by Nan Hildebrandt
Events Manager, Save-a-Bull Rescue

Anyone who owns a pit bull has probably experienced first-hand the instant and unfounded bad reaction some people have the minute you tell them what kind of dog you have. I still can’t believe in this day and age how many times I hear “I can’t believe you have pit bulls in your home, aren’t they mean?” or “You better watch out, they’ll turn on you!” or “Those dogs will eat your face off.” (seriously, that happened). If I don’t get one of those uneducated comments, I will for sure get the raised eyebrow “look” and that person’s impression of me just changed.

Unfortunately that’s the world we live in, and while we as breed advocates are working hard to change that mind set, pit bulls still bear the heavy burden of having to be more well-behaved than any other dog out there just to prove their equality.

Luckily, pit bulls are smart, loyal and learn quickly. This makes them perfect candidates for the Canine Good Citizen Program. The CGC Program teaches good manners to dogs and responsible dog ownership to their owners. It includes a 10-step non-competitive test and a Responsible Dog Owner Pledge. Here are the 10 steps in the CGC test:

Step 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
The dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler.

Step 2: Sitting politely for petting
The dog will allow a friendly stranger to pet it while it is out with its handler.

Step 3: Appearance and grooming
The dog will permit someone to check it’s ears and front feet, as a groomer or veterinarian would do.

Step 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
Following the evaluator’s instructions, the dog will walk on a loose lead (with the handler/owner).

Step 5: Walking through a crowd
This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three).

Step 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay.

Step 7: Coming when called
This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler (from 10 feet on a leash).

Step 8: Reaction to another dog
This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries.

Step 9: Reaction to distraction
The evaluator will select and present two distractions such as dropping a chair, etc.

Step 10: Supervised separation
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person. The evaluator will hold the dog’s leash while the handler leaves the room for 3 minutes.

It’s important that every pit bull be a shining example of the breed and being a Canine Good Citizen is a huge step in the right direction. Also, some homeowner’s insurance companies are encouraging CGC testing, and an increasing number of apartments and condos require that resident dogs pass the CGC test.

IMG_2830So, does your dog have what it takes to pass the CGC test? It’s not easy. I’ve personally taken the test with my dog Winnie. She’s a straight A student in obedience class, has excellent focus, loves people and enjoys learning more than any dog I’ve ever had. And we failed – big time. Even though she’s a great dog, it showed me what we need to work on to be a great pit bull and we’ll do it again, and again, and again, until we pass.

Lynn Silvis, CGC evaluator at Canine Coach, encourages all pit bull owners to consider this test, “Don’t just say pit bulls are awesome, PROVE it!” If you’d like to take the CGC test, find an evaluator in your area here.

And when you pass your test, don’t forget to share your success with us!


Being Responsible
It’s not just the dog who has to work hard. Another part of the CGC test is the Responsible Owner’s Pledge. This is an oath you take promising to set your dog up for success by being the best dog owner you can be. Even if you don’t pass or take the CGC test, this pledge is something every dog owner should solemnly swear to uphold. Good pit bull owners help break the stereotype of these great dogs.

AKC CGC℠ Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge

I will be responsible for my dog’s health needs. These include:

  • Routine veterinary care including check-ups and vaccines.
  • Adequate nutrition through proper diet and clean water at all times.
  • Daily exercise and regular bathing and grooming.

I will be responsible for my dog’s safety.

  • I will properly control my dog by providing fencing where appropriate, not letting my dog run loose, and using a leash in public.
  • I will ensure that my dog has some form of identification when appropriate (which may include collar tags, tattoos, or microchip ID).
  • I will provide adequate supervision when my dog and children are together.

I will not allow my dog to infringe on the rights of others.

  • I will not allow my dog to run loose in the neighborhood.
  • I will not allow my dog to be a nuisance to others by barking while in the yard, in a hotel room, etc.
  • I will pick up and properly dispose of my dog’s waste in all public areas such as on the grounds of hotels, on sidewalks, parks, etc.
  • I will pick up and properly dispose of my dog’s waste in wilderness areas, on hiking trails, campgrounds and in off-leash parks.

I will be responsible for my dog’s quality of life.

  • I understand that basic training is beneficial to all dogs.
  • I will give my dog attention and playtime.
  • I understand that owning a dog is a commitment in time and caring.

Click here to download and print a copy of the Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge