DEAR DIDI: My boyfriend and I have a very sweet Rottweiler name Libby. We are signing a new lease to move into a new apartment next week together. The landlord is requiring a pet deposit and CGC verification. What is that and how do we get it? ? Excited to start a new life together in Manteca
DEAR EXCITED: The American Kennel Club (AKC) developed a program called Canine Good Citizen (CGC) in 1989 to help promote responsible dog ownership. The program has become a standard in good manners for dogs and recently morphed into an actual title that your dog can earn. The owner must first sign a pledge to be a responsible owner and take care of their canine’s health needs, safety, exercise, training, and overall quality of life. Everyone thinks their dogs are well mannered, but can you prove it...in a public setting?
The test consists of ten objectives that demonstrate a dog’s ability to be polite around others or while out in public. For example, we ask CGC dogs to be polite when a stranger approaches her owner. There should be no jumping, barking or bouncing around. Conversely, she should not act scared and hide behind her owner. Typically, that stranger (test person) will stand and speak with you briefly and then ask to pet your dog. Libby should be calm and accepting of the attention. Your dog’s overall grooming and appearance is taken into consideration. I would recommend a good bath and toenail clipping before arriving at the test location. Responsible dog ownership plainly means that you attend to your dog’s hygiene needs on a regular basis. The tester will then evaluate your ability to control your dog while walking on leash. You will be asked to turn various directions and make two stops. They are not looking for a perfect “Heel” but they will want to see that you have enough control that Libby does not trip you, act like a sled dog, bark, or behave like a juvenile delinquent in general. The tester will also recruit at least three human volunteers that are unknown to your pooch. The volunteers will just stand around mostly, although, one of them should be moving. You will be directed to walk Libby through the ‘crowd’ to observe her manners in that situation. She is allowed to take casual interest in people but not break from walking nicely next to you as you pass them or jump up in any way.
The second half of the test will demonstrate that Libby can “Sit” and “Down” when asked. She will also be tested on her ability to “Stay” while you walk 20 feet away from her. Your test person will then ask you to call Libby from a 20 foot distance and will want to see that she will return to you when prompted to do so. Your dog’s reaction to two sudden sounds or movement is evaluated. Frequently, the tester will drop something behind your dog that results in a loud noise. Libby is allowed to have a startle reflex, as any normal animal would, but we hope that she won’t flip out, bark, growl and become uncontrollable on the leash. Testers get creative on the second item. Sometimes they will open an umbrella near a dog, walk by on crutches or have a volunteer run past the dog suddenly.
In my experience, the most difficult part of the CGC for many dogs is when they are asked to come face to face with another dog on a leash. It is intended to feel as if you are on a walk with your dog and approach another person that is out walking their dog. Both humans should be able to stop, exchange a few kind words, and then move on without their dogs acting in a rude manner. The dogs are only allowed to show casual interest in one another. Lunging forward and insisting on sniffing the other dog would be a fail. Obviously, growling and barking are not allowed even if you think it is only because your dog is excited and wants to play with the other dog. The last item on the test has you hand your leash to the tester and walk out of sight for three minutes. This is to demonstrate that your dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and that she will maintain her training and good manners. She is allowed to move around and stare in the direction that you disappeared, but should not show excessive anxiety through drooling, barking, and repeated attempts to escape the person holding her.
When I am testing a dog for CGC I am required to fail a dog if I see it bark, lunge or act aggressively at any time. That means that from the moment you get Libby out of the car she will be watched and observed. As a matter of fact, if I see a dog that I have tested in the past acting with aggression even months or years later I am required to report it to AKC. I wholeheartedly believe in this program and the aforementioned test elements are perfect examples of what all canines should be able to do. Size and breed are never exceptions to good manners! Many insurance companies are beginning to take note of the CGC exam, as are, judges in civil court cases. If Libby isn’t ready to pass her CGC most landlords will accept proof from a trainer that the dog has entered training towards that goal. Perhaps, they will grant you a specified period of time to complete the program and show her certificate. For more information or to find an AKC CGC evaluator in your area please visit www.akc.org.
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Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University, owner of California Canine, and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Dear Didi. Just email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.