Test Item 10: Supervised Separation
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain its training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, "Would you like for me to watch your dog?" You will give the leash to the evaluator and go out of sight for 3 minutes. You may tell your dog to stay if it already has a down or sit stay. The dog does not have to stay in position but it cannot continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. The evaluator is allowed to talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts.
So Your Goal: To have your dog remain calm with a 'stranger' while you are out of sight.
This test does have some practical value. It comes into play anytime you leave your dog in another's care and you're out of the picture - grooming, doggie daycare, boarding, pet sitting, vet, etc. Even if you were out walking with a friend and decided to stop at a store for something - you would hand your dog's leash to your friend while you ran inside.
Many owners find it challenging to develop this skill with their dog. Most either have the confidence to handle it or don't :), but if your dog doesn't there are ways to help build it. Three minutes sounds like a short time, but when you are actually experiencing it, it starts to feel like quite a long wait! The easiest way to train this exercise is to have a helper who your dog knows well at first. The helper will hold your dog's leash while you go out of sight (mimicking the test). When you practice you want to make sure you gradually lengthen the time you leave the dog. Don't go too far away too fast or your dog will not be successful. Once your dog can handle separation for at least a minute, you want to make sure you start to vary the amount of time you are gone even as you build up to the full 3 minutes. That way your dog doesn't start to anticipate your return (we all know dogs can tell time!!).
Once your dog has been successful for 3 minutes with a helper they know, try it with a helper they don't know, but make sure you go back to shorter amounts of time. Don't assume because they can do 3 minutes with someone they know that they will be able to do 3 minutes with someone they don't know. Then once they can do the full 3 minutes with someone they don't know, take your practice on the road! Practice at new places so that your dog understands that this doesn't just happen at home, it can happen anywhere. When you start practicing at a new place, first use a helper that your dog is familiar with and start with shorter amounts of time, gradually building back up to 3 minutes. Then when they are successful in a new place with a familiar helper for the full 3 minutes, try it with someone unfamiliar going back to shorter amounts of time. When you change a variable (either familiar vs. unfamiliar helper or comfortable place vs. novel place) you want to make sure that you lighten your criteria (amount of time) so that they dog can still be successful.
You can practice for this test by yourself if you don't have access to a helper, but it's a bit more difficult. At first you want to work on your 'stay' cues - simply tell your dog to stay and walking a few feet away but standing with your back to your dog (so still in view at this point). Taking away the eye contact can be similar to going to out of sight for some dogs. Then when your dog can handle that, tell them to stay and go around a corner so then you are out of sight, but use a long line so that your dog is still safe if they break their stay position (and this will allow you to be able to tell if they have moved). Then practice that by gradually building up the amount of time that you leave them in their stay. A dog with a solid stay will generally hold that position for the 3 minutes and many dogs are comfortable being left with a cue that they are familiar with. The 'holder' at the test will be an unknown variable, but if your dog has a solid stay they shouldn't be bothered by them.
Next week I'll return with a few overall tips for preparing for test day along with some resources that are helpful for taking the CGC test.
Don't forget to check out the other CGC test item's we've covered: