Monday, April 7, 2008

Failing the Canine Good Citizen test

Tonight, we attempted the AKC Canine Good Citizen test.

I have very mixed feelings about tonight, and I'll try to tone down some of my frustration.

Here's how the evening played out...

We left work at 5 to hit the dog park. I figured we could get out some of Grete's energy and dog-fixation there. At the park, she played a little and then followed me around beautifully. Toward the end of our visit, I encouraged her to go say hello to other dogs, but she preferred to stay with me. Things were looking good.

After we left the park, we were driving up 65th when we saw Jason walking down the hill. Random. We stopped to chat, and Jason decided to join us for the test. (He had just gotten his hair cut on Phinney Ridge and was walking down to catch the bus home.)

We arrive at Ahimsa at 7:15, and the evaluator explains the test items. She also tells us that she's going in the order that people registered on the site, and that it usually takes about 10 minutes per dog. Realizing that we're dog #8 of 8 total dogs, Jason and I do the math, and I take him home, stopping to get a to-go burrito on the way.

Grete and I arrive back at Ahimsa at 8:15, and we slink back in during the 7th dog's test. Since most of the dogs are done and we're the last dog, the evaluator has us do the "Test 8: Reaction to another dog" test FIRST. (Ugh. Not the best test to warm-up with!) The instructor was on the fence about Grete's success here because when I shook the stranger's hand, Grete got up to say hello. She never came into contact with the other dog, but she showed more than a "casual interest" in the other dog.

We go through the other test items, and on "Test 5: Walking through a crowd," the evaluator has a dog act as the 3rd person. Grete shows more than a "casual interest" in the dog there, and the evaluator later uses this as part of her reasoning to fail Grete.

All other test items Grete passed. She even passed Test #5 -- but she is apparently too friendly with other dogs to be considered a Canine Good Citizen.

Here is my problem with this.... In many of Grete's classes at Ahimsa, we did what was called a "meet and greet" with the other dogs. We would go up to a person with a dog on a leash, let the dogs sniff briefly, and then immediately call them back. This behavior is not acceptable to the CGC test though. Now, granted, we also practiced the "sit while handler says hello to a stranger with dog" but this was often done after we had done "meet and greets" and/or playtime with all the dogs.

Here's my point. Grete doesn't run up to dogs on a walk. Even at the beach this weekend, I could call her away from dogs while she was off-leash. She can ignore a whole dog-park full of dogs. She just can't ignore a dog at Ahimsa. Thus, I'm a little bitter that we failed the test - especially since her Ahimsa training should have prepared her for this test. (One of the trainers pointed out that Ahimsa training wasn't a prep for this test, but I would argue it should be considered more.)

Furthermore, Test #5 reads like so:

This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.

Nowhere in that test description is another dog mentioned. Using a dog as the "third person" seems wrong to me, especially since it factored into her decision about Test #8.

I don't disagree that Grete failed "reaction to another dog" test, but I do think we could have passed the test given different circumstances.

Jason and I talked about how the test went on the phone tonight, and we were both reminded of how we failed our driver's tests on the first try. We were both excellent drivers (perhaps even better drivers than we are today) - but we both failed on lame technicalities that didn't even factor in the second time we took test.

Grete is still a great dog. One of the impartial observing trainers even commented, "With a high energy dog like that, it is so very easy to go very wrong -- but you've done a great job with her." Both the Ahimsa trainer and the evaluator commented that "most people would kill to have a dog that has Grete's 'problems.'"

I just wish we had passed. After all those classes at Ahimsa, we never really had anything physical to show for it. Yes, I have a good puppy -- but I place a silly amount of value in certificates and grades. I always have. (Damn you, public schools!)


I don't even know if it is worth trying to take it again in a few months or a year. We'll see.

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