What is the Canine Good Citizen Test?

What is this Canine Good Citizen (CGC) stuff, anyway? Regular readers of the blog will know that as part of our hard work with Phoebe to overcome her fears and reactivity, we’ve been completing some of the Canine Good Citizen Tests. You can read about how well she did at the Bronze CGC Test in 2013, as well as the Silver CGC Test in 2014.

In the posts I tried to give as full a description of the test as possible, but words still don’t paint as great a picture as an actual video. This great YouTube clip shows exactly what the Bronze Level Canine Good Citizen entails for those who are interested in learning more about the test.

 

As you can see, the tests are all quite simple, but require that your dog and you have a great bond and that he listens to you, with understanding of expectations. When you see each item you can also see where each of these would become useful in everyday situations, like walking with sudden noises in a street, getting a veterinary / groomers examination etc – which is after all the main aim of the test.

For a dog like Phoebe to pass these simple, yet important requirements has made me so proud of her. With her unknown history and various reactivity and fear based issues these tests have made identifying goals and progress so much easier for us on our journey to recovery. We’re even busy practicing for the Gold Level CGC!

This test is one that I highly recommend that every owner should do – whether formally through an accredited tester, or even at home by reading the tests and practicing them all whenever you get the chance. Both you and your dog will be happier for the quality time spent working together!

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Obedience, Focus

Tool(s) Used: Obedience Training and Behavioural Training

Cost: Moderate

Ease of Implementation: Moderate

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. To read the full “effectiveness” review you can refer back to the posts on achieving the Bronze and Silver Certifications I wrote up about Phoebe.

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So what do you think? Can you see the effectiveness of a qualification like this?

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Phoebe passes the Silver CGC Test!

So many celebrations over here! Phoebe has made me so proud by going out there and getting her second Canine Good Citizen rosette!

Phoebe has officially received her rosette for passing the Silver Level of the KUSA Canine Good Citizen test!

Some of you may remember when I was so nervous about enrolling her for the Bronze Level KUSA Canine Good Citizen Test – which she passed with flying colours! As a reactive rescue dog seeing her achieve that was beyond my wildest dreams, and then she went ahead and once again overshot all of my expectations making me so very proud.

I once again went into it thinking that it would be totally fine if she didn’t pass first time round, participating is good enough, and I don’t mind a second go at it if we needed it. But of course she did great first time round at everything. But to be honest, I wasn’t quite as nervous this time because the biggest worry is her getting close to other dogs and only the Bronze Level had this one.

For those who aren’t sure what the Canine Good Citizen Test is, it’s an international standard test presented by Kennel Clubs to test if your dog can achieve the basic expectations of a ‘well-mannered’ dog. You can go here to read more about it.

So what did the Silver Test entail?

Similar to the previous test we had to hand over the vaccination cards to be checked before doing anything. Our Evaluator, Mrs Liz Chamberlain, was really nice and made sure we were all at ease with the dogs before starting so that there was no stress on either side of the leash! As she did this she was also walking around and observing the dogs for manners and sociability.

She first started by testing the two Bronze CGC participants (who also did Silver on the same day), and then commenced with testing us all for the Silver Level.

Then we were onto the formal part of the test:

Test 1: Play with Dog

This is to demonstrate that the dog will play with its handler. Play is an extra dimension to a dog’s life and can be a used to make training fun. When instructed to do so the handler should commence to play with the dog. Play should be under the handler’s control and if it involves articles the dog should readily give them up. Formal retrieves will not be deemed as appropriate play.

Suki and Mirco play with their Mom's for Test #1

Suki and Mirco play with their Mom’s for Test #1

Test 2: Roadwork

This is to demonstrate that the dog has the ability to walk on lead under control. The handler and dog should walk along a pavement, execute a turn, and then stop at the kerb where the dog should remain steady and controlled. Having observed the Highway Code, they should proceed to the other side, turn and continue walking. Distractions are incorporated, such as normal passing traffic.

All walk in a line around the block to test roadwalking skills

All walk in a line around the block to test roadwalking skills

Test 3: Rejoin Handler

This is to demonstrate that the dog will remain steady when the handler leaves the dog but the dog will rejoin the handler when instructed to do so. Having left the dog and moved approximately 10 paces away, when directed to do so, the handler should call the dog. Having rejoined, the dog should stop close to the handler in any position, the lead shall be replaced.

