Review: The Canine Good Citizen

The Canine Good Citizen, by Jack and Wendy Volhard

After reading Bad Dog, I felt certain that I’d want to put my future dog through the paces of earning his or her Canine Good Citizen certification. The author of Bad Dog, Martin Kihn, mentions attending a workshop by the authors of this book, Jack and Wendy Volhard. Kihn emphasizes how helpful they were in getting his out-of-control Bernese mountain dog to her CGC certification and so I thought I’d read it in my spare time.

It’s a very slim volume and would be most helpful to those who were actually in the process of training for the CGC test. The book walks you through the 10 tests that the CGC evaluates and provides step-by-step instructions on how to train your dog to perform each task.

The Volhards create a helpful “Canine Personality Profile” for owners. This profile is supposed to help you evaluate your dog’s dominant drives and then use that information to tailor your training regimen. I think it’s an interesting idea and I think I’d probably at least try it once I get a dog of my own.

This book is kind of outdated in some of its training recommendations (recommends aggressive jerks on the leash, for example), but I figure I may reference it again if and when I decide to train my dog to earn his or her CGC certification.

Have you trained your dog to pass the CGC test? Do you have any advice about that test in particular? Do you think it’s worthwhile?

Review: Why We Love the Dogs We Do

Why We Love the Dogs We Do, by Stanley Coren

Another book from the dog pop psychologist Stanley Coren! And this book is especially “pop-py.” I read this one because I’ve owned it since I was about 12 and I found it while rummaging through my parent’s attic on a recent visit home. I thought I’d try it out again and see if I learned anything new.

Verdict: Not really. It’s a cute book, especially if you like stories about celebrities and their dogs. Coren certainly did a lot of research on that. But I’m not sure how valid the rest of his “science” is. In Why We Love the Dogs We Do, Coren attempts to provide readers with a personality test that will tell you what type of dog you should get.

He rejects the AKC categories of dogs and instead creates seven new groups of breeds based on the breeds’ typical temperaments:

  1. Friendly (e.g., golden retrievers, labs)
  2. Protective (e.g., akitas, rottweilers)
  3. Independent (e.g., greyhounds, huskies)
  4. Self-assured (e.g., all terriers)
  5. Consistent (e.g., most toy breeds, weirdly)
  6. Steady (e.g., scent hounds, newfoundlands)
  7. Clever (e.g., herding breeds)

Coren then creates a little quiz for his readers to take. After you score your results, you can group yourself into ranges (high, medium, low) on scales of extroversion, dominance, and warmth. From these “scores,” Coren will tell you which of his new breed groups you’ll be most likely to fall in love with. Throughout the book, he gives examples of celebrities and tries to decipher their personalities and evaluate why they loved the dogs they did. For example, Queen Elizabeth II, like myself apparently, scored medium on all of the ranges, which means that she’ll prefer dogs from the Clever group. Her beloved corgis just happen to fall in that group.

I took the quiz and my results recommended that I will love breeds from the Clever group. This turns out to be true for me: Australian shepherds, German shepherds, and border collies are members of this category. I love almost all of the dogs in the Clever or herding group. However, Coren’s quiz also told me that I would like dogs from the Consistent group. In Coren’s schema, Consistent dogs are almost exclusively toy breeds. I turned up my nose at this. I know I wouldn’t enjoy life with a chihuahua or a dachshund.

So, take it with a grain of salt. I don’t think it’s scientific at all, but it is a fun diversion. Kind of like the personality quizzes you’d take in Cosmo or something. If you are absolutely clueless about what type of dog you might like, Coren’s book may be helpful to you. But if you’re already pretty sure what you want, Why We Love the Dogs We Do might just tell you a lot of stuff that you already know.