Becoming a Canine Good Citizen
by Missy Seu
As a dog trainer, my experience has been that most people desire a pet that is a pleasure to live with, able to respond well to household routines, and capable of maintaining polite behavior in the company of other people and dogs.
In 1989, the American Kennel Club (AKC) introduced their Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program to acknowledge and reward dogs that exhibit good manners both at home and when they are out and about in their communities. The CGC certification is a natural first step for owners in training their dogs. It serves as a strong foundation for those wanting to go on to pursue activities such as therapy work, competitive obedience, agility, rally, tracking and other performance events. As an added benefit, the time spent preparing for the CGC evaluation will strengthen the bond between you and your companion.
Dogs eligible to participate in the CGC program can be either purebred or a mixed breed, and can be any age as long as they are old enough to have completed their immunizations, including a rabies vaccine.
The 10-part CGC test puts a handler and their dog through a series of essential skills that mirror situations that they may face in everyday life. The successful completion of the 10 exercises reflects the dog’s ability to face a variety of situations as a calm, confident, manageable and well-behaved companion. During the evaluation, the dog must not show any signs of resentment, aggression, or shyness, and must show that it is mindful of the handler. The handler is encouraged to interact verbally with the dog during the evaluation.
The CGC exercises are:
1) Accepting a friendly stranger: The evaluator approaches the handler/dog team and exchanges pleasantries with the handler.
2) Sitting politely for petting: The evaluator approaches the handler/dog team, and asks the handler for permission to pet the dog.
3) Appearance and grooming: The evaluator mimics a very superficial veterinary exam by looking in the dog’s ears, touching its paws and grooming it gently with a brush provided by the handler.
4) Out for a walk: The handler/dog team is asked to walk around the ring, maintaining a loose leash.
5) Walking through a crowd: The handler/dog team maneuvers through several people, as if in a public place.
6) Sit and down on command/staying in place: The dog in placed in either a sit or a down “stay,” and then the handler leaves the dog for a distance of 20 feet. The handler then returns to the dog’s side and releases the dog.
7) Coming when called: Again, the dog is placed in a “stay” (or “wait”) and the handler leaves the dog for a distance of 20 feet. The dog is then cued to “come” and should return willingly to the handler.
8) Reaction to another dog: Two handlers and their dogs approach one another and pause to exchange pleasantries.
9) Reaction to distractions: A visual and/or an audible disturbance is chosen to test the dog’s ability to remain calm and confident at all times when experiencing common distractions that may include a sudden closing of a door, dropping a book no closer than 10 feet away, someone pushing a cart, a jogger running in front of the dog, or someone using crutches or a wheelchair.
10) Supervised separation: The handler leaves the dog on a “wait” command with the evaluator and steps out of sight from the dog for 3 minutes.
More information on the CGC program can be found at www.akc.org.
For information on local Canine Good Ciizen classes, contact a trainer near you:
Del Monte Kennel Club, Monterey, 831-333-9032
From the Heart Dog Training, Salinas 831-783-0818
Living with Dogs, Santa Cruz 831-476-9065
Monterey Bay Dog Training Club, Watsonville 831-476-4854
SPCA for Monterey County, Monterey/Salinas 831-373-2631
Zoom Room, Pacific Grove, 831-717-4580