AKC FIT DOG 101: How to Get Started

AKC FIT DOG 101: How to Get Started

The AKC FIT DOG program began in January 2023 and has continued to grow in popularity ever since. This program is designed to encourage dogs and their owners to be active together through titles. As an AKC FIT DOG Instructor and organizer of a FIT DOG Club hosting virtual events for dogs and people across the country, I’ve seen firsthand how my clients and club members (both dogs and people) of all ages have benefited from this program by becoming more motivated to exercise.

A core component of the AKC FIT DOG program is walking with your dog, something most of us do with our dogs every day. Walking is a gentle exercise that can help to improve circulation, muscular strength, improve overall health for both dogs and people, and now walking the dog can put you on the path towards new titles.

Who can participate in AKC FIT DOG?

To earn AKC FIT DOG titles, dogs can be purebred dogs registered with the AKC, or mixed-breed dogs registered with the AKC Canine Partners program. To earn a Bronze AKC FIT DOG Title, dogs must be at least 6 months old, but keep in mind there may also be other age-related rules that handlers must follow for higher-impact sports, such as agility or Disc Dog.

When participating in AKC FIT DOG activities, dogs may wear slip collars, buckle collars, martingales, and body harnesses, or head collars. Dogs may not wear training collars such as prong collars, or e-collars. Dogs should be on 4- or 6-foot leashes made of fabric or leather unless participating in a sport that requires a dog to be off-leash. Dogs with disabilities are welcome and encouraged to participate in FIT DOG titling, so long as they can safely perform the events. Handlers with disabilities can use any mobility aids and assistance necessary.

Havanese playing fetch with a ball outdoors.

©mdorottya – stock.adobe.com

AKC FIT DOG Levels

There are three levels of AKC FIT DOG titles that dogs can earn: Bronze, which is the novice level, and then Silver, and, at the most advanced, Gold. To earn these fitness titles, dogs must earn a specific number of activity points which varies based on the type of activity, and title level.

To earn the Bronze FIT DOG title, a dog will need to earn five points, at the Silver, the dog needs 10 points, and for the Gold title, a dog needs 20 points. These points are earned by completing different fitness activities which are broken into seven categories and worth different points at each title level. The titles are consecutive, so dogs must earn the Bronze title before earning Silver, and so on. When dog-handler teams have completed enough points to earn a title, the handler can apply for the title in the AKC portal, where you’ll be able to upload the title checklist, and all associated forms documenting the activities your dog has completed.

Components of AKC FIT DOG

Below is a breakdown of each fitness category and the associated points available to be earned at each title level. Be sure to check the FIT DOG participant guide and the title checklists for specifics of what the requirements are for each title level.

Category A: AKC FIT DOG Courses

Point Value: Bronze – three points; Silver – six points; Gold – three points (level one), six points (level two), 12 points (level three)

AKC Fit Dog courses are six-week-long classes taught by AKC Approved FIT DOG Instructors. The courses have three consecutive levels and can be taught in-person or online. They’re designed specifically for healthy adult dogs and aren’t appropriate for dogs with orthopedic injuries. These classes help handlers to improve their dog’s flexibility, form, balance, and overall fitness. A focus on canine fitness can improve health and sports performance for dogs, in addition to counting towards earning FIT DOG titles.

Category B: Community Runs

Point Value: Bronze – three points; Silver – six points; Gold – 12 points

This category is designed to get dogs and handlers out moving together. The AKC’s annual Turkey Trot is just one example of a community-run event that you and your dog can participate in. Category B runs (which can be walked or run) are organized by FIT DOG clubs, online virtual events, or community groups. To count towards a title, community runs must be a minimum of one mile in distance. To document completion of the event, you’ll want to have data from a wearable activity tracker, like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, or phone app. Once completed, the documentation form should be signed by a race official or a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator.

©Raquel Pedrosa – stock.adobe.com

Category C: Walks and Hikes

Point Value: Bronze – three points; Silver – six points; Gold – 12 points

This category has two options: independent walks or club walks. To earn points in this category, dogs and handlers can either go on independent walks or hikes documented weekly over a series of weeks. The other option is participating in group walks connected to an AKC FIT DOG club. These FIT DOG club walks can be organized in-person or virtually and must be at least one mile long each time.

Category D: Unique to You and Your Dog:

Point Value: Bronze – two points; Silver – four points; Gold – eight points

For this category, handlers can choose between a variety of fitness activities they may already do with their dog to count towards FIT DOG titles. Unique activities that can be used include independent swimming or therapeutic swimming with a veterinary physical therapist. Other “Unique to You and Your Dog” sports include dog parkour titles earned via the International Dog Parkour Association or All Dogs Parkour, or mushing, as documented through completing an International Sled Dog Racing Association-sanctioned race or an International Federation of Sledding Sports-accredited race. Biking, canine biathlon, and backpacking are other options which can be utilized for points in this category.

Category E: AKC Fitness Related Title

Point Value: Bronze – two points; Silver – four points; Gold – two points (level one), four points (level two), eight points (advanced level)

To earn points in this category, your dog will get points (the number of points is based on FIT DOG title level) for earning titles in certain AKC sports.

AKC sports that can be counted for FIT DOG titles include:

  • Agility and Agility Course Test (ACT), including virtual titles
  • Coursing Ability Test (CAT) and FAST CAT
  • Field trial or hunting tests
  • Herding
  • AKC Lure Coursing
  • AKC Rally and obedience, including virtual titles
  • Tracking
  • Diving Dogs
  • Flyball
  • UpDog Disc Dog

You will use an AKC title certificate to verify a title was earned. These titles can have been earned at any point, including those earned prior to participating in the AKC FIT DOG title program. Note: for earning the Gold level of FIT DOG titles, your dog will need to have achieved an AKC fitness-related title.

 

Miniature Schnauzer fetching a frisbee.

©Olga Itina – stock.adobe.com

Category F: AKC Parent Club Performance Titles

Point Value: Bronze – two points; Silver – four points; Gold – four points

This fitness option is designed to recognize the fitness achievements of dogs who have earned titles measuring a dog’s ability to perform the work their breed was first developed to do. These titles are issued through the national breed club and, depending on breed, include sports like carting, coaching, draft dog, and other titles. A full list of parent club titles recognized for AKC FIT DOG can be found on pages 40-41 of the AKC FIT DOG Participant Guide.

Joining an AKC FIT DOG Club

While you can complete your dog’s AKC FIT DOG titles mostly through independent activities, the program can be a great way to connect with other dog lovers in your community or online. AKC FIT DOG clubs host a variety of events including community runs (category B), club walks (category C), and FIT DOG classes. Clubs can be organized by independent dog training schools, AKC Clubs, breed clubs, or other dog-related clubs and organizations. The goal of the FIT DOG clubs is to promote the health and fitness of dogs and their owners. You can also get your own local group or club recognized as an AKC FIT DOG Club by completing an online application.

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