C.L.A.S.S., or Canine Life and Social Skills, is an educational program to promote
training focused on the use of positive reinforcement and to strengthen relationships
between humans and their canine companions. C.L.A.S.S. is a three-level evaluation
for dog owners to demonstrate the real-life skills of their dogs, as well as a
knowledge assessment of the owners’ understanding of basic dog handling and care.
Developed by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) based on input from both
dog owners and non-dog owners, shelter workers, and professional dog trainers,
C.L.A.S.S. benefits pet owners, dogs, and everyone in the community!
The three levels of the program are named after human university degree
programs: the B.A. for Dogs™ (Bachelor’s level), the M.A. for Dogs™ (Master’s
level), and the Ph.D. for Dogs™ (Doctorate level). The
skills in each level vary in the level of difficulty and distractions. For example, at the B.A. level, we allow the use
of treats as rewards after the completion of an exercise, and some of the “real life” skills that are assessed are
waiting at the door, drop it, and settle. In the M.A. level, dogs are asked to walk past several dogs of different
sizes, breeds and genders, to wait in the car before exiting, and to allow the student to handle various parts of
their body. And in the Ph.D. level, students must carry everyday objects such as a cardboard box or paper sack
while walking their dogs on a loose leash, ask their dogs to back up, and have their dog demonstrate table
manners during a simulated dinner session. Each level also allows for two “bonus rounds” that students may
elect to try or not with their dog.