The first time Lucy Hayes met Stella, the Dayton, Ohio, native could sense something special about her. Hayes had owned a Bulldog before, but that dog had been somewhat stubborn and sedentary. Stella, however, was a whole different story. Despite being the runt of a nine-pup litter, Stella showed a certain spunk and eagerness to achieve. Three years later, the stellar Non-Sporting dog has earned her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) title, become a certified therapy dog, and is an athlete with a handful of AKC companion and performance sport titles.
“Our previous Bulldog, Irene, was very laid back and had very stubborn qualities,” says Hayes. “We were thinking that Stella was going to be a laid-back Bulldog. We were very wrong! As soon as she was moving, she had a take-charge attitude that made us fall in love. She was exactly the Bulldog that our family was supposed to have.”
The Bulldog breed standard describes a dog with a disposition that is “equable and kind, resolute and courageous.” However, as owners can attest, “equable” can be code for “lazy,” and “resolute” a pleasant euphemism for “stubborn.” As someone experienced with the breed, Hayes knew she wanted to encourage the best expression of the breed’s temperament in Stella. So, Hayes wasted no time providing Stella with early socialization and obedience training. An important part of that training was the AKC Canine Good Citizen program.
How CGC Helped Stella
“When Stella was a puppy, she didn’t seem to want to be told ‘no’ about anything,” says Hayes. “She was very energetic and had a propensity for learning quickly. It became apparent that the smart little cookie could learn things remarkably fast, so long as the treats were good.”
Today, Stella boasts a variety of achievements and titles, but that wasn’t always the case. When Hayes first learned about the CGC program through the Dayton Dog Training Club, then two-year-old Stella had already taken Obedience, AKC Rally, and Agility classes. However, Hayes understood the importance of proper, proven behavioral training. She wanted to prove that Stella was worthy of Canine Good Citizen-ship, as well as to aid in the pair’s burgeoning dog sports career through the strengthening of the dog-owner bond.
The CGC program is made up of two parts. First, the Responsible Dog Ownership Pledge, wherein owners accept responsibility for their dogs’ health, safety, behavior towards others, and quality of life. The second part is the ten-skill CGC test taken by each dog with their handler. Dogs must show mastery of good manners and obedience through skills like walking through crowds, behaving politely around other dogs, and accepting friendly strangers. On the strength of Hayes’ training and Stella’s good behavior, the pair earned their CGC title on the first try. That achievement has been integral to Stella’s success as an athlete, therapy dog, and all-around confident canine.
“Having healthy interactions with people and not being afraid is important for your pet’s quality of life,” says Hayes. “When they are able to go out in public with you, your pet is able to have all kinds of new experiences, brighten people’s day, and be an example of responsible pet ownership.”
Capa-Bull of Anything
Since earning her CGC title, Stella has been a busy Bulldog, participating in all manner of dog sports, from dock diving to Trick Dog to Fast CAT and more. As part of her CGC pledge to keep her dog safe, Hayes always observes sports safety for flat-faced breeds. While dog sports have been successful for the pair so far, where Stella’s CGC training preparation has really shone is in her new role as a therapy dog.
Stella had always been friendly towards people, but Hayes didn’t fully grasp the impact her pet could have until Stella made a neighborhood friend named Nathan. Nathan has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair for mobility assistance. Recently, Nathan’s mother brought him over to meet Stella for the first time.
Right away, Stella began to investigate her new visitor. Before long, she was climbing onto Nathan’s wheelchair tray. The young man began smiling and laughing at Stella’s antics, and his mother was moved to tears of joy. She shared that Nathan had long been afraid of dogs, and had never interacted with one before. Canine Good Citizen Stella showed him how calm, relaxed, and non-threatening well-trained dogs can be. After that day. Hayes decided to get Stella certified as a therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International. The dynamic duo hopes to become regular therapy visitors to Nathan’s workshop for individuals with special needs.
“This dog trusts me absolutely and she gives me 110%,” says Hayes. “I take her trust seriously, and I do everything I can to ensure I have her best interests in mind. I get real joy in watching her learn new things and how quickly she takes to new challenges. When we do something together, I truly feel like there is nothing we cannot do.”
Be sure to follow Stella on Instagram if you’re interested in keeping up with her and Hayes’ ongoing adventures.
Earning Your CGC
If Stella and Hayes have inspired you to take the Canine Good Citizen test with your dog, you can get started right away by finding a CGC class and evaluator. The Canine Good Citizen program is open to all dogs. If you have a special CGC story to share, be sure to tag any photos posted with #ThisisAKC and #CGC on Instagram.
The AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program has been the gold standard of dog behavior since 1989. Thirty years later, more than 1 million dogs have passed their CGC test. In honor of over a million Canine Good Citizens, we’ve launched a monthly “CGC & Me” series, highlighting the amazing stories of these dogs and their owners.