New test gauges dogs’ city savvy, from streets to el­e­va­tors


They’re skills any city dweller needs: Tak­ing strangers and noisy streets in stride. Rid­ing calmly in el­e­va­tors. Hop­ping a cab or sub­way. And ig­nor­ing tempt­ing food all around you.

Mag­neto, a 77-kilo­gram Leon­berger dog, was out to show he could do all that as he saun­tered along a crowded Man­hat­tan street this past week. He waited pa­tiently with owner Mor­gan Avila for a light to change, clam­bered in and out of a curb­side car, and proved un­fazed by a fallen McDon­ald’s bag and a hug from a passer-by.

Soon, Mag­neto was of­fi­cially de­clared an “ur­ban ca­nine good citizen,” the Amer­i­can Ken­nel Club’s (AKC) new ti­tle rec­og­niz­ing proper city-dog de­port­ment.

“This ul­ti­mately will help the cause of dogs ev­ery­where,” AKC train­ing di­rec­tor Mary Burch says.

The test is de­but­ing at a time when Amer­i­cans are show­ing in­creas­ing in­ter­est in bring­ing dogs along in public set­tings. States in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia, Florida and Mary­land have in the last decade started al­low­ing dogs on res­tau­rant pa­tios, and sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion is wait­ing to be sent to New York’s gover­nor.

Many dogs read­ily go with the flow of city life. But even dog fans agree there’s room for some im­prove­ment.

“It’s more that the own­ers could step up their game,” Man­hat­tan­ite Bar­bara Jaffe said as her shih tzu, Daisy, spon­ta­neously demon­strated pet eti­quette, ly­ing down calmly while await­ing a train at Penn Sta­tion.

The AKC has of­fered a ba­sic “ca­nine good citizen” test for a quar­ter­century — more than 700,000 dogs have passed — and added a more ad­vanced “com­mu­nity ca­nine” ti­tle last year. Those tests can be done at a dog show or train­ing cen­ter, but the new ur­ban exam un­folds in “a more prac­ti­cal real-world set­ting,” Burch said.

Open to both pure­bred and mixed-breed dogs, it’s no sim­ple sit-and-stay chal­lenge. The an­i­mals need to lie down and stay put for at least three min­utes while their owner browses in a dog-friendly busi­ness or snacks at an out­door eatery, for in­stance.

About 500 of the es­ti­mated 70 mil­lion or more dogs na­tion­wide have passed the test since its April launch.

Train­ers es­ti­mate pre­par­ing takes at least a few months. But “it’s fun ... you’re no longer just prac­tic­ing ‘sit’ in the backyard,” says trainer and ex­am­iner Marti Hohmann of Welling­ton, Florida.

So­phie, a dachshund, com­petes in obe­di­ence. But the ur­ban ca­nine test posed other chal­lenges, such as deal­ing with lots of peo­ple seek­ing to pet her, said owner Cather­ine Anne Cas­sidy of Tequesta, Florida.


In this Wed­nes­day, Aug. 5 photo, Mag­nito, a Leon­berger, meets pedes­tri­ans as he’s eval­u­ated dur­ing a demon­stra­tion of an ur­ban ca­nine good citizen test for city dogs in New York.

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