A Canine Almost Good Neighbour

So. We failed the Canine Good Neighbour Test. But, we failed in such spectacular Shiva style that it was impossible to feel disappointed. Not only did we not pass two of the twelve steps, but one of those two was the very first one. After that was over, and I realised there was no way in hell we were getting that certificate, I was able to relax a little more and enjoy the experience.

If you haven’t taken such a test, I can vouch for the fact that it is not easy!

I didn’t think I would be that nervous. We had sat in the waiting area for over half an hour before it was our turn. Shiva had been showing excellent focus on me. Despite being crammed in with ten other people and who knows how many other dogs, including two rambunctious Akitas, she managed to stay calm. Two years ago we wouldn’t have been able to enter the building. In my eyes, she passed the test long before it even began. That’s why I was feeling so confident when our name was called.

Unfortunately, just before we were about to enter the testing space, a large man walked in from outside. A large man who apparently didn’t realise not all dogs appreciate a full stare. Shiva’s reactivity is in remission, with the one exception of strange men who walk towards her with full eye contact. (Since I don’t like being stared at by strange men either, I usually let it go.) I didn’t even know he was there until she launched into full barking and lunging mode. The poor guy was really nice about it. He owned one of the Great Danes being tested. He looked more hurt than anything else. I explained the problem and he and Shiva made friends, but the scenario was enough to rattle all my mental preparation.

Regardless, I still walked in with confidence. I stood in the centre of the room and told Shiva to sit. Which she did. For exactly half a second.

This is when she chose to remind me she is insane. How I seem to keep forgetting I don’t know.

The evaluator tried to explain the first stage of the test – Accepting a Friendly Stranger – but I wasn’t listening as I was trying to prevent Shiva from diving towards a piece of fluff on the floor. When the kind woman stepped towards us I knew it was all over. Shiva kept getting up from her sit. Without the benefit of treats, I could not convince her to stay still. We have such a brilliant sit-stay and I was so frustrated she wasn’t showing it off. My nerves kicked in and my legs and hands began to shake. The evaluator smiled at me and reached out to shake my hand. That’s when Shiva jumped. I can only assume she thought the woman had food in her hand.

Immediate, decisive failure.


We continued through the rest of the steps. I was still feeling really nervous and no doubt Shiva picked up on it. But we managed to pass the worrisome grooming section, as well as the walking through a crowd, and walking by a baby stroller. I thought we may have failed again when Shiva sniffed at the doll’s hand but the evaluator may have been feeling generous. I’ll take it!

And then it was time for Test Nine: Reaction to a Passing Dog.

If we hadn’t already failed, I may have tried to request a re-test as the other dog was one Shiva has a history with. A very brief history, but when it comes to wacko dog, that’s all that matters. I must have mentioned before, Shiva has an obsession with dogs that don’t like her. This dog, an older Border Collie, definitely fits in that category. She refuses to leave him alone, even when he growls to make it clear he is not interested in her antics. Before I took one step, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to prevent her from crossing over to greet him. Without treats, the dog who hates her is much more interesting than my boring praise.

The handler of this Border Collie happens to be the instructor of our advanced life skills class. She knows Shiva fairly well and looked like she was about to laugh. At one point her dog started barking and growling to keep Shiva away and she chuckled.

“Even my dog is failing right now!”

Immediately, I felt better. Somehow I managed to get my brain together enough to finish the test.

The last two sections went much smoother than anticipated. I knew we would nail walking through the gate but since it came after the feared three-minute isolation, I didn’t have much hope for Shiva’s mental state. Amazingly enough, she passed both!

It was one of the longest three-minute periods I can remember. After around a minute and a half, I could hear her starting to whine. The whining grew progressively louder but I guess not enough to count as “excessive.” When the time was up, I made sure to hold out my hand as I re-entered the room. The last thing I wanted was for her to pull the poor leash holder over in her rush to get to me. If we had failed, I wanted to look remotely in control.

All in all, I can’t say I was that disappointed. As the evaluator said, it’s better for Shiva to over-eagerly meet strangers, than to cower and hide. We know what we need to work on now and I am planning on re-taking the test in the fall. She’ll earn those fancy letters one day. I’m not giving up until we have another certificate to put on the fridge!

34 thoughts on “A Canine Almost Good Neighbour

  1. I wonder why they don’t let you use treats for this test. Seems like you should be able to reward your dog. But, that’s just me, and Oreo certainly is not a good neighbor, in so many ways!

    I admire you for focusing on all Shiva’s positive accomplishements. I give Shiva an A+ on this test! She did awesome.


  2. that sounds so difficult! i’m glad there isn’t any such terrifying test here [and if there is, i really don’t want to know about it].

    reaction to a passing dog – i just read a terrific link on something wagging about dog meetings and reading the signs correctly. i live in hope that it may not, after all, be MY dog at fault 🙂


  3. I think you had some really great successes, Kristine. Congratulations!

    First to you for having the courage to put yourself and Shiva out there for this test. Bravo!

