Passing the Canine Good Citizen Test

Just recently, I had the pleasure of certifying three dogs as “Canine Good Citizens.” What is a “Canine Good Citizen”? Good question. No, this title does not automatically grant dogs public access. It doesn’t make them a therapy animal. And it doesn’t mean that they are bomb proof. However, it is the first step to all of the above.

Canine Good Citizen certification gets your dogs the CGC title after his name. Three little letters that mean he is a “good citizen.” He can walk by other dogs and not lose control. He can stay with a stranger while you leave for a few minutes and not lose his mind with worry. He can walk on a loose leash without tripping everyone else on the sidewalk. He can tolerate being handled and lightly groomed by strangers.  And much more.

When these three clients passed their CGC test, I asked myself, what does it take? And why don’t more people do it? Imagine a world where everyone got their dog CGC certified. Dogs would be allowed on every patio, in every outdoor public space, probably even indoors more often since there’s a house training requirement as well. So, why isn’t this the case?

Is it too expensive?
Not necessarily. My clients completed 3 sets of classes to get their puppies prepared for the test. They started with Puppy Kindergarten when their pups were around 8 weeks old. Then they graduated to Basic Obedience when their pups turned at least 5 months. And finally, they enrolled in Canine Good Citizen prep class as soon as they were old enough. Each class is $149. That means for $450 they got over 6 month’s worth of weekly training sessions. Because they started training so early and so consistently, I never once I had to visit their house for private sessions dealing with behavioral issues, which gets much more expensive much more quickly.

Is it too time-consuming?
I guess this one is open to interpretation. Some people might say an hour every Saturday morning just won’t fit into their schedule. But, for most I think it’s doable. And it will save you a whole lot of time in the future. This time is an investment in the relationship you have your dog, in his ability to fit in with our two-legged society, and ultimately, in his safety. One of my clients had soccer games and work calls on the weekend, but they still made it happen.

Is it too difficult?
If you start when your pup is young enough it’s a piece of cake. That’s not to say you shouldn’t start if your dog is older. His success will depend on your dedication and honestly, on his previous experiences. If he’s had years to practice the behavior of barking at dogs walking by him, then yes it may be a challenge. But, one well worth the effort. They even have advanced CGC titles for dog-human partners who need the extra challenge.

Ultimately, what it takes to pass the CGC test is dedication. Dedication to your dog, his success, your relationship, and his safety. These are behaviors all dogs should have, especially if they ever spend time out in public. Unlike history exams and the SAT, this is one test worth taking and worth studying for!



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