6 reasons to train for (and take) the Canine Good Neighbour Test

As you may have heard, the German Short-haired Pointer Club of Manitoba will be sponsoring a Canine Good Neighbour test at our facility on August 21, 2010.

You may be thinking that the Canine Good Neighbour program is only for purebred dogs or people who want to compete in obedience but think again!  This program is offered by the Canadian Kennel Club to both purebred dogs and unregistered dogs, including mixed breed dogs. The goal of the program is to certify dogs and handlers as teams that are good members of their communities displaying appropriate manners around people distractions and other dogs.

This test is not a competition and each team is evaluated on how they navigate the 12 following exercises as a team.

  1. Accepting A Friendly Stranger
  2. Politely Accepts Petting Appearance and grooming
  3. Out For A Walk
  4. Walking Through a Crowd
  5. Sit/Down On Command and Stay In Place (Long Line)
  6. Come When Called (Long Line)
  7. Praise/Interaction
  8. Reaction to Passing Dog
  9. Reaction To Distractions
  10. Supervised Isolation
  11. Walking Through A Door/Gate

If you have never considered doing this test or are on the fence about it, I hope the following list will convince you that you can do it and that you should do it.

  1. You get a Fancy Certificate: Well maybe this isn’t the noble reason on the list but you have to admit that getting “stuff” is nice, especially if that stuff is evidence of your hard work! If you are like me and like to scrapbook, a CGN certificate gives you at least a page worth of scrapbooking.  You can also frame your dog’s certificate and show all your friends and family. Your dog’s breeder no doubt will also be pleased to see that you have taken dog ownership seriously. Scroll down to see Bear’s fancy certificate.
  2. It’s great for goal setting (For those of us who want well behaved family pets): Some of us are really good at training our dogs to get them ready for real life situations; others (like me) are not. I am the kind of person who needs to set goals if I’m going to get anywhere.  I once entered and trained for a ½ marathon so I would be in better shape to play on a provincial for rugby team but that’s a story for another day. By training for and attempting the CGN test you are setting a goal for yourself (and your dog by extension) and that goal is to teach your dog to behave himself in public. It might seem simple but there are a lot of dogs out there in shelters and rescues because a lot of people (wrongly) believed that happened their cute little puppy would just magically learn how to behave at home, around strangers and out in public.
  3. You can do your dog daycare and boarding kennel a favour:  As someone who works with groups of dogs, off leash, I can tell you that it is absolutely essential that I be able to touch a dog, pet them, take their collar and do a basic examination of ears, feet etc. The hands-on evaluation I do with every dog that sets foot in daycare is very similar to the one done during the CGN test. Dogs that do not allow me to do these things cannot come to daycare because if there is an emergency, whether it is a torn toenail or a fire in the building. I need to be able to have a look and determine if a vet visit is necessary or be able to put your dog’s leash on so I can lead them to safety. If I can’t even touch your dog, her safety (and mine) are at risk. While interaction between dogs and staff in a boarding kennel may be more limited, the staff members are responsible for your dog’s health and safety and at the very least will need to feed and water your dog. Dogs that fear strangers may present real challenges in a kennel environment. Introducing your dog to many people during puppyhood and on a regular basis beyond puppyhood is essential if you want to pass the CGN and if you plan on having others care for your dog in your absence.
  4. Your Vet and Groomer will love you: Since we discussed daycare and kennel staff previously, I feel that groomers and veterinarians deserve special mention. I love working with dogs but I do not envy groomers and veterinarians. Groomers and veterinarians provide essential health services you can’t avoid vaccines and tangled matted fur and more often than not, groomers and veterinarians have to do unpleasant things to dogs. I know a few vets and groomers and I know they all really appreciate working on dogs that allow them to do their jobs quickly and as painlessly as possible. Training your dog for the handling and basic examination portion of the CGN will help to reduce stress at the veterinarian’s office or the grooming parlour. If your dog does not allow the vet or groomer to do what they need to do then the only remaining options are muzzling, having numerous people pin your dog to a table or the floor or even sedation. None of these options is fun for you, the vet or groomer or your dog.
  5. You can get your puppy ready for competition: If you are planning on competing in ANY event with your dog whether it is showing in conformation, rally obedience, traditional obedience, agility, herding, drafting, tracking or field trials.  The thing common to all dog sport is that you and your dog need to develop a bond of trust and respect or else there’s no way your dog is going to stop herding sheep when you give the command, take a jump instead of a tunnel, or heel nicely by your side for the 4 minutes it takes to complete a rally course. Your dog needs to be tuned in to you to play whatever “game” you choose to play and the CGN is a great way to start working on the “game” by taking your dog into show/trial like venues to practice. Many dog sports are physically demanding so you will not be able to compete until your dog has reached adulthood which may be when he is 12 months old or it may be when he is 24 months old, depending on breed and the type of activity. The CGN is no more physically demanding than a short walk and can be attempted as soon as a dog reaches the age of 6 months. I can’t think of a better way to start your dog’s ‘career’!
  6. You can start training for therapy work: Just like with dog sports, you and your dog need to be able to work well as a team in therapy work. Therapy work is probably more demanding than a lot of other “jobs” dogs have, . Therapy dogs need to be what those of in the dog world call “bomb proof”: The need to be steady under conditions and situations much more difficult and strenuous than your every day dog.  Not every dog is cut out to do therapy work but training for the CGN will help you on the road to developing a great connection with your dog. If you can pass the CGN, you still have a lot of work to do to become a therapy team but you are on the right track.

If I have managed to convince you that you should do the canine good neighbour but you have no idea how or where to start, I would encourage you to first, read the detailed description of each exercise. The best source of information about the test is, however from a trainer who is an evaluator or who has prepared dogs for the test before. Here in Brandon, developing the dog/handler bond, sits, downs, walking nicely and accepting handling are emphasised in all classes delivered by Two Brown Dogs Canine Consultants. If you are interested in classes, whether you want a well behaved pet or have a goal like the CGN in mind, contact Renee by e-mail at twobrownndogs@mts.net. Two Brown Dogs is ALWAYS running classes and offers private classes if the current class schedule does not work for you.

As mentioned before, the German Short-haired Pointer Club of MB will sponsor a test at our facility on August 21st and you can find details by visiting: http://twobrowndogs.tripod.com/id42.html. There are several opportunities to attempt the test in Manitoba throughout the year. For up to date listings of tests, visit the CKC Calender of Events. For further information on the Canine Good Neighbour Program visit: http://www.ckc.ca/en/Default.aspx?tabid=91

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