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Pet Wise: Is your dog a Canine Good Citizen?

Imagine my surprise and delight when I read the recent Carroll County Times front page article about the Carroll Kennel Club and dog training! I have been training and showing dogs for more than 40 years and have served as an obedience instructor for several dog clubs including the Carroll County 4-H Dog Project. Over the years, I have been promoting dog training classes in my “Pet Wise” columns.

The way we train dogs has changed over the years. In the past, trainers were using force methods that were potentially harmful including the use of shock collars, or pinning a dog to the ground; all of which could instill fear, aggression possibly injury to the dog and handler. Unfortunately, there still are dog trainers who still use harsh methods.

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Fortunately, positive training methods are being utilized, namely food rewards! The “old time” trainers might think of this as bribery but we should think of food rewards as our dog’s “paycheck” for a job well done!

Basic obedience skill mastery serves as the foundation for all canine sports and activities. Today’s column presents information about a useful and meaningful activity that is available to all dogs. The basic obedience skills are sit, down, stand, stay, heel on lead, come on command (also known as the recall).

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"Team 12 Paws" includes their dogs; Leo, a 5-1/2 year old Black Lab, Piper, a female 5-1/2 year old Yellow Lab, and Whim, a female 3-1/2 year old German Short-haired Pointer. Heather Rees, President of Carroll Kennel Club, and her daughter Samantha "Sam" Schlosburg, train their dogs performance training and sport at "My K9 Buddy" in Westminster.
"Team 12 Paws" includes their dogs; Leo, a 5-1/2 year old Black Lab, Piper, a female 5-1/2 year old Yellow Lab, and Whim, a female 3-1/2 year old German Short-haired Pointer. Heather Rees, President of Carroll Kennel Club, and her daughter Samantha "Sam" Schlosburg, train their dogs performance training and sport at "My K9 Buddy" in Westminster. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Carroll County Times)

American Kennel Club (AKC) developed the “Canine Good Citizen” test program in 1989 to assess dogs’ reactions to everyday real-life situations. The goal was the dogs exhibiting good manners and to promote responsible dog ownership.

Many dog training clubs use the CGC test as a graduation exercise for completing advanced and basic obedience classes. The CGC test is also used in conjunction with other screening tools by some therapy dog organizations for selecting potential therapy dogs.

CGC tests are conducted by dog clubs throughout the country as community outreach projects and may take place at dog training centers, dog shows, and community events. The evaluators are certified by the AKC and must be capable of judging if the dogs are under their owner’s control and that the dog do not display aggression or fear. To insure passing the 10-part test, the dogs should be well socialized and have successfully completed basic obedience training.

Before the test is administered, owners sign the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge by which the owner agrees to meet their dog’s health, safety, exercise, training and quality of life needs as well as cleaning up after their dog in public places and never allowing their dog to become a nuisance. For the test, dogs may wear buckle, slip, or martingale collars with leashes made of fabric webbing or leather, and owners supply a comb or brush. The use of prong or head collars, harnesses, food or toys, or harsh corrections are not permitted.

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Here is a brief summary of the 10 test exercises:

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger. The dog allows a friendly stranger to approach, greet, shake hands and speak with the handler.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting. The evaluator pets the dog’s head and body as he sits or stands at his handler’s side. The dog must not exhibit shyness or resentment.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming. This test simulates an appointment with a vet or groomer. The evaluator inspects the dog, gently brushes or combs him, examines his ears and picks up each front paw. The handler may talk to the dog during this test exercise.

Test 4: Out for a walk on a loose leash. The handler takes the dog for a short walk that includes a right turn, left turn, and stop as instructed by the evaluator. Precision is not required as in formal obedience work, and handlers may give commands and praise their dogs.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd. This test demonstrates that the dog is under control in crowded public places. The dog and handler will walk close to several people, and the dog may exhibit interest but not jump on people, pull on the leash or exhibit shyness, resentment, or over exuberance. The handler may talk to and encourage the dog during this test.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and staying in place. The dog responds to the handler’s sit and down commands. The handler then chooses either position, leaves the dog and goes to the end of a 20-foot leash which is provided by the evaluator and attached to the dog’s collar at the beginning of this exercise and immediately returns to the dog.

Test 7: Coming when called. The handler walks 10 feet from the dog, turns, faces and calls him.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog. The dog and handler are approached by a role-playing handler and dog from a distance of 20 feet, stop, shake hands, chat briefly and move on. The dogs can exhibit casual interest but may not directly interact or visit the other handler.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction. This test demonstrates that a dog exhibits confidence when faced with distractions and must not panic, display aggressiveness or bark.

Test 10: Supervised separation. The handler goes out of sight for three minutes while the dog is held on a 6-foot leash by the evaluator. The dog may not continually bark, whine or pace while the handler is out of sight.

To qualify for the AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate, dogs must pass all 10 tests. The evaluator provides the handler with the completed test form which the handler sends with the $8 fee to the AKC to receive the official CGC certificate. For more information, visit www.akc.org/events/cgc.

Although earning the CGC certificate is a major achievement, dog owners should be committed to abide by the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge and serve as role models to the community.

Since 1990, I can proudly state that 14 dogs I’ve owned have passed the CGC test, enabling them to spread joy and demonstrate their good manners to school children, nursing home residents and senior citizens.

Iris Katz serves as a member of the board of directors and as an educational facilitator for the Humane Society of Carroll County. Her column appears on the third Sunday of the month.

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