Canine Good Citizen

Canine Good Citizen

Among companion animals, dogs are unmatched in their devotion, loyalty, and friendship to humankind. Anyone who has ever loved a dog can attest to its hundred-fold return. The excitement your dog shows when you come home, the wagging tail at the sound of the leash being taken from its hook, the delight in the tossing of a tennis ball, and the head nestled in your lap-those are only some of the rewards of being a dog owner.

Owning a dog is not just a privilege-it’s a responsibility. These animals depend on us for, at minimum, food and shelter, and deserve much more. Responsible Owners, Well-Mannered Dogs. The AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. In CGC, dogs who pass the 10 step CGC test can earn a certificate and/or the official AKC CGC title. Dogs with the CGC title have the suffix, “CGC” after their names.


This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness.


This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. With the dog sitting at the handler’s side, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.


This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so. It also demonstrates the owner’s care, concern and sense of responsibility. The evaluator inspects the dog to determine if it is clean and groomed. The dog must appear to be in healthy condition (i.e., proper weight, clean, healthy and alert). The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot. It is not necessary for the dog to hold a specific position during the examination, and the handler may talk to the dog, praise it and give encouragement throughout.


This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog’s position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler’s movements and changes of direction. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops. The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. In either case, there should be a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The handler may talk to the dog along the way, praise the dog, or give commands in a normal tone of voice. The handler may sit the dog at the halts if desired. Read More: How To Train a Puppy to Walk on a Leash


This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.


This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler’s commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. Prior to this test, the dog’s leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to sit and then down. The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler’s commands. The handler may not force the dog into position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of the line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog. The dog may be released from the front or the side.


This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to “stay” or “wait” or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog.


This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.


This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise.


This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold of the dog’s leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, “there, there, it’s alright”).

Relative Deprivation

Relative Deprivation

Relative deprivation refers to the idea that rewards always exist within a context of available alternatives. For example, the value of a hot dog cannot be considered unless we know what the alternative options are, such as a piece of kibble or a pound of ground beef. For dog trainers, the important consideration is whether we are overpaying, underpaying, or correctly paying our performance dogs. Motivators should be sufficient to develop the desired behavior without being excessive (and therefore difficult to reduce at a later time.) This is the definition given by Denise Fenzi and Deborah Jones in their book, Dog Sports Skills, Book 2 Motivation. (p. 151)

Relative deprivation was (and still is to a great extent) a new concept to me. Fenzi says (p. 29) that trainers who struggle the most to get past the initial learning phases and to finished, ring-ready behaviors are the ones who have over-motivated their dogs, often with little or no thought to developing alternative motivators.  Food is used to mark every positive interaction while developing a warm and intrinsically valuable relationship unintentionally falls by the wayside.

Dogs highly susceptible to relative deprivation find it difficult for them to accept alternative (lesser) motivators within a training session. This happened to me. My dog likes food! He likes to be rewarded. He will offer behaviors just because there might be a good treat coming for such offerings. Is my dog prone to relative deprivation? No, he is not that type of dog. I have TAUGHT that type of behavior. I have taught it so well, that high-value training treats have added more than 5 pounds to my dog!

In fact, I have taught the reward of a high value treat so well, that he wonders off when he knows I do not have any treats on me.  I have been working hard to have a nice off-leash heeling pattern, so have been popping a lot of treats in his mouth. When I am ready to practice a real show experience where I cannot offer any treats the entire time we are in the ring, I lose my dog! He wonders off and creates his own patterns.

In many ways we are so much alike, what’s in it for me? Is it a high enough value to do something when there appear to be better options? I also see this in kids, especially teens. Yes, they intend to take out the garbage, but the Play Station Game right now is so much more rewarding and gets the attention.

Unless you and I are conscious about what we are doing, it is unlikely we will consciously and systematically reduce the schedule of reinforcement. There are many things we need to do: vary high value treats with low value treats, lengthen time between treats, string together behaviors before any treats are offered, and sometimes reward with pats instead of treats or toys.

My dog and I have started playing hide and seek. The reward is just attention from me. I will let you know how it works.

What do you do to wean off treats or toys for 7-10 minutes of performance time while you are training. I would love to hear your recommendations.

Is He Friendly?

Is He/She Friendly?

How many times are you out with your dog and someone asks, “is he friendly?” I always give them a big smile and thank them for asking before I reply. My reply is that he enjoys being pet under his chin and on his shoulder, but he does not like to be hugged.

With my last dog who was extremely social and enjoyed meeting new people as much as he enjoyed meeting new dogs, I never gave this question a second thought. I proudly answered, he loves to meet new people and if they had kids with them, I made sure I added that he is great with kids.

That is what it was like for me for 10.5 years. Then I got a dog who was 2.5 years old and did not spend those 2.5 years being hugged and touched and played with all throughout his puppyhood. He was by no means fearful, but he was uncomfortable with new people and new situations. He simply was not use to people coming into his personal space.

For the dog owners that have a dog that does not love attention from new people, it can be hard to know how to reply. You want to say that he is friendly, because, well he is. After all, he probably greets you each day with enthusiasm and joy. He is a happy, friendly and adjusted dog. That is as long as his routine is not broken he is a friendly dog.

It feels awful to say, “he prefers not to be pet,” and to feel like you have just replied that your dog is mean or not social or even that it is poorly trained. Notice I did not reply that “No, he’s not friendly,” because I try to temper my feelings more than the person asking. Most people take that answer and are okay not petting your dog. However, there are those few that are sure that they have special dog whisperer powers and insist on touching. Be your dog’s advocate and be firm in your stance that you and your dog prefer the stranger not pet him.

With you being the one who now seems unfriendly, you put your dog in a situation where he does not have to demonstrate that he does not like to be touched by those he does not know. You may even want to go on to educate the person by pointing out signs your dog is giving that he is uncomfortable. Say things like, do you see how he ducks or turns his head or moves away. Or if you can read your dog well, you may want to point out his baseline posture, changes in his eyes, ears, mouth and tail carriage.

Remember we all need to follow the signals the dog is giving us. If an owner says, “he would rather not be pet today,” then smile and say “okay, no problem!” and move along.  Just be genuinely happy that this very lucky dog has an owner who is advocating for his comfort and wellbeing.