Good Citizen Dog Scheme celebrates 25 years

The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme is the largest dog-training programme in the UK and in March 2017 celebrates its 25th Birthday. It has developed from one initial award to four levels of dog training standards. Whatever type of dog you own, whether it is young or old, pedigree or crossbreed, Show Champion or adored family pet, the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme caters for them all. 

The Scheme was introduced in 1992, to combat the growing anti-dog feeling. Whilst many canine sports incorporated various types of dog training, they did not teach dog owners how to handle everyday life situations and the universal responsibilities that come with owning a dog.

Buying a dog is possibly the only time you ever have to choose a member of your family. Once you have made that choice, the dog that you choose needs to be trained to adapt to your own lifestyle and obey the boundaries required in your daily routine. The Good Citizen Dog Scheme was introduced for that very reason, helping owners train their dogs for everyday life skills.

Starting Point

The original award (no known as Bronze) consisted of nine exercises which all relate to domestic dog owning situations. From putting on the collar, grooming him or her to calling your dog back to you in the park, the Bronze Award is a comprehensive and educational start to creating a happy partnership with your dog. Considerable focus is geared towards the owner’s responsibilities as well as the importance of well behaved dogs in our society. No handler or dog can take part in any Good Citizen Award test unless they have a poop scoop bag and their dog is wearing the proper means of identification. Since 2016 dogs in the UK need to be microchipped as well.

The driving test for dogs

The Scheme was launched in March 1992, followed in June that year with the first testing session. The Scheme has always been well supported by KC Registered Training Clubs, local Councils and Adult Education Centres, as these were the first dog organisations to host courses and testing sessions. Other organisations such as KC Breed Clubs and KC General Canine Clubs started to participate, expanding the network of course providers. The initial Award was welcomed into the world of dog training as a recognised standard of training, a bit like a driving test for dogs and owners.

New Awards are added  

By 1997, the Scheme had been running successfully for five years with over 21,000 dogs having passed the test. As a result there was an overwhelming request for additional Scheme awards. The Good Citizen Dog Scheme Working Party put their heads together again resulting in the creation of two additional Good Citizen Awards.

The Silver and Gold Awards were launched on 1st May 1998 and added a further dimension to the Scheme’s already comprehensive dog training programme. Within these awards the Scheme remained focused on responsible dog ownership and training dogs for daily life situations, but introduced a higher level of difficulty and a natural progression of what had already been learnt in the Bronze Award. New exercises like Road Walking, Car Control and teaching a dog to be relaxed in isolation were just some of the new exercises that were included to further test the standard of a Good Citizen Dog.  Again the awards were well received and further encouraged dogs and their owners to take up the challenge.

Life Skills for Puppies

In November 2001, the range of awards became complete when the Good Citizen Dog Scheme Puppy Foundation Assessment was introduced. This award was incorporated to lay the foundations in a puppy’s future training and to assist new dog owners in understanding and training their new canine addition.  The Puppy Foundation award has proved to be one of the most popular initiatives the Scheme has launched to date.

Positive Signals

The Scheme has also been involved in other positive canine initiatives since its creation. Within the Scheme’s network of Dog Training course providers, the introduction of ‘Listed Status’ Training Clubs in 2001 (whereby smaller based training establishments and veterinary practices can enrol as Kennel Club Good Citizen Training Organisations) has been another factor in establishing a larger geographical network of Good Citizen courses. To date there are over 700 Listed Status organisations promoting the Scheme’s message.

En route

In 2005, the Scheme launched a new competition called the Special Pre-Beginner Obedience Stakes. This was created to encourage prospective exhibitors who have passed their GCDS Bronze Award to take part in obedience competition. The exercises included in the test are a combination of the current GCDS exercises and the Pre-Beginner Obedience test. Building on the basic training skills learnt through the Good Citizen Dog Scheme, these new stakes helped to bridge the gap between basic training and entering a competition.  Response to the heats this year was overwhelming resulting in 31 heats throughout the British Isles over 900 entries received per year.

On Track for the Future

Due to the number of training clubs now running the Scheme, new initiatives to educate dog training instructors and Scheme examiners have been introduced. To date over 250 Seminars and Examiner Assessment courses have taken place around the UK. Through the Good Citizen Annual Awards, the Scheme is able to recognise and reward the hard work and dedication that is undertaken by training organisations and local councils in promoting good dog ownership. Through displays, educational talks and community pro-dog projects the efforts of dedicated dog lovers help to bring a positive message to society. 

To combat anti-dog publicity and promote the safe interaction between children and dogs, the Scheme has also helped to develop another initiative. The Kennel Club ‘Safe and Sound Scheme which was launched in November 2003.

Full Steam Ahead

The Scheme has developed well beyond its initial concept and owes much to the dedication and hard work of the Good Citizen enthusiasts, dog owners and of course the dogs who have participated. There are now classes being held at breed shows for Good Citizens and a Special Annual Supermatch introduced in 2015. For Crossbreed dogs , there are also Good Citizen classes held through the series of Scruffts heats around the country.

In promoting socially acceptable dogs by way of creating responsible dog owners, we hope that the Scheme will continue its incredible journey throughout another 25 years.

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