The Good Citizen Dog Scheme, organised and overseen by The Kennel Club, is the largest organised dog training programme in the UK and is open to dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds, young or old.
The Scheme is designed to help dog owners to teach and train their dogs (with assistance) in the basics of being good canine citizens, incorporating the basics of training, obedience, socialisation and appropriate behaviour.
As well as helping to improve the general behaviour, responsiveness and training of dogs in the UK, the Good Citizen Dog Scheme (GCDS) also allows dogs that have graduated from the scheme to enter special classes and competitions just for dogs that have completed the programme.
So, what is involved in the GCDS scheme for dogs, can your dog take part in it, and what does it entail? Read on to learn more.
The GCDS is managed and overseen by The Kennel Club, the umbrella organisation for dogs and dog breeds in the UK. The scheme begun way back in 1992 and consists of basic training and obedience exercises, with member-clubs running courses in the scheme at almost 2,000 training groups all across the UK.
Upon graduation from the scheme, dogs and their owners receive a certificate at the appropriate level, and this certificate allows such dogs to enter a small range of special classes at dog shows run exclusively for GCDS graduates.
It is important to note that the GCDS training programme is not a competition, and is not about comparing one dog with another-it is designed solely to promote responsible dog ownership and help dog owners to train and manage their dogs, and improve the general responsiveness and training levels of dogs in the UK.
To date, almost half a million dogs in the UK have been awarded a certificate in successful completion of the scheme.
Unlike many groups and competitions organised by The Kennel Club, the GCDS is not exclusive to pedigree dogs and those that are members of The Kennel Club. Dogs of any breed or makeup including cross breeds and mutts can take part in the scheme, and there is no upper limit on the age of dogs that can join in either!
There is also a section exclusively for puppies, designed for owners who want to make sure that their dog gets off on the right foot. The only restriction on attendance is that dogs and puppies must be up to date with their vaccines, which means that pups must be over a certain age in order to have benefitted from their first vaccinations before meeting the other dogs.
In order to join The Kennel Club GCDS scheme, first of all you just need to identify a local class or training group that runs the scheme, and sign up for their next available course. There are almost 2,000 authorised classes for the scheme running throughout the UK, and trainers and groups that offer the scheme usually advertise their affiliation with it.
For a complete run-down of clubs that run the scheme in your area, check out this list on The Kennel Club website.
The scheme runs at four different levels-puppy foundation classes, and then bronze, silver and gold levels.
The puppy classes concentrate on teaching the very basics of training, with the onus being placed on teaching owners to manage and train their own dogs, rather than having someone else do it for them. This class encompasses the basics of socialisation and training with commands such as sit, stay, and the beginning of other skills, as well as of course teaching both the puppy and their owner how to work together, train and learn.
Bronze level classes seek to build upon the skills learned in puppy classes or provide a basic introduction to training for older dogs that may have already learned the basics-and even if your dog has never received any training and is boisterous, unruly or badly behaved, the classes are appropriate to help them to improve.
Silver and gold-level classes are for dogs that have nailed the basics and have the aptitude and ability to learn higher-level commands and new skills, and one important element of the scheme is that dogs of any age can join in, and there is no cap on the top age for learning and improving!
Another important element of the scheme is to graduate dogs and their owners who are responsible dog owners, with dogs that are trustworthy and well behaved and owners that understand the importance of caring for their dogs and controlling them appropriately. All levels of the scheme incorporate a level of education for dog owners about their responsibilities as an owner-such as by cleaning up after their dogs when in public, and other elements too.