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Courtesy of Nora Pavone
One-and-a-half-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog, Fiona, is the millionth dog to pass her Canine Good Citizen test. Fiona works at a funeral home in Brooklyn, New York.

The AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program has been the gold standard of behavior for all dogs — both purebred and mixed breeds — since 1989. Thirty years later, one million dogs have passed their CGC test!

On August 14, 2019, the AKC recognizes the millionth CGC dog — Fiona the Bernese Mountain Dog, owned by Nora Pavone of Brooklyn, New York.

In honor of the millionth CGC dog, we are launching a monthly article series that highlights the amazing stories of CGC dogs and their owners, starting with Fiona.

Nora Pavone with her Bernese Mountain dog, Fiona.

Preparing Fiona to Work at a Funeral Home

Nora remembers loving Bernese Mountain Dogs since childhood. The breed was at the front of her mind when she began searching for dogs that would be a good fit for a therapy dog at her family business, Marine Park Funeral Home. That’s when she found her breeder — Ada at High Country Kennels in Colorado. Ada helped Nora select the perfect puppy for her needs — Fiona.

Before coming home with Fiona, Nora began to research how to train a therapy dog. Most of her sources recommended starting with the AKC Canine Good Citizen program.

“I navigated to AKC’s website where I learned the program was the ‘gold standard of behavior for dogs in our communities,'” Nora says. “I knew if Fiona was going to be working with families in the Funeral Home, I wanted her held to that same standard.”

Fiona with her Canine Good Citizen ribbon.

The Importance of Fiona’s CGC Training

Nora started to train Fiona soon after she came home at nine weeks old. Fiona and Nora worked with a trainer to complete puppy fundamentals and basic manners: sit, stay, lay, loose leash walking, hand targets, and a few tricks.

After getting the basics down, Nora started to work with Fiona on training specifically for CGC. “Our biggest challenge was to keep Fiona motivated even when treats weren’t involved,” Nora says. “We decided to take the CGC test after Fiona turned a year old, so we trained for a whole year to make sure she was completely ready.”

For Nora, the most rewarding part of Fiona earning her CGC is the confidence that Fiona is prepared to act professionally when meeting families at the funeral home.

“The biggest change in Fiona since completing the CGC program is her attention to her handler,” Nora says. “She now knows to interact with a family, while also keeping her attention on the handler for any commands that may come her way.”

Fiona comforts children at the Marine Park Funeral Home in Brooklyn, New York.

The Bond of CGC

Nora says CGC has not only made Fiona more confident but Nora feels more confident herself, as well.

“CGC has helped me forge such a strong bond with Fiona,” Nora says. “The faith I have that Fiona will behave in a polite and gentle manner in all settings has allowed me to enjoy her to the fullest. For all those reasons I would highly recommend the program. Your relationship with your dog will benefit, as will your dog’s relationship with the world.”

Earning Your CGC

If Nora and Fiona inspire you to try to take the Canine Good Citizen test, 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, post a photo with #ThisisAKC #CGC on Instagram.

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