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Farm Dog Certified Test

Overview of the AKC Farm Dog Certified Program

The Farm Dog Certified (FDC) program, established by the American Kennel Club (AKC), is a certification designed to evaluate and recognize the abilities of dogs within a farm environment. The program diverges from other AKC titles by specifically concentrating on a dog’s behavior, obedience, and utility in farm-related activities, reflecting the diverse roles that dogs can play in agricultural settings.

The primary goal of the FDC program is to certify the suitability and proficiency of dogs for farm life. It ensures that a dog possesses the essential skills, temperament, and adaptability that is needed in a working farm dog, including the ability to follow commands, interact safely with livestock, and navigate various challenges that are typical of life in a rural setting. This certification aids dog owners in developing their dogs to become effective and safe farm companions, setting a standard for the behaviors and skills that are essential in such environments.

The inception of the FDC program was driven by the AKC’s commitment to responsible dog ownership and its recognition of the integral role that dogs play in rural and farming communities. The program’s development involved collaboration with experts from dog training and farming sectors, ensuring the test exercises are practical and reflective of real-world farm scenarios. This initiative highlights the AKC’s efforts to support the diverse capabilities of dogs, extending beyond traditional competition settings to include the practical aspects of farm life.

By offering a structured and standardized way to assess a dog’s farm-related abilities, the FDC program represents a unique blend of AKC’s expertise in dog behavior and training with the realities of everyday farm life. It provides a valuable opportunity for dog owners to certify their dogs’ skills in a specialized environment, underscoring the importance of adaptability and obedience in varied, sometimes unpredictable, farm conditions.

AKC Farm Dog Certified Eligibility & Requirements

The Farm Dog Certified (FDC) program is inclusive and open to all breeds of dogs, emphasizing the AKC’s commitment to accommodating a diverse range of canine participants. To be eligible for the FDC test, dogs must meet the following criteria:

Age Requirement

Dogs must be at least 9 months old so that they are mature enough to handle the tasks and challenges of the test.

AKC Registration

A valid AKC number is required for participation. This can be obtained through various means, depending on the dog’s breed and registration status:

  • AKC Registration Number: Generally provided with the dog’s registration certificate.
  • Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL): For purebred dogs without AKC Registration Numbers.
  • AKC Canine Partners Number: For mixed breed dogs or purebreds that cannot be fully registered.
  • Foundation Stock Service® (FSS) Number: For breeds in the foundational stage of AKC registration.

Special Considerations

The program accommodates dogs with physical challenges, including amputees. These dogs are eligible if they can complete the test without physical discomfort or safety concerns, reflecting the AKC’s inclusive approach to recognizing the potential of all dogs.

AKC Farm Dog Certified Test Structure & Exercises

The Farm Dog Certified (FDC) test involves a series of 12 exercises that assess a dog’s behavior, obedience, and adaptability in a farm environment. Each exercise is tailored to reflect real farm tasks and scenarios, highlighting the different aspects that are necessary in a well-behaved and efficient farm dog. The exercises are:

  1. Greet the Judge: Testing the dog’s calmness and patience on a loose leash during introductions, this exercise mimics everyday encounters with strangers and assesses social manners.
  2. Perform a Walking Pattern Around a Farm Environment: Evaluating the dog’s ability to follow the handler through a prescribed pattern around various farm objects, this exercise simulates navigating through common farm areas and obstacles.
  3. Jump on Hay/Straw Bale: Assessing the dog’s ability to jump onto and stay on a bale until it is released, this element represents typical physical tasks on a farm, like climbing or jumping onto elevated surfaces.
  4. Walk By Farm Animals: This exercise tests the dog’s calmness and reaction to penned farm animals. It focuses on evaluating the dog’s capacity to maintain composure and non-aggressive behavior around livestock.
  5. Walk Over or Through Unusual Surfaces: Measuring the dog’s ability to navigate over surfaces such as plywood, tarp, or metal grating, this exercise challenges the dog with various textures and ground surfaces that are commonly found on farms.
  6. Supervised Separation: This exercise evaluates the dog’s calmness when separated from the handler in a kennel or crate. It is designed to simulate situations where the dog must be left alone briefly, with a focus on maintaining composure during these times.
  7. Pass Through a Gate: Testing the dog’s patience and obedience in gate-related scenarios, this common farm task requires patience and control.
  8. Handler Feeds Livestock: Assessing the dog’s calm behavior while the handler feeds livestock, this exercise evaluates the dog’s ability to stay calm during routine farm activities.
  9. Reaction to Another Dog: Evaluating the dog’s reaction to another dog walking by, this element tests social interaction and non-aggressiveness towards other dogs.
  10. Reaction to Noise Distraction: Testing the dog’s reaction to common farm sounds, this exercise evaluates the dog’s response to typical farm noises.
  11. Dog Approaches Livestock: Assessing the dog’s response and control near livestock, this is a crucial exercise that supports farm safety as it evaluates the dog’s behavior and control near livestock.
  12. Physical Examination: In this part of the test, the handler examines the dog for any farm-related debris. This process assesses the dog’s willingness to be examined and its comfort level with post-activity check-ups.

