Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.


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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