In an ongoing effort to increase revenue and allow proud owners to tack newly earned titles onto their dogs’ names, the American Kennel Club has approved numerous new titles for AKC-registered, Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) and Foundation Stock Service dogs, as well as AKC Canine Partners.

Although two of the newer titles were approved in 2011, many fanciers are unaware of them. The first, approved in March 2011, is the Coursing Ability Test (CAT) title. Of course, breeds that were bred to course game – that is, that hunt game by sight instead of scent – have always been able to earn titles that reflect their coursing abilities. The sport of lure coursing was developed just for this purpose. A line, usually braided fishing line, runs around a series of pulleys with a “lure,” usually a white garbage bag, attached. The line is operated by a motor, which moves it, and the lure, around a course.

According to Mari-Beth O’Neill, AKC Assistant Vice President of Sport Services, people who had done coursing over many years discovered that, when they took their dogs of other breeds to coursing practice or events, no matter the breed, it seemed, they got excited watching the hounds chase the lure. Breeds other than sighthounds began to get involved in lure coursing, and eventually the CAT title was created to recognize non-sighthound dogs for their accomplishments on the course.

Now all dogs, purebred and mixed breed, registered or listed with AKC can earn a title that affirms their talents at lure coursing. Photo ©

The Coursing Ability Test is designed as an introduction to the sport. It is a pass/fail test which dogs run one at a time. To pass, dogs are required to “complete their course with enthusiasm and without interruption” – in other words, if they get distracted by something that interrupts their pursuit of the lure, they won’t pass that test!

The CAT course is shorter than a traditional lure course, just 300 yards for dogs shorter than 12 inches tall at the withers and for flat-faced, or brachycephalic, breeds, and 600 yards for all other dogs. The 300 yards must be completed in less than one-and-a-half minutes, the 600-yard course in less than two minutes. Courses are to be designed with the thought in mind that other dogs may not be as agile as their sighthound brethren, and the course will not include hard turns.

All AKC-registered, FSS, PAL and AKC Canine Partners dogs are eligible to earn CAT titles. Four title levels are offered: the CA, or Coursing Ability, title is awarded to dogs that pass the CAT three times under at least two different judges; the CAA, or Coursing Ability Advanced, title goes to dogs that pass the CAT 10 times; the CAX, or Coursing Ability Excellent, title is earned by dogs that pass the test 25 times; and the CAX2 is for dogs that pass the test 50 times. Each additional 25 passed tests earns the dog a higher number on its CAX.

To date, 1,024 CA, 16 CAA and 17 CAX titles have been awarded.

A Title For Helping Others

The AKC Therapy Dog (ThD) title was established in July 2011, and to date more than 3,000 titles have been issued.

A Therapy Dog is not the same thing as a specially trained service canine, such as a Seeing Eye dog or one that assists a person with a disability. Any dog can become a therapy dog and, with its owner, volunteer to visit people in hospitals, assisted living facilities and nursing homes, or perhaps to help children learn to read. The AKC ThD title doesn’t in itself qualify a dog to make therapy visits; instead, dogs that have been deemed qualified by a therapy dog organization, then have completed a specific number of volunteer visits in that capacity, can earn the ThD title.

To become certified and eventually earn an AKC Therapy Dog title, canines must demonstrate a level of confidence in different environments and with a variety of people. Photo ©

To become certified with an AKC-recognized therapy dog organization, such as Therapy Dogs International, Bright and Beautiful, the Delta Society Pet Partners program, Therapy Dogs Inc. or any one of dozens of other local, state and national groups, dogs must pass fairly stringent testing. The specifics of the tests differ from one organization to the next, but most include elements of the AKC Canine Good Citizen test, such as “Sitting Politely For Petting,” “Coming When Called” and “Sitting and Down on Command/Staying in Place.”

There are additional exercises, however, that the dog must pass before being certified, and these test the dog’s reaction to equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches and canes, as well as to people who, for instance, may be breathing heavily, coughing or wheezing. The dog’s behavior around all sorts of people, from children to the elderly, is tested as well. Once the test is passed, a dog can be certified or registered by that particular agency.

