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Samantha Scicchigno
Red, 4 (left), and Marge, 12 (right), are Canine Partners owned by Samantha Scicchigno in Staten Island, New York. While they each started out with individual behavioral issues, Canine Good Citizen (CGC) helped both dogs become well-behaved athletes.

The first time Samantha Scicchigno met Marge, the black mixed-breed dog had just arrived at the shelter she volunteered for. Scicchigno was a high school student who had never owned a dog before, but liked Marge’s size and comfort level around cats. Shortly after bringing Marge home, Scicchigno realized that training classes would be a necessity for her shy and fearful dog.

“As a novice dog owner, I had no idea Marge was as fearful as she was when I first got her,” says Scicchigno. “It hurt my heart to see her so scared when we met new people or went for walks in busy places.”

Marge after earning her MACH2 in 2018

CGC + Marge: From Shy to Confident

Scicchigno started working with Marge through the 10-step CGC program. CGC gave Marge and Scicchigno the structure they needed to work through real-life situations that were sometimes overwhelming. “For Marge, passing the CGC would be affirmation that she had overcome so many of the fears that she came to me with,” says Scicchigno.

When Marge finally passed the CGC test, Scicchigno was encouraged by a fellow dog club member to continue in dog sports. Scicchigno was overjoyed to discover the AKC Canine Partners program, which made it possible for mixed-breed dogs to compete in official trials. Scicchigno and Marge immediately began earnestly training in Rally and Agility. Marge began competing with the AKC one year after earning her CGC.

Ten years after Marge earned her CGC in 2009, she has amassed titles in Obedience, Rally, and Agility. She has two Master Agility Championship titles and has competed in the AKC Rally National Championship three times. Marge is now focusing her talents on competing in Rally and learning Scent Work.

Red after passing the Canine Good Citizen test in 2017

CGC + Red: From Overactive to Obedient

Several years after acquiring and training Marge, Scicchigno added another four-legged companion to the family: a seven-month-old, red-spotted mixed-breed: Red. She learned the high-energy dog wasn’t a match with his current family, so Scicchigno decided to give him a positive outlet for his energy: dog sports.

CGC was Red’s first foray into formal training. It was also a test to ensure that he had the real-life skills to work toward participating in dog sports. While Marge proved that she overcame her fears when she passed the CGC, Red was faced with a different challenge: controlling his energy around other dogs.

“Red doesn’t know a stranger and is especially excitable around dogs,” says Scicchigno. Though he had to work hard to stay calm during the “reaction to another dog” portion of the test, he succeeded and passed the test. CGC made it possible for Scicchigno and Red to start training to compete in multiple AKC dog sports. Since passing the CGC, Red has competed in Obedience, Rally, and Agility. Now, four-year-old Red is working on his Novice Obedience title.

“He is proving himself to be a fun, competitive obedience dog, so that’s our main focus,” says Scicchigno. “Obedience is especially useful for Red because, much like the CGC, it provides me with a structured way to train with him in a variety of environments—training clubs, parks, pet stores, and strip malls. That’s important for a nosy-body like Red.”

Outside of the show ring, Red and Marge enjoy walks on the beach and hikes in the woods. They have traveled to more than two dozen states.

Advice for those considering CGC

For many dog owners, having an obedient and well-mannered dog is an advantage. For Scicchigno, it was a necessity. CGC allowed Marge to conquer her shyness and Red his overactiveness.

“Marge and Red are proof that the CGC is useful and beneficial no matter what type of dog you have—a shy wallflower or the life of the party. I’ve got both!” says Scicchigno. “The test, and training for it, provides useful structure to help dogs learn about our human world.”

The CGC and the AKC Canine Partners programs are life-changing for humans, too. Though Scicchigno initially started training with the goal of having a well-behaved pet, she discovered a love of dog sports. Now, she uses her experience to teach dog training classes and introduce other dog owners to the joy of training and competing together. “Whether you want to train an obedience champion or just teach your dog to hang out calmly on a restaurant patio, the CGC is a wonderful foundation and springboard into a variety of human-canine activities,” says Scicchigno.

Earning your CGC

If Marge and Red have inspired you to try to train your dog for the Canine Good Citizen test, you can get started right away by finding a CGC class and evaluator. There are also ways to get started from home. 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.

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