In an attempt to keep myself accountable, I am telling the world that our dog training school is holding a CKC Canine Good Neighbour test on June 19th. It’s something I have been thinking about doing for a long time now for the simple reason it would be awesome to have my reactive rescue earn such an important title. When I first learned about the Canine Good Neighbour Program – similar to the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen – I laughed at the idea of ever trying with Shiva. It just wasn’t her thing. At the time, I was too busy preventing her from knocking over all the neighbourhood children to care all that much. Now that she hasn’t sent a toddler flying for months, I am ready for the next challenge. We have just over a month to prepare ourselves.
There are 12 steps a dog must complete to pass the big exam:
1. Accepting a friendly stranger – no jumping or barking and no obvious signs of shyness. I think we’ve got this one covered.
2. Politely accepts petting – again, no barking or shying away. This is something we’re still working on. Shiva doesn’t love being touched by strangers and usually moves away from any out-stretched hands. While I’m okay with her doing that as it is far superior to what she used to do, but it won’t help us pass the test.
3. Appearance and grooming – the dog needs to calmly accept light handling and grooming by the stranger. Shiva is pretty good at the vet but I’m still a little unsure how she will react to someone else touching her paws.
4. Out for a walk – Loose-leash walking is something we have nailed, especially since the handler is allowed to talk to the dog. No worries here!
5. Walking through a crowd – This shouldn’t present any issues either. If Shiva can walk around on the harbour-front during the busker festival, there is no crowd she can’t handle.
6. Sit/Down on command and stay in place – Easy-peasy! According to the website, the handler is even allowed to touch the dog if necessary. Shiva has a kick-ass stay that holds under any distraction.
7. Come when called – Hahaha! Well, Shiva’s recall isn’t 100% but I have no doubt she’ll perform this perfectly in the testing environment. She knows her job and unless the room is strewn with stinky fish we should be okay.
8. Praise/Interaction – After playing for ten seconds, the dog should calm down again on command. We’ve got this one in the bag too. I’m feeling better about this all the time!
9. Reaction to passing dog – Oh, right. I forgot about this one. I am not sure what “no more than mild interest” means. Does that include lunging in the dog’s face to initiate play?
10. Reaction to distractions – Shiva is my fearless wonder. Since one is allowed to talk to the dog, and one or two barks are permitted, I am not worried about this section too much.
11. Supervised isolation – I honestly have no idea how this will play out. We’ve never left Shiva alone with somebody else. Ever. Not even for thirty seconds. It could be fine and, given her separation anxiety, it could be a disaster.
12. Walking through a door/gate – At least the final step poses no problems. If only they were all this simple!
Being an A-student for most of my life, tests are something I take very seriously. Perhaps that is even one of the reasons I want this so badly. I know it won’t matter at all to the Shivster. It won’t change our relationship or make me love her any more – or any less. I just think it would be fantastic for a dog that was once terrified of garden gnomes. It will prove that even the craziest of rescue dogs can beat the odds and turn into one impressive canine citizen.
I cannot lie, there is also a large part of me that would love to pass just to stick it to the neighbour who told me my dog was the worst case she had ever seen. This test is for all the terrified gasps and evil glares. For every time I came home to bawl my eyes out after a walk. Shiva isn’t perfect, but she is a bloody good neighbour. I guess I don’t need a test to prove that. But wouldn’t it be nice?
So, it looks like Shiva and I will be going back to school to brush up on our obedience training. I have signed us up for an advanced life skills class that focuses on the 12 steps of the evaluation. With any luck, on June 19th, I will have something awesome to brag about! If not, well, we can always try again, right?