It seems like only a couple of years ago I was organizing a few dogs and people for a photo shoot for the Canine Good Neighbour Handbook and Brochures. All those dogs were early CGN titleholders and proved their good temperament and easy compatibility with their owners by behaving beautifully when faced with unique situations. This is what the Canine Good Neighbour Program
is all about.
Those dogs were not models or trained canine actors; they were simply well socialized and moderately trained family pets. Each of these dogs could pass the Canine Good Neighbour test but would not have been a star in the obedience ring.
The Canine Good Neighbour evaluation is a basic test
. Can you and your dog be safe and welcome in public? For the average dog to navigate the complexities and expectations placed on them by our increasingly controlled urban lifestyle requires a steady temperament, trust in humans, adaptability and tolerance for random instances of noise, people, trucks, buses, skateboards, toddlers, other dogs, elevators, and a bunch of other stuff that would fill a page.
I have always endeavored to test dogs and owners with the understanding that this is not the place for perfection but for relationship and reasonable expectations. People looking to take a Canine Good Neighbour Test are not typically “dog people” in the sense of CKC members who show, breed and compete at an intense level. CGN tests are an evaluation of basic temperament and for want of a better word livability. Is this dog a nice, reasonably well mannered companion and is the person on the other end of the leash a nice, reasonably well mannered companion? Do the two like each other, are they comfortable and happy together and are they able to behave in public?
I love to watch a canine human team do something spectacular but truly have no desire to emulate them. Honestly I am a lazy trainer with a busy life. Thank goodness, we don’t all have to be High in Trial or Agility Champions, but all dogs, like all humans, need some basic manners and social literacy.
It has been fifteen years since that photo shoot and the launching of the Canine Good Neighbour program by the Canadian Kennel Club. A total of sixteen thousand eight hundred sixty three dogs have passed the test since then. Nice dogs that showed their ability to live with humans and be valued members of their community.
Clubs across the country, notably the Cape Breton Kennel Club, Cranbrook & District Kennel Club, Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Ontario, Barrie Kennel & Obedience Club and Fort St John & District Kennel Club all started to offer testing in that first year and were still offering the test at their events in 2016. Those are just the clubs that have been the most consistent, other clubs and community groups have held CGNs to help fundraise for good causes and to raise awareness of responsible dog ownership across the country.
We expect a lot from the dogs that share our lives, we expect dogs to fit in and figure it out. That is the deal that dogs made with humans at the dawn of civilization, they turned away from self-sufficiency to this symbiotic relationship with humans. So although CGN is not glamorous, it is a fundamental set of life skills for people and dogs so that we can continue to share our lives with each other safely and happily. Pretty important stuff when you get right down to it.