Help Your Dog Be A Good Citizen
By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
The Canine Good Citizenship Test is administered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and is a prerequisite for most dog therapy programs. It is a certification that your dog is well-behaved and obedient. Once your dog has mastered the requirements for this test you will know that you have done well teaching your dog manners and can rest assured that he will behave under normal circumstances. Following are the ten requirements that are evaluated during the Canine Good Citizenship Test according to the AKC and hints to help you get ready.
“Accepting a friendly stranger”
Your dog must be comfortable with a friendly stranger approaching you in an everyday situation without seeking attention or acting jealous. Help your dog get comfortable with not being the center of attention by stopping to talk to people while you are out on walks. You can contrive the situation by calling a neighbor when you’re about to take your walk and asking them to come outside and say hello as you walk by. Stop and shake their hand. Remind them that they must not pay attention to the dog at all. Stop and talk to your friends and neighbors regularly as you take walks with your dog and this one’s a breeze.
“Sitting politely for petting”
Make sure your dog has the sit command down cold. Then just take him to plenty of dog-friendly places and encourage friendly people to pet him, but only when he is in a relaxed state. The more positive attention he gets when he is calm (and the more he is ignored when he is not) the more he will be consistently relaxed and sit politely for petting.
“Appearance and grooming”
Your dog should be neatly groomed and be comfortable being looked-over and brushed by a stranger. Groom your dog regularly so he is comfortable with having his ears and paws messed-with and being brushed. Then have friends and family members handle and brush him from time to time so he is comfortable with this sort of attention coming from others.
“Out for a walk”
Your dog should walk politely on a loose leash. Take your dog for a long walk once a day and insist that he walk at your side (not in front of you). If you walk your dog every day and consistently enforce proper walk etiquette (loose lead, walking next to you, no pulling, attention on you) this one will be no problem.
“Walking through a crowd”
This test shows that you have control over your dog no matter the situation. Once you have the proper walking etiquette mastered with your dog, start taking him for walks in places with more and more noise and pedestrian traffic. Start slow, in lower-traffic areas, and work your way up to crowds as you see fit. Once you feel that you could walk your dog down a crowded city sidewalk and keep his attention on you, he’s ready for this test.
“Sit and down on command and staying in place”
Mastering sit, down, and stay are important to any dog obedience training. Learn more about teaching your dog sit, down, and stay
. Your dog is ready for the test when he will obey sit, down, and stay even when there are distractions like noisy crowds, food, or other dogs around.
“Coming when called”
Having a handle on the recall command is vital to the safety of your dog. Learn more about teaching the recall command.
When you can get your dog to come when he’s called, even when there are distractions and other interesting things going on, he’s ready.
“Reaction to another dog”
Your dog should be able to react to the presence of another dog with no more than minimal interest. Get him comfortable with the presence of other dogs by taking him to a dog park regularly, to other dog-friendly locations, and inviting friends with dogs over for play dates. Use the same methods you would use for “accepting a friendly stranger” and include other dogs in the scenario as well.
“Reaction to distraction”
In this test, the evaluator will attempt to distract your dog by making loud noises or displaying unfamiliar objects. You dog cannot be frightened, behave aggressively, or react with excitement. Prepare your dog for this test by practicing obedience exercises in areas with plenty of distraction. Work on sit, down, and stay in places with lots of commotion. Once your dogs doing them perfectly despite the din, he’s ready.
Your dog must be comfortable with his leash being held by a stranger while you are out of sight for three minutes. Get your dog ready for this one by asking friends to hold him and reward him with treats for acting calm as you go out of sight for short periods of time. Do this over and over with treats, and then gradually phase out the treats in favor of praise. Eventually you can phase out the praise as well as it will be ingrained in your dog that being held briefly by someone other than you is a positive experience.
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