Is Your Dog a Canine Good Citizen?

I always told myself that when I got a dog as an adult I would take him or her to training classes. The beagle that I had growing up was not a well-trained dog and she became a bit of a terror, eating everything in sight (she had a stomach of steel), bolting every time the door opened and howling for hours at a time.

When I got my dog and read more about training, I realized even more how important it is to the dog’s well-being. A dog needs a strong alpha leader to feel safe. Most of the time a dog’s bad behavior can be attributed to him or her feeling anxious or insecure in his surroundings, along with being bored. Dogs need mental stimulation as well as physical activity, another reason training classes can be so helpful.

I’ve tried a number of classes with my dog, all through North Coast Dogs (www.northcoastdogs.com). Most recently we did the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) course. The five week course focuses on teaching your dog the skills to accept distractions gracefully, as well as fading the use of treats and toys as rewards. At the end of the course, dogs take the CGC test, a test designed by the American Kennel Club to promote responsible dog ownership and well-mannered dogs. The test is composed of these 10 skills:

  • Accepting a friendly stranger.
  • Sitting politely for petting.
  • Allowing basic grooming procedures.
  • Walking on a loose leash
  • Walking through a crowd
  • Sitting and lying down on command and staying in place.
  • Coming when called
  • Reacting appropriately to another dog
  • Reacting appropriately to distractions
  • Calmly enduring supervised separation from the owner

I would like to say that although my dog does some of these things really well, he doesn’t do all of them well yet (he loves me a little too much for the separation part). And since the dog has to pass all 10 test items, he did not get the CGC certification. Even though he didn’t pass, the class was not a complete failure. The test training definitely taught my dog a lot, including control of his reactions to dogs and others, staying for extended periods of time (usually best when I am still in sight), and sitting politely for petting. And now I have a good idea of things we need to focus on in more depth. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who wants to have a well mannered dog that you can take out to restaurants and shopping centers.

We still have a long ways to go but I know that my dog benefits from the mental stimulation and confidence that the classes provide. He may not have the certification, but he’s definitely a Canine Good Citizen in my book.

What training classes or activities have worked for your dog? Would he pass the CGC?