Yesterday evening, the last of my five dogs, Dover, passed his Canine Good Citizen test. This is huge for us because Dover, a deaf English setter, came to us with such severe canine compulsive disorder that he was disconnected from everything in the world around him except the lights and shadows he lived to chase. He was a foster for an English setter rescue but it was clear that he was unadoptable after six months of sloooooow progress uphill and we adopted him. I knew that placing him in an “average pet owner” home would be risky. His condition is serious enough that he has been placed on anti-anxiety medication to help control the compulsion and for three years, managing his behavior and trying to recover his quality of life has been a huge part of our lives. We initially had kept him because it was the best thing for HIM but over time, we realized that we were just as much in love with him as any of our other dogs and can’t imagine this journey without him. Passing his test last night was like planting our flag on top of Mt. Everest. Proof that we made this climb together. I’m not sure what is in our future but I know this: whatever we try to accomplish, we will succeed!
What is CGC testing?
The American Kennel Club has a series of simple tests for you to demonstrate your dog’s status as a Canine Good Citizen (CGC)- essentially that he or she is a well mannered, respectable member of society and not a menace, danger or nuisance. This test is actually a jumping board to therapy dog testing but they are not the same thing.
What do you get? A certificate that proves your dog has proven itself in front of one to three evaluators. Some insurance companies will reduce your home owner’s rates if you present these certificates for the dogs in your household.
Your dog must pass ten tests for a 100% in order to be certified. Automatic dismissal occurs if the dog growls, snaps, bites, attacks or grabs any person or another dog. If the handler is unsportsmanlike, kicks, strikes or manhandles a dog at any time, the pair will be dismissed immediately. If your dog eliminates during the test, you will be dismissed although you can take the test at another date.
Your dog will wear a harness or collar (no correction collars or head halters) and depending on the facility where you test, you may be asked for proof of license or rabies.
SO, is your dog CGC-worthy?
Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
Evaluator approaches the handler, shakes hands with and greets the handler, ignoring the dog. The dog may be sitting, standing or laying down but may not break whatever position it’s in to go to the evaluator and cannot show signs of timidity or aggression.
Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
Now the evaluator greets the dog, petting its head and body. The dog may stand or remain sitting politely for this but should not jump up on the evaluator and as above, cannot be shy or resentful.
Test 3: Appearance and grooming
The evaluator inspects the dog as a veterinarian might examine it, checking the body, feet, and ears. The handler brings a brush the dog is familiar with so the evaluator can lightly brush the dog. The dog should be healthy in appearance and cannot be frightened or aggressive in response to handling.
Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
Exactly what it says- your dog should walk beside you and not pull ahead on the leash. Usually you walk in an L shape pattern out and then back because there must be a left turn, a right turn, an about turn, a halt somewhere along the route and a halt at the end.
Test 5: Walking through a crowd
Essentially, a crowd of people (usually there are kids or people with crutches in this crowd at the tests I’ve observed) spreads out not too thinly and you are instructed to walk around them, passing fairly close. The dog doesn’t have to totally ignore people but shouldn’t jump or strain on the leash, be fearful, aggressive, or overly excited.
Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
At this station, your dog is placed on a 20 ft line. You must ask your dog to sit and down to show that s/he knows how, and then you pick the position to leave your dog in for the duration of the test. Telling your dog to stay, you move to the end of the 20 foot line and wait for your evaluator to send you back to your dog, return to your position and then the dog may move.
Test 7: Coming when called
Usually done right after the sit while your dog is still on the long line, you now must put your dog in a stay and walk 10 feet away from your dog. When the evaluator gives you the signal, you release your dog and tell it to come to you. This test isn’t for the stay so your dog doesn’t need to be PERFECT in a stay here, but it certainly goes over better. All you’re doing is demonstrating that the dog will come to you when called.
Test 8: Reaction to another dog
Two test takers and their dogs walk across the floor to each other, they shake hands and say hello, exchange pleasantries, etc, and then continue walking. The dogs are on the outside, not walking face to face, and must not go to each other or the other handler. You don’t have to put them in a sit but some/most evaluators I have worked with like to see that.
Test 9: Reaction to distraction
This might be “dropping a crutch or cane,” “dropping a chair,” rolling a wheelchair, opening an umbrella, clanging pots or pans, etc. The dog is allowed to startle but can’t bark, lunge, or try to run away.
Test 10: Supervised separation
Tester leaves dog with an evaluator or a test volunteer and goes out of sight for three minutes. As long as the dog doesn’t throw a total fit (constantly bark, whine, pace, or otherwise seem freaked out though mild nervousness is okay) it should be able to pass.