Test 4: Stay in one Place

This is to demonstrate that the dog will stay on the spot while the handler moves away. The handler should place the dog with the lead attached in any position of their choice. Upon instruction, having quietly dropped the lead, the handler will move a distance of 5 paces away for a period of 2 minutes.

*Note we did this in conjunction with Test 10. We took our clipboards, walked a couple of paces away and only when we finished the questionnaire could we rejoin the dogs

Phoebe, Emily and Mirco eagerly parctice their "stays" for a minumum of 2 minutes while we fill out the Q & A of Question 10

Phoebe, Emily and Mirco eagerly parctice their “stays” for a minumum of 2 minutes while we fill out the Q & A of Question 10

Test 5: Vehicle Control

This is to demonstrate that the handler can get the dog in and out of a vehicle in a controlled manner. Without pulling, the dog should be taken on a lead towards a vehicle and remain steady whilst the handler opens the vehicle door. The dog should not attempt to get in until instructed to and should enter willingly. Thereafter, the door should be closed. The handler, Evaluator and, if necessary, a driver will get into the vehicle. The engine should be started and run for a short time to enable the Evaluator to assess the effect upon the dog which at all times should remain quiet, relaxed, and under control. The dog will then be instructed to exit in an orderly manner.

Test 6: Come Away from Distractions

This is to demonstrate that the handler has control over the dog when there are distractions. The handler should take the dog, on lead, to a gathering of people with dogs also on lead. When instructed to do so, the lead should be removed and the handler should walk or run away calling the dog, which should return without delay and be placed on the lead

For this test we were all placed about 3-5 metres from each other in a loose circle in the shade with us and our dogs in a relaxed lie down, then we had to go through the middle with our dogs. This made me nervous as Phoebe’s reactivity is better, but still there – especially as there were two other dogs doing the test whom we didn’t know. Luckily we were allowed to run through, and not just walk slowly. I’ve learnt this is a key handling trick to keeping Phoebe’s attention on me when other dogs are around because her drive to stay by me when I run away is far greater than worrying about any other dogs she would have to turn away from me to get to. She flew through the path without even registering the 5 other dogs! How awesome is she? 🙂

Test 7: Controlled Greeting

This is to demonstrate that the dog will not jump up at visitors etc, The Evaluator will greet the dog as might be done when entering a house. During this greeting, should the dog jump up, the handler must be able to make the dog cease doing so.

Emily waits patiently as she waits to see what her Mom wants her to do while she greets the evaluator

Emily waits patiently as she waits to see what her Mom wants her to do while she greets the evaluator

Test 8: Food Manners

This is to demonstrate that the dog has good manners when aware of peoples’ food. Food should be handled or consumed while the dog, on a loose lead, is taken in close proximity to it. The dog should not unduly respond to this temptation (i.e. not to beg for food or steal).

This is one command our group is usually good at, as we do the “Leave it” command with the dogs regularly, but the evaluator had some treats that were apparently amazingly tempting! All the dogs passed, but only just. I need to find out what those magical treats were!

Those tasty treats were almost irresistable for all of the dogs, but when the tester accidently dropped them on the ground Mirco was amazingly controlled. Well done!

Those tasty treats were almost irresistible for all of the dogs, but when the tester accidentally dropped them all over the ground Mirco was amazingly controlled. Well done!

Test 9: Examination of the Dog

This is to demonstrate that the dog will allow inspection by a stranger as might be undertaken by a veterinary surgeon. The dog on lead will be required to be placed for inspection of mouth, throat, eyes, ears, and feet when standing, sitting or lying down as required. Other than mild avoidance the dog should allow inspection without concern.

Phoebe calmly stands for her examination

Phoebe calmly stands for her examination

Test 10: Care & Responsibility

This is to demonstrate that the handler has a good understanding of the responsibility required to care for their dog and the responsibility with regards to their neighbors and community. The handler will be asked 6 of the 10 questions by the Evaluator from Section 1 of the non scheduled document titled “Care and Responsibility”.

