The American Kennel Club (AKC) has been creating more new programs over the last few years. Part of this is to provide opportunities for people with varied interests and dogs with different strengths. (And part of it is suspected to be for financial reasons…)
One of these new programs is the AKC’s Farm Dog program. This is similar to a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test but with an emphasis on skills that are theoretically useful on a working farm like walking over varied surfaces, walking past livestock, being calm while tied up for animals to be fed, manners at a gate, and a neutral response to a loud noise.
While volunteering at a 4-H event in April we had an opportunity to take the test and Griffin and I were able to get one of the two passes needed. We’ll hopefully have another opportunity this year. The livestock part was a little harder than I expected. Chickens were used and we had spent the previous two days doing field training so his interest in birds was much higher than usual. I had not been present for the morning test so missed the part that during “Feed the livestock” we were supposed to scoop food and pretend to feed. I actually fed the chickens some of their feed which made them more active and noisy than usual! However – Griffin was a responsible adult dog and while he showed interest, he was able to turn away when asked.
I enjoyed the event and hearing an AKC rep discuss the program. I’ve applied and been accepted to be an evaluator for the program. For the most part, they’re taking herding judges or CGC evaluators with livestock experience. I grew up on an Angus cattle farm and still occasionally handle animals. The primary disadvantage of the program is that like most AKC events, it has to be planned 6 months in advance and typically hosted by an AKC club. So unlike CGC, I can’t set up a test myself.
I think this makes for a better display for the public than the GCC test (sit on a straw bale! Walk over surfaces! Other kinds of animals!). I could see my students loving the opportunity to work towards this test, but I don’t know how often it will be offered in our area.
My Farm Dogs
My previous dogs spent more time on a farm. Blaze and Luna (and occasionally young Griffin) spent time going with me to feed cattle. They had to be tethered on a gate or staying while I did that. Manners at a gate and to being comfortable around large equipment is important. They needed to occasionally ride on the gator (like a golf cart – but more serious!). Sometimes be held by someone else and be calm if the bulls charged towards the fence. Farm scenarios vary so much depending on the situation, the type of livestock, and the type of dog.
This test does fit in very well with the 4-H program. Many (but not all!) 4-H programs conclude with the youth showing at the county fair – often with livestock in a nearby barn. It’s a great way to merge the dog program with the rural background of 4-H. The AKC has been very supportive of the Ohio 4-H Dog Program and has provided opportunities for us to do tests for youth at events separate from herding events.
Have you tried the farm dog certification or does your dog spend time on a farm? What skills are useful in that environment?