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DOGS @ PLAY by Barbara Shumannfang, Ph.D, CPDT Does your dog have C.L.A.S.S.?


Most of us want to include our dogs fully in our lives, which is much easier when we give them boundaries and skills with real-life relevance. C.L.A.S.S. identifies nine of the most important of these and shows dog owners how to teach them using fun, effective, reward- based methods. Mastery of these skills makes dogs more desirable in the eyes of insurance companies, hotels and our communities. It enhances the bond between our dogs and us and emphasizes the importance of ongoing training for the lives of our dogs.

The list of sports and leisure activities available to dogs with their B.A. is as long as a Great Dane’s tail. Even longer is the list of compliments you will receive when your neighbors, friends and veterinarian admire your dog’s good manners.

Did you know the Triangle region might have the highest concentration of dogs with PhDs in the country? Well, not yet, but it soon might, thanks to an exciting new program called Canine Life and Social Skills (C.L.A.S.S.). Triangle dogs can polish their training skills and earn a B.A., an M.A. and even a Ph.D. through this educational program created by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

C.L.A.S.S. promotes reward-based training that

strengthens the bond between people and dogs. It emphasizes mastery of real-life skills like: settling on cue; coming when called; walking politely on leash; waiting to be released to a food bowl; and responding to “leave it” in the face of temptation. The dog learns to ignore more challenging distractions at each level. For example, at the M.A. level, the dog waits before being released from an open car and responds to the owner even when offered a treat from someone else. At the Ph.D. level, the dog demonstrates table manners during a simulated dinner scenario and comes directly, bypassing food and toys, when called.

16 Volume 2 • Issue 1 T The Triangle Dog

Service and therapy dogs use C.L.A.S.S. to sharpen real-life skills. Shelter and foster dogs with B.A. degrees are more attractive to potential adopters. Preliminary results show that shelters that teach the B.A. skills have increased adoption rates and decreased rates at which dogs are returned or euthanized. Those who teach and test the skills in a rescue or shelter environment receive a special curriculum and waived registration rates.


First, a veterinarian attests that your dog is in good health, free of parasites and well groomed. Second, you pass a short online quiz about dog wellness, training and behavior. Finally, a certified C.L.A.S.S. evaluator assesses nine skills mastered by your dog. Your dog can even pass “With Honors” by doing bonus tricks.

Professional dog trainers in the Triangle can help you and your dog prepare to earn your Canine Life and Social Skills degrees. To register your dog, access the study guide, view demonstration videos and a list of area evaluators, visit

You know your dog is smart; now you can take him to the head of the C.L.A.S.S.!

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