These exercises are crafted to guide owners on areas of training that may require further attention for the safety and effectiveness of their dogs in farm environments​

AKC Farm Dog Certified Evaluation Criteria

The Farm Dog Certified (FDC) test employs a pass/fail evaluation system rather than a competitive scoring method. This approach underscores the test’s focus on a dog’s individual abilities in a farm setting.

In the FDC test, judges are primarily looking for specific behaviors and responses that are essential for a working farm dog. These include obedience and control, where the dog’s ability to follow commands and maintain control amid farm distractions is crucial. The temperament of the dog is also a key focus, with an emphasis on calm, stable behavior and no signs of aggression or undue fear, especially around livestock and unfamiliar situations.

Adaptability is a key aspect of the evaluation, with a focus on the farm dog’s ability to navigate varied terrain and environments. The evaluation also includes assessing the dog’s social behavior with people, other dogs, and animals, looking for a balance between sociability and controlled behavior without excessive excitement or aggression. Additionally, the dog’s response to typical farm distractions, such as noises and movements, is assessed to gauge its focus and ability to remain composed.

Lastly, the judges look for a balance between obedience to the handler and the dog’s independence and confidence, particularly in problem-solving situations. This balance is vital for a dog’s effectiveness and safety on a farm.

Preparing for the FDC Test

Preparing for the Farm Dog Certified (FDC) test involves a combination of general obedience training and specific exercises that mimic farm tasks. This preparation helps to ensure that the dog not only passes the test but also acquires the skills that are essential for a safe and effective farm dog.

Training for the FDC test can start with basic obedience skills such as sit, stay, come, and walking on a loose leash. These foundational skills are crucial as they form the basis for the more complex behaviors that are needed for the FDC exercises.

Socialization is another key aspect of preparation. Dogs should be comfortable and calm around different people, animals, environments, and noises, especially those commonly found on farms. This includes exposure to farm animals in a controlled setting, if possible.

Specific training for the various test exercises, like walking through gates, staying calm near livestock, and navigating unusual surfaces, is also essential. Owners can create mock setups that simulate the test conditions. For example, walking the dog on different surfaces, practicing supervised separation, and teaching the dog to stay calm in the presence of noises and other distractions can be part of the training routine.

It is also beneficial for handlers to familiarize themselves with the FDC test rules and guidelines provided by the AKC. This helps in tailoring the training sessions to meet the specific requirements of each test exercise.

For those seeking professional guidance, many dog trainers and AKC clubs offer specific training programs for the FDC test. These programs are tailored to cover all aspects of the test and can be particularly helpful for first-time participants or someone who is looking to refine their dog’s skills.

Getting Started

Starting a journey in the Farm Dog Certified (FDC) program is straightforward:

  • Check Your Dog’s Eligibility: Confirm that the dog meets the AKC’s requirements for the FDC test. This includes age and registration criteria, ensuring the dog is ready for the challenges of the test.
  • Find and Register for a Test: Use the AKC’s event search tool on their website to locate upcoming FDC tests. Registering in advance is important as space can be limited.
  • Consult the Official Regulations: For a comprehensive understanding of the FDC program, including all rules and guidelines, refer to the official AKC Farm Dog Certified Test Regulations. This document is essential for anyone who is looking to participate in the FDC test as it can assist with the preparation that is needed to meet the program’s standards and expectations.

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JUNE 2024 ISSUE

June 2024 Vol. 32 No. 6

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