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January 2017 kicks off with the Association of Professional Dog Trainer‘s National Train Your Dog Month. National Train Your Dog Month provides an excellent opportunity to get started on your Service Dog training goals for 2017, so read on to learn more!

Everyone knows that all dogs benefit from regular training, even if it’s just the basics, like sit, down, stay, come, and walking on a loose leash. For Service Dogs, though, training isn’t option — it’s mandatory. Finding a way to build a solid National Train Your Dog Month 2017foundation of the basics, and then finding a way to expand them into advanced skills and task training, is vital for Service Dog teams. That’s where the Association for Professional Dog Trainers and National Train Your Dog month comes in!

Training dogs (and training the dog trainers!) is what the Association for Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) is all about. It’s their goal to help every dog owner in the world, whether they’re a pet owner or working dog handler/trainer, not only incorporate training into their daily lives, but also to have fun doing it!

One of the ways the APDT assists the public with creating positive training habits is with their annual National Train Your Dog event. For the last 7 years, National Train Your Dog Month has taken place in January, and each year, there’s a different theme. This year, the National Train Your Dog Month theme revolves around creating good manners and solid basic obedience skills.

The APDT created a program called “Canine Life and Social Skills,” usually shortened to C.L.A.S.S., that provides step by step guides to teaching basic obedience and good manners. Anyone can follow the program, and in some areas, there are Canine Life and Social Skills classes. It also offers checklists and a way to earn certifications as a team. The certifications are similiar to the popular Canine Good Citizen certifications, although they do focus on different areas and emphasize varying skills. There are 3 levels of C.L.A.S.S. certifications:

  1. BA (Bachelor’s) 
  2. MA (Masters)
  3. PhD (Doctorate)

This year’s National Train Your Dog Month focuses on the behaviors required for the C.L.A.S.S. evaluations, some of which include leash manners, relaxing quietly, leave it, focus/distraction proofing, and generalizing behaviors. Many of the C.L.A.S.S. test items focus on behaviors commonly performed by Service Dogs, like National Train your Dog Month 2017 SDiT Dobbyrelaxing quietly in a “down,” or backing up in a straight line. Some of the C.L.A.S.S. skills offer a great foundation for public access training. Regardless of the level of training your Service Dog has, working the basics is never a bad thing!

Of course, you don’t have to focus on the Canine Life and Social Skills program at all if you don’t want to! The goal for National Train Your Dog Month is simple: train! Train whatever you want, but try to make it a point to train every day. Practice sits when you’re putting on the leash. Do down stays while you’re on the phone or on your way to the mailbox. Teach a trick when you’re watching Netflix at night. Just incorporate a few minutes of training every day into your schedule, and you’ll have nailed the point of National Train Your Dog Month!

Happy 2017, and don’t forget to get out there and train! Never stop improving and polishing and growing together as a team.

Are you working on anything specific this year with your Service Dog? Do you have any specific training goals? Comment and let us know!