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September 26, 2011

So, the question is this: If your dog could earn merit badges for training accomplishments as simple as SIT or DOWN or being housetrained, would you take part?

That’s the idea behind Good Dogs of America. Your dog could indeed earn 19 different dog training merit badges … from a local dog trainer who offers the program as an add-on to their current dog training curriculum.

Since most dogs already learn these various tasks and cues, it’s a way to give extra kudos to the handler and dog.

The Good Dogs of America full program includes:

  • Bandanas that can be customized by the dog trainer (sold separately or given to families as part of the normal dog training class cost)
  • Iron-on merit badges ($3.99 each)

best dog blog, champion of my heart, good dogs of america bandana

Benefits of Good Dogs of America

I’m not sure if people in our top 2% subset of dog families already doing a high level of dog training would get a kick out of this or not. What do you think? Would you do it?

As I see it, a program like Good Dogs of America would definitely encourage other dog families:

  • To do MORE (or really *any*) dog training
  • To feel a sense of accomplishment for their work
  • To encourage others to consider dog training

Because honestly … people stop me and Lilly ALL THE TIME when we are in public and say things like, “I wish my dog was that good.” Like when Lilly automatically sits before we cross any street or step off any curb, people are amazed.

My standard answer is, “It isn’t magic. It’s hard work.”

We know that vests make service dogs irresistible. And, bandanas are pretty cute too … without getting into the whole dog clothes realm. I can see the program really raising the awareness of dog training options in a community.

Plus, from the dog shelter world, I can also tell you that:

  • People think dogs who respond to (even) simple dog training cues are “super smart.”
  • Dogs who have some training are less likely to be relinquished to (and possibly killed at) an animal shelter.

Good Dogs of America Merit Badges

I’ve browsed the various merit badges offered, and the ONLY one that Lilly probably could not get is the one for being a “social dog.”

That friends, isn’t her strong suit.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, good dogs of america merit badge close-up photo

Well, and I’ve never taught “play dead.”

I’ll quibble with one thing, though. The Good Dogs of America merit badge for housetraining is called “house breaking,” which in my mind is old-fashioned lingo that takes root in punishment. I suppose that’s that regular people call it, but the term strikes the wrong tone for me.


Word choice issues aside, though … Lilly and I send out best congratulations to Brad Phifer, CDPT-KA, on this new project. I’ve interviewed Brad for dog training articles before, including this one on introducing a new dog into your dog family.

Brad is the director of pet behavior services for the Broad Ripple Animal Clinic and Wellness Center and head master for Bark Tutor School for Dogs in Indianapolis, Indiana.

He asked me to help spread the word about Good Dogs of America, and I agreed. I was not compensated in any way for this post.

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. as a non-professional who took my pup to a pro and participated in the training , i believed that after all the hard work caleb deserved better than a sheet of paper indicating his achievements in his classes. that’s when i founded Good Dogs of America. i sought the counsel of several well known professional trainers. if you are interested in trying our merit badge system in your practice, drop me a note at ivan@gooddogs of america and i will personally give you a substantial “starter” discount to let you try our system out. hope to hear from you. ivan

  2. I think it’s a fabulous idea! There should be a similar program here in Canada. I would sign up right away. Maybe it’s because I am just such a keener but the idea of earning badges I will get to display on a little bandanna excites me to no end. It’s like being in Girl Guides all over again!

    1. hi!

      the great thing about GDA is that the trainer is able to reward the client for the accomplishments they make with their dog.

      it does not alter a trainers curriculum or set a criteria for owners to meet. it is a simple reward system to continue motivating clients to take part in activities and training programs with their dog.

      there are a variety of new badges being discussed and developed. along with new styles of personalized bandana’s, customized packages etc – something to fit every trainers budget.

      we are seeing a lot of success with kids training programs.

      we would love to see this released in canada. contact us and maybe we can arrange some specials!

      Brad Phifer CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
      VP Good Dogs of America

      P.S. Thanks Roxanne!

  3. Love this! Kona and I could never pass every task in our obedience/etc. classes. With these badges, we could finally not fail something! =)

    I also envision my 10 year old niece really getting into something like this. The one-task-at-a-time and badge reward could be a great way to encourage kids to stay more involved with the family dog.

  4. What an interesting concept! Not sure I would use the badges on my own dogs but I think the idea is great and would probably help raise awareness of the importance of proper training.

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