Six-week classes will be starting soon to train and certify dogs as Canine Good Citizens. The class series will begin May 10 and continue on Friday mornings at 9:30 a.m. at National Health Care in Bluffton.

In order to become a Hos-Pets Therapy Dog, at minimum the dog with owner has to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Following the passing of the test, the dog and owner must each attend their respective orientations with Hospice Care of the Lowcountry.

What does it take to become a Canine Good Citizen? First, the dog’s temperament is critical. The dog has to desire attention from strangers without being ill-behaved. Dog that are shy with strangers do not make good therapy dogs.

Sitting for petting is critical, as is walking next to the owner on a 6-foot leash. Jumping on people and licking is not allowed.

Testing consists of obedience and behavior skills.

In one test, the owner walks the dog and stops to talk to a person. The dog is to ignore the person. The owner should have complete control of the dog.

The next test is the same, except the person asks to pet the dog. The dog should be in a Sit Stay by the owner’s side and accept petting on head and body by the stranger.

Obedience skills include Sit, Lie Down and Stay on command, handing the leash to the evaluator and the owner walking away, then returning to the dog with the dog remaining in position.

The Come command has the evaluator holding the leash and distracting the dog. The owner calls the dog to Come and the dog comes straight to the owner without stopping.

Walking skills are extremely important. The dog must walk on a loose leash by the owner’s side, with the dog stopping, turning and changing directions. This indicates the dog is truly paying attention.

Another exercise includes walking around distractions such as walkers and wheelchairs. Dogs must go up to people using these types of equipment without showing fear. This assures that they can be petted by anyone using medical equipment.

Another distraction is loud noises. A loud and startling object is dropped and the dog can’t pull or try to get away from it. Overreacting in a noisy situation would be dangerous to the owner and other people, so calmness is required.

The dog must be comfortable with a person other than his owner, brushing them, touching them and examining their body, ears and paws.

The hardest challenges are ignoring other dogs, which is very difficult for dog-friendly dogs; and supervised separation, in which the owner leaves a dog with someone and disappears for three minutes. For dogs that are very owner tied, leaving them and disappearing can be stressful.

CGC is looking for dogs that are comfortable in both situations, once again taking their cues from their owners.

Advance sign up is required for CGC training. Classes and test fee is $125. For more information, email me at

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training.