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Can Your Dog Herd?

Can Your Dog Herd?

By Audrey Pavia

AKC Herding Dog Breeds

If your dog has what it takes, you could train him to compete in herding trials.

 

Ever notice your dog trying to round up the kids while they are playing in the backyard, or move the cats around the kitchen in an orderly manner? If so, your dog is exhibiting more than just weird behavior. Depending on his ancestry, he might be letting you know that he has a good dose of herding instinct in his blood.

Thanks to two organizations devoted to preserving dogs’ natural working instincts, you might be able to find out if your dog has what it takes to herd more than just kids and cats: he might be able to learn to herd livestock.
In the days when the majority of dog breeds were being developed, agriculture was the way most dog-owning families earned a living. Farmers and ranchers needed the help of their dogs to manage an assortment of livestock, from ducks to horses. As a result of this early breeding, a vast number of dogs still possess the herding instinct that was bred into them generations ago.

To see if your dog has the inborn ability to herd and has the potential for advanced training, have his herding instinct tested. Not only it is fun to watch your dog’s instincts really kick in the first time he’s asked to work sheep or ducks, but you might decide to train him for competition, which can be loads of fun.

Herding Dog Breeds

The American Kennel Club, which registers purebred dogs, has designated 51 breeds as having herding instincts. Any AKC-registered dog from one of these breeds is eligible to be AKC herding-instinct tested. These breeds include the Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Belgian Tervuren, Bernese Mountain dog, Border Collie, Boxer, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Collie, German Shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, Old English Sheepdog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Rottweiler, Samoyed, Shetland Sheep dog and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, among many others.

AKC Herding Test for Dog Breeds

At an AKC-sanctioned herding test, your dog will enter a pen with a tester and some livestock, usually sheep or ducks. The judge will let your dog interact with the livestock, gauging how he handles them. For a dog to pass a herding instinct test, he must show an interest in the livestock without being aggressive, and must show a propensity for driving and fetching the animals.

After your dog is tested, you’ll be given a card with the judge’s comments on your dog’s natural instincts. The card will indicate whether your dog passed or failed.

If your dog passes the test, you’ll receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club in the mail. You can then take your dog’s herding abilities even further by training him to work.

Registering A Herding Dog with the AKC

If your dog is not registered with the AKC, is not a breed considered eligible for herding testing with AKC or is a mixed breed, you can still have his herding instinct tested. The American Herding Breeds Association (AHBA) provides herding capability tests to all dogs, designed to determine whether a dog has the instinct to herd livestock. Dogs who have shown to have the needed instinct can go on to be trained for competitive AHBA events.

For more information on herding instinct testing and herding competitions, visit the AKC at www.akc.org or the AHBA at ahba-herding.org.


About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.

 

AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Award

AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Award

By Audrey Pavia

Sit and Stay, German Shepherd Dog, AKC Good Canine Citizen Award

A Good Canine Citizen is capable of maintaining a Sit-Stay until called by his owner.

If you’ve got a purebred or mixed breed dog who listens when you tell him what to do, is good with other dogs, and is just a joy to be around, he’s a perfect candidate for the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) award. And if your dog’s behavior leaves something to be desired, start working on fixing it, with the CGC as your goal.

In order to earn a CGC award, your dog has to pass a 10-step test that consists of the following:

  • Accepting a friendly stranger. While you have your dog on a leash, a person will approach you, say “Hello” and shake your hand. Your dog is expected to stay calm and ignore the person. Your dog is not to jump on the person or show any aggression.
  • Sitting politely for petting. The stranger who approached you will bend down to pet your dog. Your dog is expected to stand calmly while being petted. He’s not supposed to jump on the person or shy away.
  • Appearance and grooming. Your dog will allow someone to groom him and examine him (touch his ears and lift his front feet) while you are holding his leash.
  • Walking loosely on leash. You walk your dog across the examination yard on a loose leash. Your dog doesn’t pull on the leash, or refuse to follow.
  • Walking calmly through a crowd. At least three people will stand in the examination yard while you walk your dog through the group. He is expected to walk quietly past without jumping on people or straining at the leash.
  • Performing the sit and down on command, and staying. You will ask your dog to sit. You will then ask him to lie down. Once he has performed these commands, you can keep him in the down position or put him back in a sit, and then tell him to stay. You then step back away from him. He is expected to stay in place for several seconds.
  • Coming when called. Someone will hold your dog while you walk away from him. Once you are 10-feet away, you turn around and call your dog to you. He is expected to return to you immediately.
  • Reaction to another dog. Someone with a dog on a leash will approach you and your dog. Your dog is expected to ignore the handler and the other dog. He is not supposed strain on the leash, act aggressive or behave in an out-of-control way.
  • Keeping calm during a distraction. Your dog will be asked to act confidently during two common distractions, such as dropping a large object nearby or having a jogger run past.
  • Waiting calmly for his owner while being supervised by a stranger. You will hand your dog to someone and then walk away and hide out of sight. Your dog is expected to wait quietly during the three minutes when he can’t see you. He is not to bark, whine or act unruly.

If your dog doesn’t sound up for all this, simply enroll him in one of the many CGC preparation classes being held all around the country by dog clubs, pet stores and private trainers, such as an Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer or ABCDT. In this class, your dog will learn to do everything required of him on the test.

Once your dog passes the test, he receives a certificate from the AKC in the mail and the right to wear a CGC tag on his collar. If he’s a purebred, he’s ready to tackle any other AKC performance event, such as obedience, agility or rally. If your dog is a mixed breed, he can still compete in these types of competitions through non-AKC clubs.

For more information, visit the CGC section of the AKC website at:
http://goo.gl/BvDS3r


About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.