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Canine Good Citizen Training for Great Danes

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A while back I posted a blog post about our puppy Figaro obtaining his AKC S.T.A.R. puppy award. If you haven’t guessed yet, we are HUGE fans of training around here and believe that well trained dogs are less likely to end up in rescue and more likely to be excellent ambassadors for this breed. Canine Good Citizen training for Great Danes is the must-do activity you didn’t know you needed!

There is nothing more awesome than walking a well-behaved, calm large Great Dane in public on a flat collar and having him not only be a part of your life this way, but able to show people what ‘gentle giant’ really means.

Today we are talking about what the Canine Good Citizen title is, why it matters and how to get it! Read on, friends.

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Can All Dogs Take the CGC Test?

Any dog, registered, adopted, mixed-breed or purebred can participate in the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program.

A dog that has been awarded a CGC title can add it after their registered name. If you’ve ever looked at a pedigree and noticed a dogs registered name (usually long and unusual) with ‘CGC’ somewhere following the name, you now know what it means!

If your dog is not registered with the AKC or you don’t have papers, the AKC Canine Partners program will give you a number to sign up and take advantage of the CGC title.

The CGC title is one way that breeders can prove the temperaments of their breeding stock, and prove that they actively work with their dogs. When you are searching for a breeder, especially if you want a good family dog that will be social and in public, find a breeder whose dogs have the CGC and/or ATT (AKC Temperament Test)  title.

This is a good sign that they are breeding dogs with stable temperaments! Given what appears to be a worsening problem of unstable temperaments (fear, timidness, aggression) in this breed, we have a responsibility to stop supporting careless breeding practices.

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Is My Dog Too Old for Training and the CGC Test?

A dog can take the CGC test at any age. All that matters is that you’ve put the time into training your dog and showing them how to be an outstanding citizen in public!

It’s never too late to start, and you may find that training classes are a fun new hobby.

Well trained dogs are happier, easier to live with, more confident, and show the world that Great Danes are amazing (not scary, aggressive, timid or out of control) dogs!

You may see videos of Danes walking nicely on a leash and leaving treats when asked, and think your Dane couldn’t possibly do it.

Every Dane can learn these skills, it’s just a matter of your ability as a trainer and desire to put the time in.

Some dogs may struggle to pass the test because they have intense anxiety, reactivity or fear. These dogs especially need our guidance and we recommend working towards this title as a means towards helping them build confidence and learn better skills.  While they may not be able to confidently pass this test, the time and work you put into it will be worth it.

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Passing the Canine Good Citizen Test

To obtain this title, your dog has to take and pass the Canine Good Citizen test with an AKC Approved Evaluator.

These trainers also teach the classes that will help you guide your Great Dane towards this title. You may need to pay a small fee to take the test, which is typically offered at AKC dog shows or during dedicated events by the trainer/evaluator.

When taking the test, your dog will have to be on a flat collar and leash. A harness may be allowed, so long as it does not restrict movement (no-pull harnesses and head collars would be a disqualification, for example). Choke, pinch, chain and e-collars are not allowed.

You must demonstrate that the dog is able to complete the test items without being corrected, suppressed or forced. Praise is allowed, treats and corrections are not (fade treats out during training).

Read about the test items HERE.

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How to Train a Great Dane for the CGC Test

Training for this title starts with socialization. If you have a new puppy, this is an important step! Good breeders begin socializing puppies at a very young age, and teach you how to continue that work.

Socialization is NOT about going to the pet store and the dog park and letting a million people squeal and hover over your new puppy. As a matter of fact, that is one of the worst things you can do.

Waiting to socialize your puppy until vaccines are finished is another big mistake. There are many SAFE ways to socialize a puppy while they are in their prime socialization window.

When training your Great Dane for the CGC title, puppy classes are NOT enough.

Many people take the 6 week puppy Kindergarten class and think they are finished. We believe that ALL dogs benefit from continued training at home or in a classroom environment.

After the 6 week class is up, ask your instructor about the next step. Many puppies are ready to move into an intermediate and then advanced classes where you can build on your foundation, fade out treats and work around more distractions. Well trained dogs happen for people that put the work in!

Tread cautiously with trainers who use harsh, punitive punishment to obtain obedience and ‘respect’ from your dog. Alpha rolls/pinning, shouting, bonkers, kneeing, pinching, choking, hitting, intimidating, scaring and scolding are never necessary.

Good trainers will show you how to teach and guide your dog and build a positive relationship, not one based on a power struggle, force, fear or intimidation.

Even if you choose a ‘balanced’ trainer, positive reinforcement should still be the primary method of teaching. Contrary to popular belief, giant breed dogs do not need a heavy hand, penny cans or constant sharp leash corrections to be well trained.

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Canine Good Citizen Training for Great Danes

A dog that has obtained a Canine Good Citizen title is more likely to be welcomed in public.

If you rent your home, showing your landlord that your dog(s) training has been put to the test can go a long way towards asking them to allow your giant breed dog (many of which are on restricted lists because they can do so much damage so quickly).

Some insurance companies are more likely to insure dogs that have been proven as well.

Dogs that have been well trained are easier to live with! Put the time in now and avoid years of frustration, pulling, lunging and embarrassing or even dangerous greetings.

If your Great Dane is pulling, lunging, barking, showing aggression or jumping on strangers it doesn’t look good for you, for the dog or for the breed as a whole. It’s also dangerous, and a big reason why so many home insurance companies charge more for homes with Great Danes in them.

You have the power to work on this! Training for the CGC title is fun and rewarding, even if you never take the test.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

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