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy?

Open to both purebred and mixed breed dogs, the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy program is all about starting your relationship with your new puppy on the right foot. The S.T.A.R. stands for Socialization, Training, Activity, and a Responsible owner – the pillars of good puppy ownership. The program covers all the steps you should be taking to meet your puppy’s needs and to prepare your new pet for a happy and well-mannered adulthood.

First, you enroll in a six-week or longer AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy class, taught by an AKC-approved Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. This will help your puppy develop basic manners. It will also provide you with human-canine communication tips and the chance to get all your puppy-related questions answered. At the end of the course, your instructor will carry out the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy test. When you and your puppy pass, you will receive an application to send to the AKC for enrollment in the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program.

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Plus, to acknowledge all the hard work you have done with your puppy, your puppy will get the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Medal (great for display or photo ops) and be listed in the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy records. You will also get the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy package, including a certificate you can frame, the digital edition of the AKC’s “New Puppy Guide,” and an ongoing monthly email newsletter with training tips.

Best of all, your puppy will be on the path to completing the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program, the gold standard for polite dog behavior, and a fantastic head start for the fun and exciting world of dog sports.

What Is Involved in AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy?

The AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program includes puppy behaviors and owner behaviors. The owner behaviors involve aspects of responsible dog ownership, like getting some sort of ID for the puppy, such as a collar tag, and maintaining the puppy’s health.

You will also take a Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge. Responsible dog ownership is a key component of the program, and the pledge used is the same as the one in the CGC program. It includes formally promising to maintain your dog’s safety, health, and quality of life. Ways of being a responsible dog owner, for example, include being responsible for your puppy’s veterinary care, ensuring your puppy doesn’t infringe on the rights of others, and providing basic training and playtime.

Your puppy’s role in the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program involves exhibiting specific behaviors and learning certain skills. The behaviors require your puppy be free of aggression toward people and other puppies for at least the six weeks of class. Your puppy should also tolerate being hugged or held. Finally, your puppy should allow you to take away a treat or toy.

The skills you need to teach your puppy involve basic manners. In order to pass the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy test, the puppy must:

1. Allow petting by a person who is not the owner.

2. Allow the owner to handle and give a brief examination.

3. Walk on a leash in a straight line.

4. Walk past other people who are five feet away.

5. Sit on command.

6. Lie down on command.

7. Come to the owner from five feet when their name is called.

8. Handle a distraction, such as a dropped chair, calmly.

9. Stay on leash with another person while the owner walks away.

What Are the Benefits of AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy?

There is an obvious benefit to having a well-behaved and well-adjusted puppy. You will spend more time enjoying your new pet’s company and less worrying about bad behaviors and mischief. Your puppy will also understand your expectations, easing stress and confusion. And your puppy will be on the road to becoming a polite adult dog who is welcome anywhere.

There are less obvious reasons to participate in the program, too. To start, you and your puppy will be closer to completing the CGC Program, which reinforces good behavior, builds confidence, and helps your dog feel calm in stressful situations. In addition, the work you do in the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program takes love, praise, and patience – all positive ways of interacting with your puppy. That will strengthen your bond with your dog and build your communication skills.

Finally, you will be meeting some of your puppy’s most fundamental needs as you participate. For example, attending classes will provide essential socialization. And training new skills will give your puppy important mental stimulation.

What Comes Next?

After completing AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy, your dog is ready to jump into CGC training. CGC is open to dogs at any age, and you don’t have to complete AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy before starting CGC training. But completing AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy first will certainly help put your puppy’s best foot forward.

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After CGC training, you and your dog are ready to pursue other fun and challenging activities. For example, you might continue obedience training by pursuing Obedience or AKC Rally. If trick training is more up your alley, consider AKC Trick Dog. With your CGC title, you and your dog will only have to perform five tricks from the Novice checklist to obtain your AKC Novice Trick Dog Title. Finally, if you loved your CGC experience, keep going with AKC Community Canine or AKC Urban CGC.

With so many reasons to participate in the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program, new puppy owners should get started right away. Find an AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy class in your area and start reaping the rewards.

Related article: Expert Tips for Potty Training Your Puppy
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AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy

Take your puppy to training classes and earn the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy distinction. Learn the foundation for basic obedience skills such as sit, down, and come.
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