What Is a Companion Dog Certification?

Think you have the best behaved dog on the block? Prove it by signing him up for AKC-approved obedience trials.
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Is your dog certifiable? Perhaps a companion dog certification is just what he needs to teach him how to behave. CD is one of a dozen titles your dog can earn by attending American Kennel Club-sponsored obedience classes and competitions.

Certification Requirements

There are three standard levels of AKC obedience competitions: novice, open and utility. According to the American Kennel Club website, “You and your dog can earn certificates and titles while you continue to strengthen your communication and teamwork.” At obedience trials, dogs are judged on their ability to follow commands and on their ability to perform tasks such as retrieving, jumping and scent discrimination. Dogs that receive high enough scores are awarded titles according to the class and level they are in. These titles can be added to their name in the AKC registry. The novice title of Canine Companion must be earned before dogs can advance to other levels. A complete list of titles are available on the AKC website.


To participate in obedience trials, you must register your dog with the AKC and have current documentation of vaccinations. If your dog is not purebred, he can still take part in some obedience, agility and tracking events by receiving a Purebred Alternative Listing for dogs who look like purebreds or by participating in the AKC Canine Partners program for mixed-breed dogs. Your dog may not be happy to hear that non-purebred dogs must be spayed or neutered to be eligible.

Locating Classes and Competitions

You can find AKC clubs that offer training in your area by visiting the Training Resource section of the AKC website. The AKC encourages you to observe a class before signing up. You can also attend events as a spectator, just be sure to get there early and bring your own seat. Browsing through the vendor booths that are usually set up at these events can also give you a lot of information about dog care and the latest innovations for pets.

Common Misconceptions

Companion dog certification has nothing to do with qualifying a dog to help people as a service dog or therapy dog; it is a title awarded to pet canines that have passed one level of AKC obedience trials. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, service dogs are specially trained for specific tasks to help people with disabilities. Therapy dog qualifications vary from state to state, but in general these animals have to pass temperament, behavior and grooming tests before they can visit schools, hospitals and nursing homes to give comfort and encouragement to people who just need a friend. A canine companion certification may prove that your dog is obedient, but he needs other qualifications if you want to set him on the path to serving people in an official capacity.

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