Companion dog training is one level of obedience training. It is not the same as service dog training, which involves teaching a dog particular actions that can be used to provide assistance to a disabled person. A companion dog learns various obedience commands and must demonstrate his aptitude to at least two different judges in order to receive companion certification from the American Kennel Club (AKC).
So what exactly is involved in becoming a certified companion dog? First of all your dog must be a purebred registered with the AKC. There are also allowances for both purebred dogs that don't have registration papers and dogs that aren't purebred to participate in obedience competition, under the "AKC Purebred Alternative Listing" or in the AKC Canine Partners program. All dogs must be at least 6 months of age to compete.
Your dog has to be registered to compete but you can begin companion dog training at any time. In order to get companion certification your dog will have to complete a series of exercises that can include completing a figure eight pattern both on leash and off; heeling off leash in a second pattern chosen by the judges; coming when called and standing for examination by the judges while you are at a distance; holding a sit/stay position for one minute with you at a distance and holding a down/stay position for three minutes with you at a distance.
Once your dog has been certified by two separate judges in novice classes at three different AKC qualified obedience trials, he can add the initials "CD", for companion dog, to his official AKC registered name. If he receives the appropriate scores in three open division competitions, he can add "CDX" for "Companion Dog Excellent".
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It is possible for any dog to undertake and complete companion dog training and it can be quite satisfying for both dog and handler to add this feather to their cap. Not surprisingly, intelligent and energetic breeds like the Australian Shepherd seem to take naturally to this type of advanced obedience training and even thrive at it. If you have an Aussie who is eager to learn, this might be something that you want to seriously consider.
Of course, it's good for any dog to learn the basics of obedience. Not only does this help to improve their behavior in general, but it can also serve to strengthen the bond between dog and owner as you learn to work together and your dog comes to recognize you as his pack leader. Contrary to what many people believe, dogs actually enjoy learning and are anxious to please their humans so provided you approach training correctly it shouldn't be hard for them to master these commands.
Once you've completed the companion level you may want to continue on to more advanced levels of training and competition, including agility work. This can be a fun and engaging pastime for both dog and owner but it does require a lot of dedication and good physical conditioning for the both of you, so be aware of that before you proceed.
If you're looking for a good way to get in on the ground level of obedience competition or you just want to take your dog's obedience training to the next level, you should consider companion dog training. It might be just the thing to bring you and your four-legged friend even closer together.