    And second for the great work you did to get to the point of sitting with Shiva for half an hour in a waiting area surrounded by all sorts of stimulation. That is such a major victory! And I know it was a really tough thing for Shiva to do. You’re right to be proud of her.

    Thanks for writing about your experience. Please post again about your future training and preparations.

    As you know, I’m hoping to pass the Canine Good Citizen with Honey. But I’m also hoping to take her to Blog Paws. If she does well in a crowded conference without jumping all over crazy dog lovers, I just might skip the piece of paper and assume she’s a definite Good Citizen. 🙂


  4. Sorry about the test, but every dog can have an off day. Before Storm and I took the CGC test, (similar elements as your CGN test), I took her to my office and had random people meet her, pet her, and brush her (no treats just praise). It seemed to help her with that part of the test, (which I thought would be our problem area). I am glad to hear you are going to try again. Next time you and Shiva will get that certificate!


  5. Congrats! Even though you didn’t pass, it sounds like both you and Shiva learned something and had a good time with the whole experience. You have such a wonderful outlook when it comes to Shiva and that is so inspiring. I will be rooting for you two to get that certificate in the fall!


  6. Congrats on all you achieved! You had me laughing at your description of her.. and how you say she is insane. I guess mine is a bit insane at times too, she loves fluff, spots, feathers on the floor at shows, luckily we can have food in the ring so her attention is easy to get back.. and sometimes that fluff comes in handy as if it’s in front of her she will look all intense for the judges. You and shiva are a great match, I would not have dealt with some of those things with such grace probably.

    Sometimes all the practice in the world will not prepare you, as you can never fully be ready for the added pressure from a test situation. But now you know where to focus your work, but be sure to visit the other areas she excels in too so that they stay up to par as well.

    Maybe Luna and I will share in your training and try and get her CGC in the fall as well. Question is do I want to sign up for a class or just train on my own. It is a title I would love for her to have, and getting past the other dog portion will be our week area. It also would give us something to do this summer.
    Good luck and keep us posted


  7. Your test sounds very difficult, but you passed 10 of 12, which is amazing! I’m not sure Delilah could do any of the steps at all.

    You are one very determined young woman and you will get that Good Neighbour, I have every confidence in Shiva and you!!


  8. Give yourself a good pat on the back, Kristine! You did very well with Shiva and both of you get an A** from us.

    You’ve been working so hard with Shiva girl, your positiveness and enthusiasm are what I admire you all the time. I’ve learnt a lot from you and really enjoy reading everything that you do with Shiva.

    Not passing the test and getting the paper isn’t a big deal at all. The most important thing is you’ve got a good experience and you’ll try it again.


  9. congrats on completing the test! Sounds like you guys did very well.
    Gwynn has this weird Xena wail/ullullation thing he does that I’m sure he’d bring out for the leave-for-three-minutes thing. I don’t think the doggy version of a funeral-wail would be considered ‘not excessive’. he’d be ok, i think, for the sitting and being pet… he puts up with a lot. Another dog walking by would definitely make him wayyy tooo excited, though. We would probably bave been able to pass about half of the lessons. Gwynn has been my dog since he was 6 months old, and is the most chill dog I’ve ever met. He’s not a rescue, not the anxious crazy bit of insanity you started out with. You have accomplished amazing things, and requiring a bit of extra training for the CGN test is definitely NOT a failure.


  10. It sounds like she did really well overall. I can’t imagine any of our dogs making it through half of the test. It is great that your area offers so many different classes for dogs. We are driving about 60 miles just for basic obedience classes.


  11. Oh Shiva! I am so sorry about this test!! I am sure you will be ready by the fall.

    My two couldn’t pass the test. Bella has way too many issues. And Daisy would never leave food on the floor. Ever.


  12. I’m quite proud of you for giving it a go with your previously reactive dog! It takes a lot of guts to take one of these tests ESPECIALLY if you haven’t had the benefit of a prep class because so many people take the test right after the class so their dogs are almost sure to pass. The fact that when you first got the Shivster she wouldn’t have been able to ENTER the room with all those dogs is a huge success for you both! Now you know what you need to work on and can get it next time!

    To me, some of the worst things about these tests is in the waiting area… I’ve heard so many horror stories and even have one of my own. Rio was taking his CGC and we were in the waiting area, less than 40 seconds before we were called into the ring to do the dog section (they did this in groups so the dummy dog could work for a few minutes then get a break). This man brought in a ridiculously reactive german shepherd who lunged and snapped at Rio (who wasn’t even looking at the dog)… I was called in and explained what happened in the waiting area and requested a minute to collect my obviously concerned dog. She said she’d let me but also said she saw Rio’s reaction (or lack there of) to the other dog and said what happens in the testing area can be included in the test …so even if he was wonky w/ the dummy dog, that he would pass because of how he reacted to the scary GSD (he did fine during the test).

    You’ll get’m next time Shiva!