Learning these 4 pages for the test was very nerve wracking for us! The thing is, the questions are hard, basically because they’re all complete common sense, so it’s easy to forget to mention specific clauses. For example, Dogs Rights is a section of 7 different clauses to remember, included in these is the right to food, the right to water, the right to shade and the right to affection. They’re so straight forward they’re easy to forget!

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… and with that, we were all done and we anxiously awaited the results of our test…

And then it happened! She came up to us one by one and we each proudly received the certificates on behalf of our dogs. What a great moment for us all!

Receiving Phoebe's Silver Canine Good Citizen Certificate and rosette

Phoebe curiously looks on as I receive her Silver Canine Good Citizen Certificate and rosette on her behalf

We were all so happy for our dogs, and each other! It’s such a rewarding feeling after all that hard work. Each one of us had specific areas of concern for our dogs, but they all shone and performed beautifully!

Do you recommend the Canine Good Citizen (Silver) to others?

I am still a big fan of this test because of all it represents to the dogs and other dog owners. And especially for those who have reactive dogs, getting these qualifications behind you is a real boost for your confidence. The preparation is also great because it gives you very clear and specific goals to tailor play and learning time with the dogs.

I think the Bronze Level is the basic one everyone should go for, but in all honesty, the Silver isn’t too much more difficult, so try getting that too (even on the same day, like two of our class members did!).

Will there be more?

Well, after looking at the requirements for the Gold Level I was adamant that it would be too difficult, but as it now turns out… we’ve decided that all four of us who got the Silver will go ahead and give it a try! Why not? It’ll take a few months of hard training, but we’ll get there, I’m sure!

The evaluator, Mrs Chamberlain, also encouraged us to all enroll for the Gold as she says so few people go on to complete this, and it’s a really nice test to practice for and judge. Looks like we’ll be fulfilling her wish!

And once we do that, who knows, maybe I’ll have time to fit in some training preparation for Cooper to try out since he did so well at his Obedience Class tests! Who knows what the future holds? 🙂

The Canine Good Citizen graduates from "Dog on the Couch" School! The two  on the left (Mirco, Suki and owners) got both their Bronze AND Silver, while the two on the right (Phoebe, Emily and owners) achieved the Silver

The Canine Good Citizen graduates from “Dog on the Couch” School! The two on the left (Mirco, Suki and owners) got both their Bronze AND Silver, while the two on the right (Phoebe, Emily and owners) achieved the Silver

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Obedience, Focus, Fun

Tool(s) Used: Obedience Training and Behavioural Training

Cost: Moderate (we go to Dog on the Couch school every week, so this can add up depending on your trainer)

Ease of Implementation: Moderate

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. Phoebe loves attending her classes, and through these guided lessons we both learn new coping methods and ways to have fun. Preparing for the Canine Good Citizen Test was sometimes difficult and stressful, but ultimately fun and rewarding for us both.

Note: This is a very overdue blog post because we did the test 3 months ago, but better late than never, right?! Practicing for the Gold Level is underway as I type!

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Is the Canine Good Citizen Test something you’d be interested in doing with your dog? Do you think your dog would pass easily, or that there would still be a lot more work ahead of you?

Learning, Training, Playing – Gearing Up For Exams!

“What we learn with pleasure we never forget”
– Alfred Mercier

Oh how perfectly fitting that quote from Alfred Mercier is for our household at the moment! You see, we’re all very busy learning and putting into action all our hard work towards new qualifications. Phoebe and Cooper are both training hard to pass their tests that will be taking place in September.

Learning can be fun!

Phoebe is gearing up to take the Silver Level KUSA Canine Good Citizen Test. She absolutely blew me away with how well she did at the Bronze CGC Test so we have decided to go ahead and see if she’ll be able to do just as well in the next level. The tasks are in a similar format to the Bronze level with a lot of the same type of tests, just with more emphasis on endurance and concentration.

