Citizenship goes to the dogs

Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2004

 

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  Alison Williams of Kenai watches Gizmo the Karelian bear dog as he chekcs out Mark Anderson posing as an elderly patient during a test of the dog's ability to deal with distractions. There are 10 situations the dogs must pass in order to earn a CGC certificate. Photo by Joseph Robertia

Hank the Australian shepherd keeps his focus on his owner Paula Lovett of North Kenai during a Canine Good Citizen class at Kenai Kennel Club on Friday.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

Being a respected member of the community is very important, a statement that is true not only for people, but for their canine companions, as well.

This task isn't as simple as it may sound, though. Dogs, by nature, may be protective of their owners, fearful of strangers or demonstrate any number of other behaviors that are undesirable when it comes to social situations.

Dogs can be intimidating when they act aggressive when company comes over or when encountering strangers while on a walk through the neighborhood, and statistics show anti-social behavior is the leading reason dogs are euthanized or end up being turned over to shelters.

That's were the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen program comes in. The CGC program is designed to promote social behaviors in dogs by challenging them with a host of situations they may encounter in public.

"It's important when you're out and about to have a dog that knows how to interact, and this class makes sure they're good in crowds and out in the world," said Mary Jackson of Kenai, who, along with her tricolored Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Princess Charli, is attending a CGC class being taught by the Kenai Kennel Club.

Jackson's husband, Konrad, also is in the class with his brown-and -white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named SharaKeela Taaffe, since their love of dogs is something the couple has in common.

"It's a great family activity, because my husband and I can both share this interest, rather than him doing his own things and me doing my own things," Jackson said.

Dogs in the CGC program are tested in a variety of situations, such as accepting a friendly stranger, being separated briefly from their out-of-sight owner, sitting politely for petting, welcoming grooming, walking on a loose leash without pulling, walking through a crowd, sitting on command, staying in place, coming when called, being approached by another dog and their reaction to distraction.

For this situation, the instructor doesn't make it easy on the dogs. They have to demonstrate their confidence when faced with some unusual, albeit common distractions.

"Good dog, that's a good dog," said Konrad Jackson, while his four-legged friend stared wide-eyed at Mark Anderson, who at 6 feet, 5 inches was already intimidating as a stranger before he donned a blanket over his head and clunked by the dog with a walker like those used by the elderly or disabled.

The next test featured a nefarious-looking hooded character making noises by dragging a rake on the ground with.

 

Alison Williams of Kenai watches Gizmo the Karelian bear dog as he chekcs out Mark Anderson posing as an elderly patient during a test of the dog's ability to deal with distractions. There are 10 situations the dogs must pass in order to earn a CGC certificate.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

Alison Williams of Kenai was surprised by how well her dog Gizmo a Karelian bear dog performed, and she said a lot of what her dog has learned in CGC has transferred into other classes she takes from the kennel club.

"I do agility with Gizmo and so this class has really been a good way to work on his stays," Williams said.

"Plus, he's a high-energy dog, and so this provides him with one more thing to do," she added.

Caren Cross of Kasilof is taking the course with her two dogs a black Labrador retriever named Will and a chocolate Lab named Nestle.

"Labs are an excitable breed," Cross said. "This class has really helped calm them."

Cross uses her pets as therapy dogs, bringing them to area elementary schools and to children receiving home schooling, so children with special needs can have exposure to the animals.

"I think a lot of what they learned about manners will help them in their work," Cross said.

Paula Lovett of North Kenai enjoys the CGC class so much she's taken it with all four of her dogs. Her most recent enrollee is Hank, a stocky, thick-coated Australian shepherd.

"I like to show in all the levels that I can," Lovett said. "We do agility, conformation and CGC."

The final test for the CGC class is Friday. That's when the passing dogs will earn their certificate declaring them good citizens, while those that don't pass will have a clear understanding of the behaviors they need to improve upon.

Regardless of which dogs pass or fail, though, the class still is a learning experience owners and their canine companions can share.

Lovett summed it up by stating, "It's fun to do. It's fun to do with your dog, and fun to do because you get to be around doggy people and have a great time."

For more information about upcoming CGC classes or other classes offered by the Kenai Kennel Club, call 335-2552.



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