The American Kennel Club has had a basic manners test for dogs called Canine Good Citizen since 1989. The CGC test is a simple 10-step test for dogs and their handlers. I can’t say I have ever been an enormous proponent of the AKC, mainly because I have always had mixed breed dogs and could honestly not care less about a dog’s pedigree. I do however, care very much about their behavior, basic manners and the ability to live in harmony with their owners. The majority of my clients are not showing their dogs in a ring or doing super advanced training but they do all want a “nice, good dog.” The Canine Good Citizen test is a great place to start. In our Beyond Basics class, along with some pretty fun games and exercises, we practice the CGC tests and then take the evaluation on the last week. I really don’t even care if everyone in the class passes but I do want them to work towards it, not for the certificate necessarily but for the skills. The CGC test is certainly not perfect and I do have some reservations* about parts of the test as noted below next to the skill. My biggest issue with the test is that the handler is not allowed to use treats to reinforce behaviors during the test. I believe a dog should get paid for his work and even an older dog who has has lots of training should get paid! He doesn’t need a treat for everything he does but he shouldn’t grow out (or train out) of getting reinforced for his good behavior.

The test skills include:

1: Accepting a friendly stranger  *I do not think your dog needs to be totally cool with letting anyone and everyone touching them! You should be able to read your dog’s body language in any given situation, assess how he is feeling in the moment and proceed accordingly – that may mean to not allow the stranger to approach him.
2: Sitting politely for petting
3: Appearance and grooming
4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
5: Walking through a crowd
6: Sit and down on cue and Staying in place
7: Coming when called
8: Reaction to another dog
9: Reaction to distraction
10: Supervised separation *I do not think you should leave your dog with a stranger but for this skill you may ask your dog to do a “stay” so that he has a job (something TO DO) while you disappear for a couple of minutes.

Those sound reasonable, don’t you think?

These are not complicated tests but they certainly mean a lot. I think a dog that passes these tests would certainly qualify as a “nice, good dog.” I always recommend getting the CGC certification to anyone who rents their housing; it is a great way to persuade a landlord to let you rent their property. Also highly recommended if you have a dog that is often stereotyped (Pittie-types, Rottweilers, Dobermans etc. – you know who you are). Getting the CGC certificate can be a tremendous help in dispelling the myths often surrounded by these dogs. Wouldn’t it be swell to have a “nice, good dog”? I think so.

Please join me for Beyond Basics-CGC Prep

Next classes start in Georgetown July 9th, Ballard Sept. 7th. $155 (CGC testing included!). 



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