What is does it mean for your dog to be a Canine Good Citizen?

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November 10, 2013
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As we become smarter with ways to raise our pets, foods to feed them, and how to communicate with them, many of us may find our pets becoming these model citizens in the community. Some of us may even end up working with our pets to become therapy pets. While the rest of us may opt to not have our pets certified for pet therapy, we could work on getting our dogs certified to be Canine Good Citizens.

What is Canine Good Citizen?

Canine Good Citizen is one of the first steps owners will take when training their dogs to be therapy dogs. You don’t have to have that as your final goal, though, so don’t worry. The program has been in existence since 1989, and is part of the American Kennel Club. It is designed to award dogs who have good manners in the home and out and about.

Many people will certify their dogs as CGC because they may want to have their dog become a agility dog, show dog, therapy dog, etc. While others may simply want to train their dogs to be the best little canine they can be. Training dogs can be a great way to bond with your pet, help you become a better owner, and create a level of communication that paves a path for many years of great companionship.

Training and Testing

Before taking the test to receive a CGC certificate, you’ll be asked to sign a Responsible Dog Owners Pledge. The pledge is an agreement that you will take care of your dog’s health needs, safety, and overall quality of life. You also agree to show responsibility in your community by doing small things like cleaning up after your pet and never letting your dog create a nuisance or infringe upon the rights of others.

After signing this contractual agreement, you are then ready to take the test!

Canine Good Citizen Test

The CGC tests the following:

  1. Accepting a friendly stranger – your dog is not afraid nor shows any sign of aggression as a stranger talks to you. Your dog must show no signs of resentment or shyness.
  2. Sitting politely for attention – imagine a vet, friend, or stranger coming up to your dog to pet him/her. Your dog must not only tolerate being pet but may also be brushed and handled a little. It’s not necessary for the dog to remain seated for the whole process but must be patient and tolerant.
  3. Walking on a loose leash – this can be tough for some dogs. The excitement of going for walks, exploring, and just being outside means a lot of dogs tug on the leash. This can be the most challenging for owners.
  4. Walking through a crowd – there are many variables that you may encounter with your dog, crowded streets being one of them. Your dog needs to display calmness and be desensitized to the pedestrian traffic. The dog can’t jump up on people, put on the brakes and refuse to walk, or pull you through the crowd.
  5. Sit, Down, and Stay – your dog has to know these commands and stay in a sit or down without a leash but a long lead just in case. Your dog must stay and you be able to walk a few feet away (maybe up to 20 feet) without your dog following you or leaving.
  6. Coming when called – your dog’s recall is incredibly important. Your dog must be attentive enough to come to you when you call his/her name. It is important to have this command down especially as the test goes on.
  7. Reaction to another dog and distractions – this part tests if your dog can politely behave around other dogs. Can your dog walk by another dog and show interest but not go nuts? What about distractions like a jogger?
  8. Supervised separation – this test is to see if your dog can be left with a trusted person and will maintain manners and training when you are not the one asking your dog to sit, stay, or come. For about 3 minutes, the owner leaves the room and evaluations are done to see how your dog acts.

It sounds intimidating but when you think about it – these are nothing more than a formalized way of compiling the things you’d love your dog to know and do.

Anyone have a CGC dog? If so, let us know and tell us your experiences!

Image from Aislinge Labradors

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