Text Copyright the American Kennel Club, Inc., 2005. No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from AKC Family Dog, September/October 2005.
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Please, Mom, please. I’ll take care of him, honest. Pleeeeease?” The kid really wants that puppy.
It’s one of the universal rites of parenthood, the moment when you must give the a dog is a big responsibility” speech.
You may have recently played this scene with your child. You sternly warned that along with the fun of a dog come the responsibilities: grooming,
feeding, walking, you know the rest. But did you consider the wider obligations you assumed when you finally said yes to your pleading child?
The unwritten code of canine conduct demands a dog who in public is neither a menace nor a nuisance, a well-behaved pet who does credit to his
family, his breeder, and the wider world of all dog lovers. When this civic duty is neglected, everyone concerned-especially the dog-loses.
Get with the program
AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) helps people become responsible dog owners. It’s a noncompetitive certification program that rewards dog-and-handler
teams who pass a 10step test of canine good manners.
To become a Canine Good Citizen, a dog must be trained to walk on a loose leash, navigate through a crowd, come when called, sit for petting, welcome
examination and grooming from a third party, accept friendly strangers, sit and down, behave around other dogs, handle distractions, and cope
with separation from his owner.
Owners can work with their local dog club or a private trainer to prepare for the test. Once your canine partner has mastered the 10 commands,
he can be tested by a CGC evaluator at a dog event in your area.
Police and animal-control agencies use CGC for dealing with dog problems. There are therapy-dog organizations that utilize it as a part of their
screening procedure, and 4-H groups employ it as a beginning dog training program. State legislatures recognize CGC as a means of advocating
responsible dog ownership, and 1 7 states have passed Canine Good Citizen resolutions. Foreign countries have developed programs based on CGC.
The programs wide and expanding popularity isn’t hard to explain. People love their dogs and want to strengthen the bond by bringing them along
on family outings and vacations, and to recreational areas and the workplace. CGC training makes it possible.
Many novice dog sport participants choose CGC as the first step in their training regimen. The program lays the foundation for participation in
competitive events such as obedience, agility, tracking, rally, hunt tests, and field trials.
And it isn’t only beginners who rely on CGC, as Elizabeth Crisp Blake, of Davis, California, will happily admit. Blake has for decades been a leading
breeder-exhibitor of Border Terriers. Recently, she was sitting ringside at a dog show with Bonnie, one of her champion Borders. ‘She was sitting
in my lap, and I think she thought this other dog was invading her space.”
Bonnie didn’t attack, but she took an aggressive posture and made an unfriendly sound-snurfiui, as terrier people say. “This is not acceptable
behavior. I was so embarrassed, everyone saying how pretty she was, how beautiful, but there was that behavior.”
hadn’t been out in public, except for regular walks in the park, since she finished her championship months earlier. “It wasn’t fair to her.
I wasn’t giving her the continuing socialization she needs. So I’m starting her in a CGC class.”
“We have a third of an acre, and you’re tempted to think that provides plenty of exercise. But dogs need another kind of exercise, mental exercise,
which conies only from getting out in different public settings.
“Whether a pet or show dog, once she has a desired behavior you have to keep putting her in situations that reinforce it.”
Blake, a teacher by profession, knows that this kind of continuing education must be built on a strong foundation and, as she tells her puppy
customers, “CGC is great place to start.”