To earn the Therapy Dog title, a dog must be certified by or registered with an AKC-recognized therapy agency and must have completed 50 therapy visits. The application for the title is available online.

AKC notes that owners of ThD dogs need to maintain their certification or registration with their organization of choice as long as they continue to volunteer.

A Title for an Elite Group of Dogs

The AKC Board of Directors approved the newest AKC title in July 2012. Only a very select number of dogs are eligible for the Urban Search and Rescue Dog title.

Urban Search and Rescue dogs, like those that served the country at Ground Zero after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, can now earn an AKC title. Photo by the U.S. Navy for Getty Images News.

The U.S. government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deploys urban search and rescue dogs to federal disasters and, as Doug Ljungren, AKC AVP of Performance Events, notes, “has brought structure and consistency to the training and certification” of these dogs. Many states have also developed Urban SAR teams and have “adopted standards similar to FEMA’s for the training and testing” of their teams.

AKC consulted with FEMA about the possibility of titling Urban SAR dogs, and FEMA supported the idea. These titles will bring recognition to these hardworking heroes and, as Ljungren pointed out, will serve as “an aid over time to the breeding of dogs that excel in this area.”

Dogs that are FEMA-deployable can earn an SAR-U1 title, while those that are state deployable will earn the SAR-U2 title.

On September 11, 2012, three of the remaining survivors who worked at Ground Zero following the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 received the first three Search and Rescue titles. As noted on the website for the University of Pennsylvania Penn Vet Working Dog Center, where the awards were made during the unit’s grand opening, “The ability to provide titles for these amazing and talented dogs will continue to help advance the breeding of successful and healthy detection dogs right here in the United States.”

The dogs that received titles were German Shepherd Dog Kaiser, owned by Tony Zintsmaster, and Golden Retriever Bretagne, owned by Denise Corliss, who both worked at the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks. Morgan, an English Springer Spaniel owned by Katrene Johnson, who searched for human remains at the Staten Island Landfill in connection with 9/11, also received her title.

Those Flyball Dogs

Another title can now be added to the names of those canine athletes who excel at playing ball. One of the most popular events for dogs around the country is flyball, and in May 2012 the AKC Board voted unanimously to recognize three North American Flyball Association (NAFA) titles, including FDCh (Flyball Champion) and FM (Flyball Master) for AKC dogs.

NAFA flyball titles are earned when dogs accumulate a given number of points, and points are earned each time a team achieves a particular speed when racing in an NAFA-sanctioned tournament. For instance, if a team completes a course in under 24 seconds, each dog racing in the heat receives 25 points toward a flyball title. If it is completed in under 32 seconds, but more than 28, each dog receives just one point. The FDCh title requires 500 points, while the FM is earned after a dog accumulates 5,000 points.

AKC will also recognize the ONYX title, earned when a dog has 20,000 points.

Upon submission of an application by the owner, flyball titles will be placed in the dog’s AKC record and will appear on the future pedigrees where applicable. For a small fee, owners can also purchase a title certificate. AKC will record titles earned back to January 1, 2000.

For the first AKC class of flyball dogs, 10 FDCh, 12 FM and 10 ONYX titles were recorded.

Canine Good Citizens Become Official

The last new development at AKC in regard to titles is that, as of January 1, 2013, Canine Good Citizen, or CGC, will become an official suffix title. The owners of dogs that pass the Canine Good Citizen test will be given the option of having the certificate that has always been available, or for an additional fee they can have the CGC title added to their dog’s permanent AKC record. All dogs that were previously certified will be grandfathered in and eligible for the title.

The test for CGC certification will remain the same but, next year, two evaluators will be present during the process so that one can verify a passing performance.

For the past several years, the American Kennel Club, like the rest of the country and much of the world, has undergone a degree of financial stress. To help boost its bottom line, AKC continues to work to develop activities and incentives that will allow more people and dogs to participate in AKC events. AVP O’Neill reports that more titles and user-friendly programs are in the development phase, including those that focus on family participation and those designed to encourage people to pursue healthy activities with their dogs.