Phoebe and I learn more about each category in our Saturday morning dog school class where a portion of the class is dedicated to preparation as most of us will be doing one or two of these certification tests on the same day. As usual, Phoebe is happily surpassing all my expectations and is perfecting it every time. I am however very aware that the presence of new (strange) dogs may be her downfall in the “meet-n-greet” exercise, but you know what? I’m totally ok with that – all we can both do is prepare, give it our best effort on the day, and most of all enjoy the time we have to work and bond together!

"This is boring!" Phoebe finds the research part of the study time so very tiresome...

“This is boring!” Phoebe finds the research part of the study time so very tiresome…

Cooper, the newest addition to the family, is also hard at work to get his very own qualification! He is currently enrolled at the same Dog Training School as Phoebe (Dog on the Couch) and is busy training to get the Basic Obedience Certification. Cooper has been with us for about 3 months now, and though he has settled in beautifully, I am still regularly reminded that he is a rescue dog who missed out on many learning opportunities before coming to us. Our biggest problems with him are to get his attention (but I hear both Labs and Bassets can be difficult with this in the beginning?) and leash reactivity. Yup, it looks like I have ANOTHER reactive dog in the house! But it’s ok – at least I’m well educated on all the tips and techniques already!

Due to clashing class times I am not Cooper’s main handler for these lessons. He is being trained by The Greek (my wonderful, animal loving, caring significant other) who has been equally nervous and excited about his own first time doing a Basic Obedience Course – he has however always grown up with dogs and cats throughout his life, just none of them have ever done formal training or needed a behaviourist. Here’s hoping they are both the stars of the class!

"Sit? NAILED it!"

“Sit? NAILED it!”

Phoebe & Cooper’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Obedience, Focus, Training

Tool(s) Used: Obedience Training and Behavioural Training

Cost: Moderate

Ease of Implementation: Moderate

Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. Phoebe and Cooper both love the attention and regular outings they get to go on, whether it’s for “training” or for class. They especially love the regular supply of treats that are coming their way when they learn something new! 🙂 But on a more serious note, I feel the same way as I did for the previous test in that this time is so good and constructive for all of us as it gives us all clear goals to focus on while at the same time giving us the opportunity to not only exercise our bodies, but also our brains!

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Have you either done, or considered doing “formal” qualifications with your dog/s? Do you enjoy it?

Phoebe Gets Her First Rosette! The Canine Good Citizen

Phoebe has done it! She’s officially a graduate! She passed the KUSA Canine Good Citizen Test with flying colours!

… and then the moment we’d all been waiting for happened! The judge formally walked over to me, shook my hand and said those magical words: “Congratulations. Phoebe is officially a Canine Good Citizen”.

You may remember in earlier posts that Phoebe and I have been preparing for her to take the Bronze Level Kennel Union of South Africa (KUSA) Canine Good Citizen Test. The preparations have been intensive, but we managed to have fun along the way. I also read the wonderful book Hell on 4 Paws where a behaviourist enrolls her dog for the test, and tried to study all the training and preparation techniques she used. In all honesty though, the more I read about the test, the harder it seemed to pass. I was worried this may be a goal too high for us at this point.

I had decided to enroll her to take the test, but so as to ease the pressure (on both of us!) I decided that failure IS an option, and that only participation and an overall ‘OK’ score would be enough to make me happy. We just needed some indicators of success, then I could always enroll her for the test again next year. And then she just shone on the day beyond my wildest expectations! She passed with flying colours!

Well Done Phoebe!

Phoebe gets her first rosette!

What is the KUSA Canine Good Citizen Test?

For those who aren’t familiar with this, it is an international standard test presented by Kennel Clubs to test if your dog can achieve the basic expectations of a ‘well-mannered’ dog. You can go here to read more about it.

So what exactly did the test entail?

We started the test by handing over our vaccination cards etc, and I had a nervous word with the tester to explain Phoebe’s history and her fear aggression/reactivity so that if anything did go wrong, at least she would be prepared and the situation would be controlled if Phoebe tried to snap at her dogs. The tester was a wonderful lady who put me at ease by asking more questions about Phoebe, and telling me to just relax as her dogs are very calm and used to being around all kinds of dogs. Her advice to me was that both Phoebe & I should just be calm and do the best that we can. And we did – with excellent results!

