Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday Training Tip: CGC Test Item 1

Here's the first of my Canine Good Citizen (CGC) series going through each of the CGC exercises and offering tips for practicing in order to successfully pass a CGC evaluation.

Test Item 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The Evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The Evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The test begins with the dog seated at the handler's side and the dog must show no signs of resentment, aggression, or shyness and must not jump on or lunge forward to greet the Evaluator.

CGC Test 1 being demonstrated (photo borrowed off flickr)

So Your Goal: No Reaction!

Training Tips

The best way to practice for this behavior is to get your dog out in public frequently. Invite friends over to your house often, take walks in your neighborhood, visit your local pet superstores, etc - you'll have plenty of opportunity for practice. For friendly dogs, this is one of the toughest parts of the test (besides sit politely for petting!). You should plan to spend hours greeting people, yes I said hours! This is one of those learning experiences that does not have a shortcut. The more you practice, the better you will understand how to help your dog stay calm while you chat with a stranger.

At home, when people come over, keep your leash handy so you can put it on your dog before your friends arrive. Ask the dog to sit next to you and have the person start to approach. If your dog gets up and gets excited, have the person stop (before they reach you) and take a few steps back. Get your dog refocused and sitting again and then have the person start approaching again. Repeat until the person can come directly up to you.

In public, especially at pet superstores, neighborhood gatherings, or parks, stand a little bit away (like 15 feet) from the 'crowd' and ask for your dog's attention and a sit. If they can sit and remain calm watching all the activity, gradually move forward. If at that initial distance they still can't remain calm, back up until you find a distance they can focus at. At first, I wouldn't worry about having someone actually greet you; I would just concentrate on having your dog remain calm amongst all the activity, it requires the same skill set as the test item :). Then once your dog has the skills to remain calm outside the hustle and bustle, then start interacting with 'strangers'/neighbors and practice the actual test item (as described in previous paragraph). Try to vary the people who approach to greet you so you can make sure your dog has experience with males, females, and children.

Next week we'll discuss CGC Test Item 2, sitting politely for petting. 

Practice cannot be overdone!

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