Dogs, owners make grade in Canine Good Citizen class

One of the 10 skills dogs must possess to earn a Canine Good Citizen certificate is the ability socialize with other dogs, which Lobo (left) seems to have mastered. Zoey, on the other hand, seemed a little more apprehensive but was still calm enough to pass her test on Saturday.

One of the 10 skills dogs must possess to earn a Canine Good Citizen certificate is the ability socialize with other dogs, which Lobo (left) seems to have mastered. Zoey, on the other hand, seemed a little more apprehensive but was still calm enough to pass her test on Saturday. Photo by Alfred Diaz.

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Lobo, a 6-month-old Swedish Vallhund, shows off his excitement in front of owner Jan Robles, after passing a three-week Canine Good Citizen course.

MILTON-FREEWATER — It was class finals for a dozen dogs that were trying to prove they could curb their instinct to bark, growl, lunge or, in Lobo’s case, just have a little too much fun.

“He is here because he is overly friendly and I needed him to learn to control himself,” Lobo’s owner, Jan Robles, said.

Of course, what can you expect from a six-month-old Swedish Vallhund puppy.

For the last three Saturday mornings, Robles and Lobo have been working together with a small group of dogs and owners to earn their AKC Canine Good Citizen certificates.

It has been several years since the Walla Walla Kennel Club has offered the training program, said club President Debbie Sutor, adding the club will hold another class in the spring.

For $25, the dogs were trained and tested on their ability to socialize with other dogs and with humans, especially to learn the important skill of staying calm.

“He is responding very well when I say ‘off,’” Robles said, noting that Lobo had acquired the bad-dog habit of jumping on people.

Getting his certificate doesn’t mean Lobo won’t get to jump on people any more, just only when invited.

“He is allowed to jump, but only if people ask him,” Robles said.

Sutor said the dogs are tested on 10 basic social skills: accepting friendly strangers, sitting politely for petting, walking on a lead, walking through a crowd, sitting and staying on command, coming when called, interaction with other dogs, reaction to distractions, appearance and grooming and showing no separation anxiety when separated from an owner for a period of three minutes.

“The whole test is set up so that the dog is trained to be out in public ... to show your dog has good manners.” Certified Canine Good Citizen-evaluated Shirley Scott said.

As for Lobo’s classmates, most of the dogs passed. But there were some who didn’t make it this go around.

“She didn’t want people, strangers that she didn’t know, touching her. She would growl,” Krisann Bienvenu said, noting why Squirt wasn’t at Saturday’s finals.

But her other dog, Shiloh, made the grade. Or you might say Bienvenu is the one who passed.

“It was more about teaching me how to deal with the dogs than the dogs,” Bienvenu explained.

Canine Good Citizen training is more lax than straight obedience training. Dogs are not required to heel exactly at their owner’s left side, nor do they have to come to a sit whenever the owner stops. Leads are loose and the dogs have the freedom to associate with other dogs and people.

As for when to start the training, “It’s best to start as early as possible,” Sutor said.

To learn more about the Canine Good Citizen program and other club programs, go to wwkc.org.

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