Last Friday my dog Otis aced her AKC Canine Good Citizen test at the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society. While her passing was in my mind never in doubt, it does feel good to have Otis recognized for her obedience skills and all-around good manners. I encourage people who are committed to their dog’s welfare to work towards achieving this level of basic obedience, to take the test when their dog is ready—and then to celebrate with a victory lap and a hotdog or two.
As a lover of mutts, I am encouraged by the American Kennel Club’s continued recognition of non-pure bred dogs in their Agility, Obedience, Tracking, Hunting and other canine sporting events. We all think of AKC as being an advocate for breeds and lineages, so it’s heartening that they are now allowing mongrels in certain competitions.
The AKC Canine Good Citizen program was established in 1989 to reward any dog who has good manners at home and in the community. As of January 1 of next year, any dog who passes or has passed the test, regardless of whether a pure breed or not, may use the title “CGC” after their names. More and more cities and states are recognizing the award and title by offering discounted dog licenses and off-leash access to certain park and other facilities.
As a dog trainer, I look forward to working with my clients to establish the skills to pass the following ten tests:
Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.
Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while out with its handler. With the dog sitting at the handler’s side, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.
Test 3: Appearance and grooming
This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so. The evaluator softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot.
Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog’s position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler’s movements and changes of direction. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops. The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. The handler may talk to the dog along the way, praise the dog, or give commands in a normal tone of voice.
Test 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). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.
Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
This test demonstrates that the dog will respond to the handler’s commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of a 20-foot long line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in place until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog.
Test 7: Coming when called
This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog.
Test 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, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.
Test 9: Reaction to distraction
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator selects and presents two distractions, such as a dropping chair or rolling a crate dolly past the dog. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark.
Test 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.