My very own Canine Good Citizen

PKM 2998asm 300x225 My very own Canine Good Citizen

Willie sitting proudly with his Canine Good Citizen Certificate.

Last December, after a year of really hard work, Willie passed the Canine Good Citizen test. It’s also known as the CGC by dog trainers and is offered through the AKC.  A dog does not have to be AKC registered to take the test. Any dog is eligible to take the test, but not every dog will pass. The test not only measures how well behaved a dog is, but how good a dog trainer the person is. The subtle aspect of the testing process measures how good the relationship is between the person and the dog. There is a level of communication between our two species that must be present for successful completion of the test.

Before any classes can be taken in preparation for the CGC, the human must sign and agree to the Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge.  Here is what the AKC says about the pledge. “We believe that responsible dog ownership is a key part of the CGC concept and by signing the pledge, owners agree to take care of their dog’s health needs, safety, exercise, training and quality of life. Owners also agree to show responsibility by doing things such as cleaning up after their dogs in public places and never letting dogs infringe on the rights of others.”

Here is a list of the items the CGC test will measure.

1.     Accepting a friendly stranger

2.     Sit politely for petting

3.     Appearance and grooming

4.     Loose lead walking

5.     Walking through a crowd

6.     Sit and down on command, and staying in place

7.     Coming when called

8.     Reaction to the neutral dog

9.     Reaction to distraction

10.     Supervised separation

During the test, the dog must be wearing a buckle or slip on collar. A training harness is not allowed. Treats are not allowed. Toys are not allowed. The owner can be encouraging and praise the dog, but no other kind of reward is allowed during the test.

We took a 6 week prep class that led up to the test. We worked so hard for this!! I found a small shopping center and we trained there at least 5 days out of the week as part of our afternoon walk. It was great for distraction training, and for getting Willie accustomed to not pulling to greet other people and dogs. He is such a friendly dog, that pulling to greet others is his big challenge. But, we did it! We passed the test in December of 2012. My dog trainer for the class told us all how stressful the actual test would be. Boy was she right! When we finished and she told me she passed, I blurted out in tears. It was uncontrollable emotion. I was so proud of Willie and so happy we passed it. We did the test in honor of my best friend who had died a few months earlier from cancer, so it had a lot more meaning to us than it might for somebody else. My deceased best friend had been Willie’s foster mom in rescue so I was able to get Willie because Paula had him under her care. That was how I met him and first became exposed to breed specific rescue organizations.

I encourage everyone to take dog classes with their companions. I call it “Doggie School”, but it’s really as much about training the human as it is the dog.

We took the class mostly because I would like for Willie to be able to do therapy dog work. The CGC is a prerequisite to taking the therapy dog test. Now that we did it and some time has passed, I realize that it’s not important if we ever pass the therapy dog test. What is important is how much closer the training process has brought us together. I absolutely swear he talks to me and that I understand. That is priceless!

web portrait1 221x300 My very own Canine Good Citizen

Patty McGuire with her beloved best buddy.


Patty McGuire resides in Virginia Beach, VA with her best buddy, Willie. Willie has his own blog at www.everybodyloveswillie.tumblr.com. An etsy store specializing in custom knits for bigger dogs is coming Fall 2013.

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