Architect Christine MacNeill started the Doberman Gang of NYC in 2013 in part to find playmates for her high-enegy puppy, Lucy, and to find like-minded people who love the breed. Today, the group, which has 60 members on its Meetup page and has all kinds of dogs, from show dogs to shelter rescues, gathers regularly to burn off the abundant energy--both physical and mental--for which the Doberman Pinscher is famous. Also, they fight stereotypes about these dogs through such activities as a mass Canine Good Citizen test and marching in the Steuben Day Parade.
What is the Canine Good Citizen test, and why does it matter?
It’s difficult to convey the importance of the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and the impact it can have on dogs and their people. CGC is the AKC’s national program designed to teach basic training skills to dog owners and good manners to dogs. In the past 25 years, more than 700,000 dogs have earned CGC certificates.
The test is basic, consisting of 10 simple commands (see link). But it is so much more. Since its inception in 1989, this test has been proven to change lives and, in the case of dogs who have lost their homes, to save lives. By working on those 10 exercises, you set a foundation for anything you hope to master. CGC has been a springboard for everything from competitive agility to therapy-dog and search-and-rescue work. You learn how to teach your dog and he learns how to learn. It has guided all kinds of dogs from all kinds of backgrounds into new lives, including some from Michael Vick’s fighting ring.
In some cases, learning CGC skills can be the difference between life and death. Walk into any shelter, and you’ll see dogs—smart, beautiful, and bursting with potential—abandoned and with their time running out. They have landed there because of bad manners.
In a 2013 study from School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, researchers spent about a month at shelters, trying to find out why dogs were losing their homes. Sixty-five percent reported a behavioral reason for relinquishment. The scientists suggest “helping owners solve problem behaviors of their dogs with tools that are utilized in humane training.”
CGC, and its sister programs, S.T.A.R puppy and Community Canine, can give owners those tools. In 2014, Dr. Mary Burch, director of the CGC program for the AKC, presented the results of a CGC survey at Animal Behavior Society Conference, in Princeton, New Jersey. Of the 1445 dog owners who responded to the survey, 99 percent had their dogs a year later.
In other words, after passing a CGC no dogs were dumped. Even more significant, in Dr. Burch’s study, 70 percent of CGC graduates went on to more advanced training, rally, obedience, agility, and therapy work, where the fun really begins. Through CGC, the bond was strengthened, the skills were mastered, and people discovered that most ancient truth, that everything is better when a dog is by your side.