Canines Make Good Citizens

In Dangerous Deeds (forthcoming), community members are taking sides over a proposed ordinance to ban “dangerous” dog breeds. Waterside Kennels owner Maggie Porter’s no fan of breed specific legislation, so when BSL opponents ask for advice, she encourages them to get involved with the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program.

Note: while the Waterside Kennels series is a work of fiction, many plot lines come straight out of the news. Breed-specific bans, for example, can be found in many states and countries.   While the Pit Bull may be the most commonly banned breed, many other breeds have been the target of legislation. The AKC opposes such bans, arguing that “Like racial profiling, BSL punishes responsible dog owners without holding owners of truly dangerous dogs accountable.”

A better answer is to develop good canine citizenship skills. As my protagonist Maggie says in Deadly Ties:

“That means teaching your dog to be well-mannered in all situations, and not to be intimidated by strangers, other dogs, or unfamiliar noises. A well-trained dog is a happy dog. And that takes dedication, patience, and discipline.”

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The Canine Good Citizen program (commonly known as the CGC) is fast becoming known as the standard of behavior for dogs in our communities. The CGC is open to all purebred and mixed breed dogs. To pass the test, dogs must demonstrate ten basic skills, copied here from the AKC website . Each item links to a super-short video.

The CGC test includes:

  1. Accepting a Friendly Stranger
    The dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler.
  2. Sitting Politely for Petting
    The dog will allow a friendly stranger to pet it while it is out with its handler.
  3. Appearance and Grooming
    The dog will permit someone to check its ears and front feet, as a groomer or veterinarian would do.
  4. Out for a Walk (walking on a loose lead)
    Following the evaluator’s instructions, the dog will walk on a loose lead (with the handler/owner).
  5. Walking Through a Crowd
    This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three).
  6. Sit and Down on Command and Staying in Place
    The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay.
  7. Coming When Called
    This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler (from 10 feet on a leash).
  8. Reaction to Another Dog
    This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries.
  9. Reaction to Distraction
    The evaluator will select and present two distractions such as dropping a chair, etc.
  10. Supervised Separation
    This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold of the dog’s leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, “there, there, it’s alright”).

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 Go here  to find a CGC evaluator near you. Already have your CGC certificate? Share your experience in the comments. Photos welcome!

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