Training: Part 4 – Canadian Good Canine Citizen

When we adopted Knox, I had so many plans for him. He’d be the best dog ever: friendly, happy, well-behaved, and know all the tricks.

While for the most part, Knox is whip-smart and learns behaviours quickly, his reactivity to some dogs and excitement to all dogs quickly made these plans for him seem more and more difficult to complete. For anyone who has a reactive dog will know how daunting it seems to have to train a dog that slips into “crazy brain” really easily.

I had previously read about the Good Canine Citizen (also known as the Canine Good Neighbour) program from the Responsible Dog Owners of Canada. It’s a 10 step test that assesses a dog’s behaviour  in every day situations to show that they are reliable family and community members. It’s rewarded to dogs that are trained and conditioned to act mannerly in the home, in public, and with other dogs. Best yet, it’s not limited to pedigree/pure-bred dogs.


Taken the day he lost his dog park privileges again. Oops.

As the owner of a pit bull-x, we’re automatically put to a higher standard than all other dog owners, regardless of the statistics, the misconceptions, the misidentifications, and the stigma. A week hardly goes by without someone crossing the street in fear, or someone makes a comment like “aren’t you scared he’ll snap and rip your throat out?”

It became of utmost importance to me that Knox had a good reputation in our building (he does), and he’s calm and friendly to not just all the dogs we’ll encounter, but especially the untrained, unsocialized ones. I will fully admit that Knox is still an optimistic dummy when it comes to seeing other dogs – even when a dog is barking at him out of fear, he’ll think it’s just a way to start playing. It’ll be difficult, and it’ll be a long way to go, but he we can do it.

Here’s a fantastic video of a (pitty cross?) dog going through the Canadian Canine Good Citizen test.


There’s hope! With this in mind, the CCGC certification is now our checklist for training.

  1. Accepting a friendly stranger: Owner shakes hands with a friendly stranger. This test displays a dog’s acceptance of unfamiliar adults and children.
  2. Patiently sitting for petting: A test for shyness and defence of personal space.
  3. Appearance and grooming: Reveals owner’s care and sense of responsibility for their dog.
  4. Out for a walk: Illustrates handler’s control of his or her dog.
  5. Walking through a crowd: Demonstrates that the dog moves around in a crowd without being unduly distressed and is under handler control.
  6. Response to commands “sit”, “down”, “stay” and “come”: This exercise exhibits that the dog is trained and responds well to its handler/owner.
  7. Praise/Interaction: Shows the dog’s relationship with its owner and that the dog can be calmed down easily.
  8. Reaction to passing dogs: Demonstrates that the dog behaves politely around other dogs.
  9. Distractions: Illustrates that the dog is confident when faced with common distractions.
  10. Supervised isolation: Reveals that the dog can be left with someone other than its usual handler and will maintain its training and good manners.
  11. Walking Through a Door/Gate: Demonstrates the dog’s response to the handler’s commands as well as the handler’s ability to control the dog in a restricted area while moving ahead of the dog and through a door/gate.

As of right now, Knox is awesome at #1 to #4, #6 to #8, #11. Once we master these 12 tests, who knows what else he can do! Therapy dog like Norman? Maybe!

Is your dog a certified good canine citizen? Have you heard of it, and now what you have, will you try and pursue it?



  1. mytwopitties · November 18, 2014

    Awesome job on the training! It sounds like Knox has got the hardest parts down already:)


    • nicolb · November 20, 2014

      Now that I reread my blog, I think I may have misattributed his abilities to the wrong number. 😉 But yes! Getting there!


  2. Gloria · November 18, 2014

    That’s definitely a lot of different aspects of a dog’s character to test! Maeby’s good at 1-5 and knows her commands but doesn’t always listen. She’s also great with #8. I think I did so many things well when I first got her (teaching her basic commands and socializing her really well to the point that she doesn’t even care if we walk/run past another dog), but in retrospect, I wish I had worked on recall (and jumping, as you know), a little more. Can’t wait to see how Knox continues to do! Also, I LOVE My Two Pitties, and love that you referenced Norman here.


    • nicolb · November 21, 2014

      I love reading My Two Pitties. They seriously gave me hope after I got Knox and he was being a monster.

      I like to think we’re all just works in progress. Knox is improving every day, and in turn, makes me improve how I train, how I react, and how I process with him. Even with his reactivity, I’m much less frazzled now when it happens than I was a month ago. Staying calm made him calmer, faster. You can do it! 🙂


  3. Pingback: Appreciating Your Reactive Dog | #knoxdog
  4. amelleablelife · January 18, 2015

    I only recently found your great blog. Did you guys enroll for the test already?
    When I got my rescue dog a few years back she had extreme fear and reactivity issues that I worked very hard with a behaviourist to try and manage and conquer. Part of the journey was going through the Canine Good Citizen Test, which I wasn’t too sure she would be able to pass – with our work all steps were a breeze, but there was the dreaded walk past other dogs, and in our test there was a 12th one: Greet a stranger and their dog with a handshake without your dog getting excited or acting out in any way. Even though we had worked hard I doubted she would make it through that one… but to my great surprise she passed! She’s been so great that we have done and passed both the Bronze and Silver Level!
    I cannot emphasise enough how great I think this test is, especially if you have a reactive dog. It’s also my back up in case anything ever does go wrong with another dog in public so that I can PROVE exactly how hard I’ve worked with her. She loved doing the test, I loved doing the test, and I’m sure you and Knox would love it too!
    (If you’re curious to find out more, I’ve blogged about the Bronze Test, and will soon be posting about the silver one


    • nicolb · January 19, 2015

      You have no idea how much you’ve made my day! I’ve resigned myself to believe that his reactivity is manageable but not conquerable. Now I have renewed hope. 🙂 Congratulations on passing the Bronze AND Silver levels. What a feat for a fearful and reactive dog! I look forward to reading through all your posts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • amelleablelife · January 20, 2015

        I think conquering it is through learning the perfect way to manage it. Phoebe will always be afraid of other dogs, and reactive to a certain degree, I just have to have as much control over the situation as possible. It’s with all the training and hard work with the behaviourist that we’ve come this far. The key to success is to have her trust that you’ll always make the best decisions for her, that she can trust you to handle the situation, and importantly once she learns to cope better you’ll need to trust her right back to not get out of control (this part is scary and I still struggle!). After confidence and security is built, it’s all about learning other coping mechanisms when reacting – she lashes out because she’s afraid, so she now knows and has learned that it’s ok to turn the other away, to have a controlled greeting from a distance, to rather eat a treat etc than lash out.
        It’s a looooong process that you need to work on all the time, but each small victory makes it worth it!

        Liked by 1 person

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