Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.

The Path to Good Citizenship


Remember when I blogged about my worries of becoming a dog lady? Screw that. I am totally a dog lady. In fact, I have high hopes for my Ruby. I would love for her to be a Therapy Dog.

[photo source: disabled-world.com]

[photo source: disabled-world.com]

A therapy dog is a dog that’s been trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, etc.  They come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily. In hospice environments, therapy dogs can play a role in palliative care by reducing death anxiety. [Wikipedia]

Kaz was visited by a therapy dog after his seizures. I wasn’t there to witness it, but his mother told me the encounter cheered him up immensely. I often think of him now when training Ruby. I feel like she has the right temperment for this unique job. She is calm, affectionate and very loving. People are naturally drawn to her. She’s even won over people who were initially afraid of her. She’s nowhere near ready to visit a hospital, or interact with tons of strangers. She needs a lot more training, and has to pass several hurdles. The first is the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test. 

[photo source: Wikipedia]

[photo source: Wikipedia]

To pass the CGC Test, a dog must perform the following:

•Test 1: Accept a friendly stranger

•Test 2: Sit politely for petting by a stranger

•Test 3: Sit politely while being touched and groomed by a stranger

•Test 4: Walk on a loose leash

•Test 5: Walk politely through a crowd (no lunging or barking)

•Test 6: Sit and down on command and stay in place (including when owner is over 10 feet away)

•Test 7: Come when called

•Test 8: React politely to another dog (no pulling, barking or lunging)

•Test 9: React calmly to distraction (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.)

•Test 10: Maintain good manners while owner is out of sight for 3 minutes 

Dodger and his owner Melissa after passing CGC test [photo source: pitsisters.org]

Dodger and his owner Melissa after passing CGC test [photo source: pitsisters.org]

Several weeks ago Ruby and I started taking weekend classes at a dog training facility that’s running a summer special. She passed Obedience 1 in one class, and Obedience 2 in two classes. This past weekend was her first Obedience 3, a class geared specifically toward preparing dogs for the CGC test. We’re with about ten other dogs, including a large grey poodle named Louie. He looks very similar to the dog pictured below.

[photo source: valleyviewdogs.com]

[photo source: valleyviewdogs.com]

Louie is so well-behaved, I’m not sure why he’s still in training. His owners, a somewhat pale and tired-looking husband and wife team, seem to be in control of his every thought and movement. If they weren’t so Jedi-focused on Louie, they might have noticed me and Ruby staring at them, dumbfounded.

At the end of class, we approached Louie’s parents and while our dogs played, I asked his parents how long he’s been training.

“Since he was a puppy,” they said. “Now he’s 13 months.” 

“You’ve done a fantastic job,” I gushed. “He seems perfect to me.”

“Thank you,” the woman smiled, “but he didn’t pass the test.” 

Apparently, Louie did everything perfectly until the very last test, when his owners had to leave him for 3 minutes. “He couldn’t handle it,” the woman sighed, then gave another little smile. “But we’re going to try again.”

By this point Ruby was running in circles around Louie trying to goad him into playing. Louie and his parents left, and I stayed behind to talk to the teacher. Does she think Ruby has what it takes?

“Absolutely.” She said even though Ruby might not be perfectly behaved like Louie yet, she is picking things up very quickly and she has a certain energy that will serve her well. She can be very still, calm and focused when she wants to be.

Who knows how far we will go, but we’re both having fun right now. I swear that training her is helping me in some way. I know it’s helping her. One day, if we work hard enough, we might get the opportunity to help others.

Ruby zen2

Author: nivaladiva

Freelance writer and independent filmmaker.

24 thoughts on “The Path to Good Citizenship

  1. Way to go, Ruby! She’s well on her way. It would be a wonderful thing if she could qualify as a therapy dog.
    I know that the CGC test is challenging. A friend’s dog had just about completed the test with no problems, and then stopped to piddle, which I guess isn’t allowed. He had to retake the test a few weeks later. (This just makes it all the more impressive how many former Vick dogs have been able to pass!)

    Keep up the great work and I can’t wait to hear updates.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. The former Vick dogs are definitely inspiring. Several have become therapy dogs. Considering all they went through, I do believe Ruby can do it too. 🙂

      Did your friend’s dog pass the second time?

  2. With my hospice care, pets make such a difference. Love the idea. We’re behind you Ruby!!

  3. How cool that you are doing this! It takes tremendous commitment of time and effort. You are raising a lovely dog in the same way that some parents raise lovely children. And then of course, to be able to cheer others in need … even better!! Good luck to Ruby and you!

  4. That is fantastic…I’m sure Ruby will do quite well. I’ve always believed that dogs understand at a completely different level then we do…almost as if they are designed to sooth and comfort.

  5. I’m the exact opposite of a therapy dog…you bring me to dogs to cause them distress. Some relatives left their dog at our house for one night this year…and it died. Not at all funny. I think she was quite old to be fair. They were seriously upset. Good luck with the training, sounds interesting. Ruby’s a beaut!

    • Do you really cause dogs distress or are you being sarcastic? Not everyone is a dog person. It’s very unfortunate that your relatives’ dog passed away on your watch. But unless you were neglecting or abusing it in some way, I doubt you caused it to happen.

      • Sorry I thought I’d replied to this- it didn’t post for some reason. No I was sort of joking in light of that happening. I like dogs a lot, I’ve never had a bad reaction form one. I really didn’t have anything to do with it- she had a heart attack. I wasn’t even in the same room. It was some bad luck though. Not great for the owners either.

      • I’m glad you like dogs. Thanks for following up. 🙂

  6. This is so exciting. Therapy dogs are amazing. My son was visited by one during am emergency visit to a hospital. Had it not been for the dog, I think he and I would have had difficulty. I used to teach warm water therapy exercise and one of my students had an assistance dog. Just to watch. I wish Ruby all of the best and I think the two of you would make a great team;). Kimberly. xx

  7. Rock it Ruby, rock it!

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