Here’s a summary of the test we did, with pictures of some of our fellow graduees

Test 1: Accepting a Stranger

This Test is to see that a stranger can approach the dog and handler in a casual, everyday situation.  Ignoring the dog the Evaluator will walk up to the handler and greet him in a friendly way and shake hands.  The dog must show no signs of resentment or shyness and must not leave his position to go to the stranger.  Sitting politely for petting by a friendly stranger, with the dog sitting at the handler’s side, the Evaluator pats the dog only on the head and body, and then circles the dog and handler which completes the Test.  The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

Test 2: Putting on a Collar and Lead

The dog should have a well-fitting buckle or slip collar of leather, fabric or chain.  Special collars such as “pinch” or “spike” collars are not permitted.  The lead must be either leather or fabric.

Test 3: Presenting for Examination.

The purpose of this Test is to see if the dog can be examined by a Judge or a Vet without it becoming aggressive or flinching.  On a lead the handler will present the dog to the Evaluator for a gentle examination of its mouth, teeth, throat, eyes, ears and feet.

Benji Presents for his examination

Benji Presents for his examination

Test 4: Grooming

The Evaluator will inspect the dog to see if it appears healthy, is clean and groomed and will permit a stranger such as a vet or groomer to examine it.  The Evaluator then combs or brushes the dog and lightly examines the ears and front of each foot to see if it will accept grooming from someone other than its owner

Test 5: Praise and Presentation

The Test is to demonstrate that a dog can be calmed easily following praise or play and can leave the Test in a well mannered fashion.  The handler may praise the dog verbally, by petting, by playing with a toy and/or  via a favourite trick, in the allowed ten (10) seconds of play and then must calm the dog for the next test.

Test 6: Release from Lead, Play, Recall and reattach to Lead

The purpose of this Test is to see if a dog can play happily off lead and be recalled and be put back on lead.  The handler will release the dog from the lead and either play with it or throw some object for it to fetch and play with, then recall the dog and place back on  lead.

Test 7: Walking on a Loose Lead

Emily walks on a loose lead

Emily walks on a loose lead

The purpose of this Test is to demonstrate that the handler is in control.   The dog must be on the left side of the handler but need not be in the “heel” position.  There should be no doubt that the dog’s attention is on the handler and it responds to movements and changes of direction.  The course taken must include a left turn, right turn, an about turn, a stop in between and at the end of the Test.

Test 8: Pass Through a Door /Gate, on Lead

The dog should walk confidently through the door/gate and should not shy away from it.

Test 9: Walk on Lead passing People

This Test is to demonstrate that the dog should have no difficulty in walking through pedestrian traffic.  The dog should walk around close to at least four (4) persons one of whom should have a dog.  The dog may show interest in the strangers and the dog, but should continue to walk without any evidence of shyness or over exuberance and should not be pulling at the lead.  Throughout this Test the handler may encourage, praise or talk to the dog.

Test 10: Reaction to an Unfamiliar Dog

Emily is curious, but calm around the unfamiliar dog as the owners greet

Emily is curious, but calm around the unfamiliar dog as the owners greet

This Test is to demonstrate the proper behaviour in the presence of other dogs.  Starting at a distance of ten (10) metres from each other, two handlers walk towards each other, meet, stop, shake hands, exchange a few words and continue for about five (5) metres.  The dogs should demonstrate only casual interest.  Neither dog should go to the other dog or handler.

Test 11: Stay to Command

Tammy stays to Collette's  command

Tammy stays to Collette’s command

This Test is to demonstrate that the dog has some training and will respond to the handler’s commands.  Taking reasonable time, the handler commands the dog first to “sit” and then to “lie down”, using as many commands as he likes.  He must not force the dog into position.  The “stay” command is then given and the handler walks about seven (7) metres from the dog and returns at a natural walking pace to the dog, which must maintain its position until the handler returns and the Evaluator gives permission for the dog to move.

Test 12: Reaction to Distractions

Jock carries on walking confidently past the loud trolley distraction

Jock carries on walking confidently past the loud trolley distraction

This Test is to demonstrate the dog is confident at all times when facing a distraction.  The Evaluator must select two (2) of the following for this Test (they need not be the same for each dog).

