Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog in Training

For the past 5 weeks Nola has been taking a Canine Good Citizen prep class. According to the American Kennel Club, “the CGC Program is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. The Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs.” I have been wanting to get Nola certified for a while, as a way to work on some of our training, and also to be able to say that she is a good dog with a certification to back it up!  When I received an email from our agility trainer Teri at Canine Kinship saying she had spots open in her class, I decided now was the time!

There are 10 parts to the CGC test:
Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
Test 3: Appearance and grooming
Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
Test 5: Walking through a crowd
Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
Test 7: Coming when called
Test 8: Reaction to another dog
Test 9: Reaction to distraction
Test 10: Supervised separation

I knew going in that there would be certain things that Nola would need more practice at. But, there is only one other dog in the class with Nola, a mini-Sheltie name Milo, so we have been getting a lot of practice and one on one time with Teri. It is interesting that Nola and Milo both have such different things to work on. Nola’s biggest problem is that she is TOO social. The second test, sitting politely for petting, is VERY difficult for her. She wants to go right up to the person coming toward her and give kisses and greet them with her wiggle but. Also, test 8, reaction to another dog, is tough because she wants to sniff and check out the dog when they are that close to her. Here we are practicing paying attention to me, and not Milo:

cgc1The thing with the CGC test is that you can use verbal commands, but no treats! This fact has really shown us that we have become a little too dependent on using treats to get Nola to do something. Don’t get me wrong, she has sit, down, come, stay and even shake and high five down to a science without treats. It’s the ‘pay attention to me’ and ‘don’t pull on the leash while walking’ that we need to work on getting her to do without a treat, using praise as a reward instead.

Last week was the last class before the actual test. So, in order to practice in a higher distraction environment as well as letting us see what the next step might be after getting her CGC, we went on a field trip to a nursing home. The Mr. and I were nervous about how Nola was going to do. Like I said before, Nola is very social, and likes to see, meet and kiss everyone. I didn’t want her to be too rough, get too excited and jump, or just get too overwhelmed. She is pretty easy going in new situations, but sometimes strange objects make her nervous and she gets a bit growly. We quickly found out that Nola was a natural.   nursinghome9 nursinghome8She wasn’t nervous around wheelchairs, walkers, dinner carts or any other new things that came down the halls as we trained. In fact she did a very nice down stay right next to a wheelchair. She took treats nicely from people’s hands, and even gave them gentle, sweet kisses.

nursinghome6 nursinghome4 nursinghome2nursinghome1We practiced sitting in a variety of different places, asking people to only pet her once her butt was on the ground. As we walked down the halls, the nurses and patients ‘ooed’ and ‘ahhhed’ at the dogs going by. Milo got most of the attention, which is only natural since he is a ten pound fluff ball who is so easy going. Nola was a second thought for most people, but it didn’t seem to hurt her feelings too much (my mommy pride was hurt a bit, but it’s ok, I still think she is the cutest dog ever!). nursinghome7 nursinghome3One lady called us into her room, but once she got a better look at Nola her tone of voice shifted and she said to us nervously, “Is that a pit bull?” Immediately followed by backing up in her chair and asking “Is she friendly?” The Mr. had Nola at the time, as I stood back with Teri and watched. He kept his cool, even though I could tell he was a little taken aback, and just told the lady she was very friendly and she is actually a boxer mix. Things went smoothly after that, she gave Nola a few pats and showed us pictures of her dog. It was just a bit of a shock to us that this came up, but I guess Nola does have a blocky head and jowls and is routinely mistaken for a pit bull. This just showed us that stereotypes are very deep in our society, even in the nursing home community.

