mastering the basics: 10 commands

Podcast: The AKC Fetch Program

What is the AKC fetch program and why should I be interested in it? 

Welcome to today’s short-form podcast where we answer your dog training questions. I’m your host Nicole Forto and today’s question asked is, what is the AKC Fetch program and why should I be interested in it? Well lets talk about what the AKC is first, the AKC is the American Kennel Club. Started in 1884 as a not for profit all breed registry, to bring knowledge and representation for dogs and their owners in health, training, and education. The AKC has a multitude of programs and tests aimed at regular family pet owners all the way to the show ring. Their most popular being the Canine Good Citizen, where they set a standard for your dog to be properly socialized, have basic obedience skills, and behave as a good doggy citizen around other dogs and people in public places. They have a large rescue network of 450 groups, they have a dog museum, and a library that holds a comprehensive collection of over 18,000 articles about domesticated dogs.

The AKC fetch program is a family dog program where dogs and their owners can earn up to four different levels of AKC titles by displaying retrieving skills. Why is this so important to know about as an average dog owner? Well taking your dogs for a walk and playing fetch are the two most popular and accessible activities for owners to do with their dogs. However as a trainer I am always telling owners to make fetch a more structured activity to give your dog more of a challenge mentally during playtime and more importantly to break up the monotony of playing fetch. The AKC fetch program is a non competitive pass or fail test, with four levels; Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Retriever. In order to participate your dog must be at least six months of age and be registered with an AKC, PAL, or AKC Canine Partners number. The same qualifications are needed for AKC’s canine good citizen.

In the Novice level of the Fetch program, your dog must be able to retrieve a tennis ball or bumper that is thrown thirty feet away. A bumper looks like a dumbbell weight you would use at the gym, however it is not weighted and the bar in the middle is thin in order to allow your dog to grab and carry it. This item is used often in the show ring. Seems simple enough except your dog passes through four distractions on their way to retrieve the ball. These distractions in the ring are set up as boxes or can be cones, sometimes to mix it up or be fun a chair or lawn ornament is used as one distraction item. When doing the retrieving it’s much more strict than just a fun game of fetch in the back yard, your dog is to wait while you throw the ball and not go to fetch it until given their retrieving que. In the novice level your dog must do what’s called three single retrieves. Each throw is one ball but the direction thrown is changed, it must be performed with one retrieve towards the right, left, and center.

In the Intermediate level of the Fetch program, your dog must retrieve a ball or bumper four times that is thrown fifty feet away with eight distractions present. The objects for distractions in intermediate are still boxes with two being fun items such as a chair, lawn ornament, or cone. In the intermediate level the same basic rules apply, your dog still has to wait while you throw the ball and be given the que to retrieve. In intermediate there is still a throw to the right, the center, and the left with the fourth throw being the handlers choice of right, center, or left again.

In the Advanced level of the Fetch program, your dog must retrieve a ball from seventy feet away with three blinds set up. These blinds are screens that are twenty-four inches tall and ten to twelve feet wide. While your dog is on their stay next to you the judge then goes and drops three bumpers behind each screen as your dog watches. In advanced you as the handler can choose to throw those three additional bumpers behind the blinds instead of having the judge set them there. For advanced your dog must perform two single retrieves, remember that is one ball at a time to one direction, one throw must be to the center and the other to the right or left per the handlers choice. In advanced your dog must also perform two double retrieves, the double retrieves are where your dog is on a sit stay next to you, the judge or helper goes and purposefully yells for your dogs attention then, drops a ball or bumper behind one blind, and repeats this for the second blind. You then send your dog to retrieve one bumper from behind one of the blinds, the dog returns to you with the bumper, sits, and is queued again to go retrieve the other bumper from behind the other blind.

Finally, in the Retriever category, this is considered the most advanced level something different about this test and titleship is that if your dog tests and passes the retriever course twice then your dog no matter the breed can earn a title. The distance in retrieve is up to eighty feet, still having three blinds that are the same size as with the advanced level.  In retriever your dog must do two double retrieves, the same structure as in advanced level that is that your dog performs the solid sit stay, you throw two balls behind two separate blinders and send your dog to retrieve one at a time with a return to your side and a sit stay in between those retrieves. The hardest part in this final level is the triple retrieve task. In the triple retrieve task you still have a judge or helper go to drop three different balls or bumpers behind each of the 3 blinders set up, the helper or judge must yell to demand your dogs attention while at your side for a sit stay. In the triple retrieve your dog must still go retrieve each individual ball or bumper one at a time and return to you with a sit/stay pause in between each. It’s important to note that there is not a time rush, the AKC Fetch is not timed or judged based on speed. With the three retrieves, it must be for one to the right, one to the left, and one for the center. It is up to you as the dog’s handler the order in which your dog retrieves.

To round this episode out, we wanted to spread awareness of a fun new opportunity for the average pet owner to give your dog a good healthy outlet of training. For us at Alaska Dog Works we will start to offer this as a new group class opportunity in the spring for all of our clients. If your dog loves to play fetch or is excellent at retrieving items and toys this is exactly the kind of easygoing sport to do with your dog! We hope you all enjoyed learning about this new program the American Kennel Club is opening up to all pets and their owners. For Dog Works Radio, I’m Nicole and I will catch you guys in the next episode.



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