  • Simulation of a handicapped person with crutches, a walker or a wheelchair
  • Sudden opening or closing of a door or solid gate.
  • Dropping a large book or similar object behind the dog but no closer than three (3) metres.
  • A jogger passing in front of the dog.
  • Someone pushing a pram, or shopping cart from the front or rear and passing within two (2) metres of the dog and handler.
  • A cyclist passing in front or from the rear within two (2) metres of the dog and handler.
  • The dog may express natural curiosity and interest and may startle, but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness or bark.

Test 13: Supervised Isolation

Worried at first, Phoebe waits patiently during the minute of supervised isolation

Worried at first, Phoebe waits patiently during the minute of supervised isolation

This Test is to demonstrate a dog can be left alone if necessary, whilst maintaining its training and good manners.  Evaluators are encouraged to say something like “would you like me to watch your dog while you make your call?”, both to add a touch of reality and to accentuate the fact that leaving a dog tied up and unsupervised is not condoned.  The dog will be attached to a two (2) metre line.  It does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, howl, pace unnecessarily or show any behaviour with a mild agitation or nervousness.

After the test Phoebe and I hid around the corner so that we didn’t interfere with the Beagle in class who gets very anxious when he sees Phoebe (he just doesn’t understand why she won’t play with him!). I watched the rest of the class with just as much anxiety and nervousness that I had for Phoebe – we were all in this together, and all worked hard to get through this!

Once everyone had completed their turns the judge put her dogs to sleep in their mobile tent and she diligently filled out all the forms. We were a wreck while we waited with baited breath to hear the results!

… and then the moment we’d all been waiting for happened! The judge formally walked over to me, shook my hand and said those magical words: “Congratulations. Phoebe is officially a Canine Good Citizen”.

The great thing about this moment was the way our Behaviourist and the rest of the class cheered, clapped and congratulated Phoebe and I. There were tears of happiness all round (though Phoebe was a bit confused at all the hullaballoo!). I had no idea that this team of people I trained with, and often felt so guilty about when Phoebe reacted to their dogs had invested so much concern for her to achieve. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

Do you recommend the Canine Good Citizen to others?

A resounding YES! Not only for the sense of achievement that you and your dog feel when you’ve successfully achieved it, but the practical implications of having the certification are innumerable, especially for a dog like Phoebe who has a troubled past, is reactive, has separation anxiety, and can sometimes be seen as a “nuisance” to others who don’t fully understand the long healing process. Now if I have any problems with complaining neighbours, or inconsiderate fellow dog park walkers I have the comfort of knowing not only that I actually can control my dog, but that I also have physical, hardcopy proof of all the work being put into her. Aint nobody gonna criticise Phoebe, or me now! 🙂

The preparation for the test is also great because it gives you ‘direction’ for focus and training exercises, while also forcing you to get out there and take those walks and exercises when you otherwise might not because of miserable weather etc. Even if we pulled out of the test itself, just that part of it made it all worth the effort!

Will there be more?

We’ve discussed preparing for the Silver Level KUSA Canine Good Citizen Test, but for now I think it may be too fast, too soon. There’s a lot more off leash interaction with other dogs, and though Phoebe has been great, I don’t want to push her too far over her threshold limit and undo the good work we’ve done by putting her in uncomfortable situations. But who knows? With the rapid progress she’s made over the past year, she may just overshoot any and all expectations once again!

A big round of aplause for the full 'Dog on the Couch' KUSA Canine Good Citizen graduating class!

A big round of applause for the full ‘Dog on the Couch’ KUSA Canine Good Citizen graduating class!

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:

Issue Addressed: Obedience, Focus

Tool(s) Used: Obedience Training and Behavioural Training

Cost: Moderate

Ease of Implementation: Moderate

Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5. Phoebe loves attending her classes, and through these guided lessons we both learn new coping methods and ways to have fun. Preparing for the Canine Good Citizen Test was sometimes difficult and stressful, but ultimately fun and rewarding for us both. Phoebe loves to play and get rewards for hard work so we’ll definitely carry on attending classes irrespective of whether we try for further qualifications.

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What do you think? Have you considered the Canine Good Citizen Test? How do you think your dog would do?