nursinghome10After about 40 minutes of greeting people and walking the halls, we could tell the dogs were getting a little overwhelmed so we decided to take them back down to the lobby to decompress. Teri said Nola did a fantastic job and if we wanted to pursue this, she would get certified as a therapy dog easily. She said she looks for the dog to be engaged with people, not overly excited, and calm in the environment, all of which she saw Nola doing. The Mr. and I were so proud of our Muffin. She did awesome!
nursinghome11Our last class is Monday and it’s test day. I am still a little unsure if Nola will pass on her first try, but even if she doesn’t, I will be proud of her and we will keep working on all of these things with her! Wish us luck on Monday, we’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

(All photos courtesy of Teri at Canine Kinship)

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20 thoughts on “Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog in Training

  1. Good luck! When Tess took the exam, I was planning on her failing “Supervised Separation.” I figured that taking the test was one step closer and we would both be better prepared for the second try.

    Luckily, she was fooling me the whole time – she ROCKED the separation part!

  2. SO proud of Nola, and of her parents! She is lucky to have you both. And I totallyyy know what you mean about the Mommy feelings haha For the record, I would absolutely approach Nola first, even if she wasn’t a famous blog-elebrity!

  3. That’s so awesome! Nola seems like a natural at it, and what a great service you both are giving to other people! I have thought that Rufus has the perfect energy level to do therapy work, but no matter how much training or real-life situations we’ve put him in, he’s still unpredictable (growly) around certain men 😦 Either way, congrats x100!

    • Thank you! Not every dog can be a therapy dog and it in no way means they are bad dogs! I’m sure Rufus is AMAZING at lots of other things. 🙂 We’re still not 100% sure that’s the route we’ll take with Nola, but we do like making people happy and she does that very easily!

  4. I find it interesting that Nola received a negative reaction based on her (perceived) breed. In my experience the senior crowd usually doesn’t buy into the media hype about pits. I think many of them remember the breed as the awesome family dogs they were known as in decades past.

    I often get reactions from seniors like “we had a pit bull when I was a child, us kids used to dress her up in our doll clothes” or “I remember my father had one, he was a very good dog”. In fact I don’t think we’ve ever had a negative reaction from anyone over the age 65 or so.

  5. I’m so proud of you and Nola! This is awesome that you are working with her for BOTH CGC and therapy training!

    Our trainer gave us a little tip for when our time comes to take the CGC. Although you’re not allowed to use treats during the tests….nobody ever said you couldn’t rub your fingers with bacon grease before the test starts 😉

    Good luck!!!!!!!!

  6. Way to go, Nola (Mr. & Mrs, too)! Considering Titan’s reactivity, it’s hard to believe that he passed his CGC test on the second try. You deserve to be proud of her, I’m sure she’ll pass on Monday with flying colors.

  7. That is so awesome! I really want to do this with Norman. Kaya is too hyper and ADD…lol. Kaya and Norman would be in exactly the same boat as Nola, want to greet people and dogs when they are supposed to sit still. I bet it is hard to train without treats but much better in the long run. Nola looks so sweet with the nursing home folks. My mom brings her German Shepherd to my grandparents nursing homes and she is so sweet and gentle with them despite her size. But she would never pass a CGC test because she is terrible with other dogs. BTW I would definitely want to pet Nola first:) Good luck but sounds like you won’t need it!

  8. I am so glad to read about your experience. My dog Chase passed the CGC yesterday and I teared up. It was a long road and we still have some things to work on. Interesting that you have the same work as I did. Pull on leash, the trainer finally wrapped it around my waist and told me to keep my hands in pockets. It worked and I still keep one finger on the leash in my pocket. Chase looks back at me and stops when he is at the end, no pulling. Also he loves men and if one comes up to pet him, the sit doesn’t happen unless I ask the person to step back and what I need to do. He lays on his back for belly rubs as soon as they are beside him. Both need more of my work, these guys are smarter than we are.

    I have two weeks to test for Therapy Dog, but my angst is gone and have confidence in both of us now. Being nervous didn’t help Chase for our training, he was so aware of my emotions. Will be working with the Red Cross and Army hospital.

    Be very proud of yourselves, this isn’t an easy task and takes many hours of attention, learning.

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