As a dog-owner and canine care professional in the Reading/North Reading communities, it has been a pleasure to live alongside and work with so many wonderfully responsible dog owners that are truly model citizens. Credit must also be paid to these wonderful people for working with and encouraging their cuddly canines to act as good citizens out and about in the world as well. It is in that spirit that we have joined in the American Kennel Club's initiative of promoting and celebrating Responsible Dog Ownership Days this month.
If you aren't already familiar with the AKC's Canine Good Citizen program, it is an evaluation given after a dog has received proper basic training and socialization either formally with the help or a trainer or informally from his or her owner. It is a wonderful way to ensure that doggie parents are on the right track toward making their dogs pleasant and reliably obedient members of the community.
Bark n' Roll will be offering evaluations this Sunday at the Reading Fall Street Faire at our area down on Chute Street in front of the everything but the dog boutique. The cost is $10 and partial proceeds will be donated to the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem. The remainder goes toward testing materials. Check out the requirements and examples below and come on down and give it a whirl! Or use them as a list of things to work on with your pup! You may just have a Canine Good Citizen in your home and it's for a great cause at a fun event!
Item 1: Accepting a friendly stranger: Dogs are generally social by nature, which explains why us humans dig them so much. Socialization begins the moment you welcome your pup or adult rescue into your home and includes exposing him frequently to a diverse variety of humans of all ages. The more positive experiences the better! Working slowly with shy/timid dogs to help them gain confidence around humans is a great goal. They may never be the most outgoing dog in the neighborhood, but with some time and patience, I believe most dogs can learn to at least cope peacefully around humans.
Item 2: Sitting politely for petting: This part of the test goes hand in hand with item 1. Exposing your dog to handling by humans from day one is important to ensure the safety of vets, groomers and other handlers as well as people who can't help but want to pet your dog! It is important to respect the boundaries of those that don't love to be touched frequently (certainly not all humans enjoy having their personal space invaded!), but training with patience and positivity can go a long way here. The word politely means no jumping or wily behavior during petting as well - manners are easily trained through consistency with every greeting and a practicing to maintain a simple reliable Sit! Dogs with manners rock our world.
Item 3: Appearance & Grooming: We are responsible for the health and quality of life of our pets. This test item includes a dog being able to be brushed/combed gently without a negative reaction. This also takes into account that the owner is properly maintaining a healthy appearance for his or her dog through grooming and exercise. Bring your own brush or comb down to the test if you'd like!
Item 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead): There can be no question of who is walking who during this test item! Owner and dog will be asked to walk in a straight line and makes turns and stops accordingly. Leash must be loose and the owner is certainly allowed to speak to the dog the whole time to keep them moving along - no dragging the dog allowed! If you walk your dog often you probably already have this test item in the bag! Please note that head halters, pulling-management harnesses, pinch/prong collars or any other pulling/jumping management equipment is not allowed during the test. No cheating!
Item 5: Walking through a crowd: Is your dog able to walk closely among people without jumping on them or reacting negatively/impolitely? This item brings in several other items as it involves socialization and walking politely on leash. We may love our dogs, but that doesn't mean everyone else is okay with them getting too close for comfort. A responsible dog owner always keeps this in mind.
Item 6: Sit and Down on command and Staying in place: Sit and Down aren't just cool tricks a dog can learn. They are two magical cues that once learned can be used in so many ways in daily life! I am willing to bet your dog already has an awesome Sit, Down & a Sit and/or Down Stay! If not, practice makes perfect especially around all levels of distractions.
Item 7: Coming when Called: We believe that training a dog to have a reliable recall is so important that we offer a course at the School of Rock that focuses completely on training a Rockin' Recall! There is no more important safety cue and the more pleasant your dog learns it is to come to you when you call, the more willing he or she will do it when needed the most! The test item requires a distance of 10 feet so it's nothing too crazy.
Item 8: Reaction to another dog: Socialization strikes again! How many times have we asked another owner to please walk by with his or her dog without allowing the dogs to meet for any number of reasons? Sometimes we simply don't have the time to stop. Other times we have dogs in training that are working on meeting other dogs politely on leash. Have people asked you to do the same? If your dog needs more work meeting others politely on leash or simply not meeting others when asked to, don't give up! There are many ways to train so that they learn to cope and greet others nicely or politely walk on by when it's not the time to say hello. In this particular test your dog will be asked to be politely at your side while meeting another human with her dog on leash. The dogs will not be allowed to meet. Training dogs to have impulse control is super useful!
Item 9: Reaction to distraction: Dogs that are properly socialized and exposed to loud noises, the sudden appearance of objects that are strange to them, etc. have a better quality of life due to an ability to cope with changes in the world around them at any given moment. Your dog will be presented with two distractions and expected to remain relatively calm and cool while exposed.
Item 10: Supervised separation: Responsible dog owners work with their dogs to prevent separation anxiety that can result in injury, destruction or just general unpleasant disturbances to the peaceful existence of your neighbors. Dogs will be supervised on-leash by an evaluator or helper while their owners disappear out of sight for three minutes. Dogs are allowed mild reactions, but nothing over the top.
For more details on the test items and guidelines please visit: http://classic.akc.org/events/cgc/training_testing.cfm
Even if you feel this evaluation is out of your dog's league at the moment, come on down and join us for some furry fun this Sunday from 12-5!