Hugging Your Dog: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

National “Hug Your Hound Day” is coming up. As it turns out, many canine behaviorists think that hugging a dog is not such a good idea. The science doesn’t support it, hugs are human things, dogs can feel threatened if restrained, and on and on.

Here’s my take on it. You may or may not agree.

man hugs dogIn general, dogs don’t like hugging. Hugging and kissing are human things, and in some cases, a restraining hug can make a dog feel very uncomfortable. But, with proper training, you can teach your dog to tolerate a hug, and if you pair it with something the dog likes, hugs can become a reinforcer for the dog.

Reasons for teaching a dog you know to tolerate a hug include:

* Accepting hugs can be a part of a training program related to grooming and handling by veterinarians. Sometimes these professionals need to reach over or hold the dog.

* Responding acceptably to a hug might be important for some therapy dog settings where a child may suddenly attempt to hug the dog

* Dog owners love their dogs and giving the dog a hug can make the owner feel better. “Dear Dog, I feed you, walk you, play with you, and throw the tennis ball for hours. If I want to hug you every now and then after a rough day, that is what we going to do.”

Let us know what you think about hugging dogs either here or on the CGC Facebook page.

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Teaching Your Dog to “Leave it”

I was recently interviewed about Canine Good Citizen’s advanced tests- AKC Community Canine and AKC Urban CGC.

The reporter lived in a large metropolitan city and near the end of the interview, she said, “I would love to do this with my dog, but she could never pass these tests.” I asked which test items would be a problem. “Only one,” she said. “No matter what I do, my dog won’t ignore food or food containers on a sidewalk.”

pizza box sidewalkHere are some tips for teaching the “Leave it” command. The idea underlying this training is 1) that you’ve put a systematic plan in place and 2) you teach your dog good things may come her way if she follows your directions to “leave it.”


  1. Start by playing the “Leave it” game at home. Sit on the floor with your dog. Say, “Leave it,” as you hold a treat in your hand with your fist closed. The dog will sniff your hand and may try to get the treat.
  2. As soon as your dog stops trying to get the treat (or stops sniffing your hand), praise the dog. (Good girl!) Immediately give your dog a treat from the other hand.
  3. Practice this several times until the dog responds to “leave it.”
  4. Make this game harder by putting the food on the floor, covering it with your hand, and saying, ‘leave it.’ As before, when the dog stops trying to get the food, praise and give a treat from your other hand.


Now it’s time to start making the task approximate what will happen in the real world.

  1. At home, (indoors is fine), put your dog on a leash. You will have placed a few treats around the room or yard. Walk by the treats about 5 feet away and say, “leave it” if the dog starts to go toward the food.
  2. You can also use alternative behaviors here, such as telling the dog, “watch me” or “heel.”
  3. When the dog looks at you or turns away from the food on the floor/ground, praise and give a treat.
  4. Eventually you will fade out the treats and your dog should be able to walk by food or food containers with no trouble.


In the last phase of training, you’ll test the dog in the real world. Be sure to carry some treats in the initial phases of training. If you don’t see food on the sidewalk, you can plant some treats for training purposes.

With reinforcement for doing the right thing and systematic training, your dog will soon learn to “leave it.”

For questions about CGC, contact

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Urban CGC Test in Springfield, MA

The Urban CGC test is a great fit for therapy dogs. These dogs are out and about in the community and they do many of the Urban CGC test items on their way to a therapy visit.

cgcu-donnaThe Dog Obedience Guidance School held an Urban CGC test (CGCU) at the Shrine Hospital for Children in Springfield,Massachusetts. The Shrine allowed us the use of their elevator for the test as well as the entrance to the Hospital for building entry, and foyer down stays. This was made possible by Noble Arthur Pappas who arranged the use of the hospital grounds. Besides the CGCU, 2 CGCAs, and 1 CGC were also earned that day. The test was a great success.11 dogs and 9 handlers participated. The group also collected $150.00 donation for the Hospital.
Tested by CGC Evaluator Donna Blews-Pappas, those passing the CGCU were Henry Kaczmarski, and Russell Terriers ,Bandit and Oreo,Ashley Paden and Malamute Harley,Linda Houle and Shetland Sheepdog,Rasans Ironhorse, Mike Misha and German Shepherd Dog Baron,Joyce Belliveau and German Shepherd dog, Arlo,Lori Duvall and Westie,Oliver,Diane Cohn and Rottweiler,Shiraz,also earned CGCA, Elizabeth Omeara, and Havanese,Rato &Buda, and Elise Grouge and Border Collie Tallysen earned their CGC,CGCA,& CGCU. Congratulations to them all!!!

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The CGC Blog is Back!!

Starting Monday, the CGC blog will be back. There are exciting new things happening with CGC such as the new Urban CGC program.

logos-cgc familyCGC Evaluators are busy testing dogs for the CGC Evaluator Challenge.  The details are here:

Anytime you have questions, you can reach us at


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