    • You just inspired me to get off my tush and get shayne her CGC! Am joining (midway) a CGC class at the shelter where she was adopted from (and where I teach classes)… that’s where they hold the test and last time we were there she was VERY uncomfortable in the building so hopefully the classes will get her comfortable enough to take the test!


  13. Good for you and Shiva getting out there and trying it! I am pretty sure Sophie and I would fail if we tried the CGC. I have no doubt that with your dedication to Shiva and her training, you guys will pass the test at a later date.


  14. I jhope you are very proud of yourself and Shiva. Okay, you didn’t get the certificate – this time – but what an achievement to have come this far. I have no doubt that with a little more time you and Shiva will soon be passing with flying colours.


  15. Passing ten out of twelve steps on her first try is awesome! I give you tons of credit for even starting the journey, because I know a lot of people would be too scared to do it. I’m betting that in the fall you’ll pass with flying colors! Way to go, Kristine and Shiva!


  16. I say not too bad for your first go-around. Who passes tests on the first try anyway?? Both you and Shiva will undoubtedly be more relaxed and calm next go around.


  17. First of all, do you know how many dogs there are compared to how many even get to test for these good-neighbor certificate thingies? You really must give yourself credit for getting her this far. Just because she was “impolite” that one time, doesn’t make her a bad neighbor. I’d take her. You should try again though – it will happen.

    BTW – I found a CGC test this weekend and I’m taking my rude *ss spaz Dewi dog. If he fails anything, it will be the exact same things Shiva had trouble with (and he’s been through lots of formal training, too).


  18. First, congratulations on taking the test. Just entering and following through are half the battle. Sounds like it was a good gauge for you and Shiva to find out where you are at. I think it took a lot of guts and courage just to do it, knowing that, well, you are taking Shiva with you. 🙂 What a great learning experience for both of you and I love how you pointed out all the positive of what happened and praised her for them. That my friend is the beauty of such a great relationship with our dogs. Thank you for another wonderful lesson of that. 🙂


  19. I’d have had to work so hard on keeping the Bodester calm and quiet in the 10 minute waiting room scenario that we wouldn’t have even made it into the test room. Good on Shiva, looks like she’s nearly there.


  20. I think I told you how Miss M failed her first test; it was the same 2 that Shiva didn’t pass. The idea of not being able to have treats was so awful for me, and our test was done with a group of people. Miss M actually got so frustrated, she grabbed the leash and started thrashing it back and forth. So embarrassing. But, we did it again and passed. I know you and Shiva will pass again.


  21. It sounds like Shiva did great! Wow, the test sounds hard! I have a feeling that my dog would have a difficult time passing. I know you guys will be successful next time – now you know what to expect 😉


  22. I am jealous because Our Best Friend would have failed eight of ten, at least. Three minutes of isolation? He can’t do three seconds!

    Instead of treats, maybe you should slip her some Xanax. 🙂


  23. Wow! It sounds like you guys did really great. And who could pass up a piece of fluff on the floor? Or pass up the chance to “say something” to a dog you do not like?

    Next time you’ll both nail it, I’m sure!


  24. Shiva has come a long way (since the first time i read her blog)… and to passed a few of the tests but not all is still good. She’ll get her papers one day but in the meantime, both of you can be nutty and have fun. Its a work in progress for every dog.

    Congrats to both of you!


  25. Well done you two girls! It sounds like it’s way harder than Beryl’s CGC test in that we didn’t have to wait in a room with all the other people and dogs. That would be very unnerving if you weren’t already nervous! What bad luck to have that man walk in and do totally the wrong thing at the beginning. I’m sure you’ll nail it next time. Notice I haven’t done CGC with Frankie:) He could do it but it would require a lot of work on my part and Greyhounds come half trained:) Next time I feel like a major challenge I think I’ll have a go with Frankie.

    I hope you’re feeling proud of both of you. Be encouraged by how far Shiva has come and it’s all down to you:)


  26. I’ve shown horses and done the dog show thing with Jersey and there is *always* a next time. No matter how much or how hard you practice, an animal can have a off/bad day that is just simply beyond your control. Be happy for the 10 things you passed and practice extra hard on the two that you didn’t. And next time – breathe & smile 😀


  27. We watches some of the testing at Whisker Walk and we were so impressed with the qualifications. You should be so impressed with the progress made.


  28. Even if you didn’t pass the test (yet!) it still sounds like it was a great experience. At least now Shiva got a little more practice in and is used to the experience of being there and going through the steps. Shiva’s really come a long way – you should be so proud!


  29. Kristine – This is what makes your posts so fun and interesting to read. Your life isn’t perfect. Shiva isn’t perfect. And, life happens. What is more enjoyable is experiencing the successes and the opportunities through your eyes.
    In my opinion, you both passed because the work you have done together showed. There are a lot of dog owners who can’t even claim their dog can do 1/2 of what Shiva did and is capable of doing. The fact that you could sit in a room for 30 minutes and then do the test is an accomplishment. I am so glad you shared it with us.


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