Test Item 9: Reaction to Distractions
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select only two of the following:
- A person using crutches, a wheelchair, or a walker (5-ft. away).
- A sudden opening or closing of a door.
- Dropping a pan, folded chair, etc. no closer than 5-ft. from the dog.
- A jogger running in front of the dog.
- A person pushing a cart or crate dolly passing no closer than 5-ft. away.
- A person on a bike no closer than 10-ft. away.
(Note: since some dogs are sensitive to sound and others to visual distractions, the examiner will usually choose one sound and one visual distraction).
The dog may express a natural interest and curiosity and/or appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise.
|This shows a walker being used and a crate dolly. Photo taken from Desert Dogs.|
So Your Goal: To have your dog remain calm if a loud noise or visual distraction happens nearby.
Life is full of unexpected noises and your should be able to react calmly to most of them. Through exposure to everyday situations, your dog has probably learned to ignore the distractions generally used in this test. But, if your dog rarely sees a bicycle or has taken to barking and fence running when it sees a jogger, you may have some work in store. :)
The goal of this test is to determine if your dog is able to settle after an initial startle response, without bolting, barking, cowering, whimpering, or otherwise showing excessive fear. Acceptable startle behavior includes turning, backing up a step or two, sitting, moving slightly away without pulling you, or looking to you for direction. Each evaluator will have a different take on how much of a fear response is allowed so it never hurts to ask them what responses they would consider not passing if you are worried about your dog's response.
If your dog shows fear of unusual objects, sounds, or movements, you should help it by briefly exposing it to these things in a nonthreatening environment, and at a comfortable distance away from them. Praise, treats, toys, and playful interaction may eventually take its mind off fear and help it associate what was once frightening with positive experiences. As your dog becomes more confident, you can gradually bring the distractions closer.
When you feel like your dog can safely and successfully handle unusual objects, sounds, and movements, there are many ways to practice and prepare for the test:
- Walk along busy streets to habituate them to all that traffic noise and motion.
- Find a grocery cart in a parking lot and walk your dog around with it. Or try this with a stroller, moving dolly, or anything that's big on wheels. :)
- Make some noise in the kitchen! Here's your excuse to bang on the pots and pans :). Start small and gradually build up the intensity of the banging.
- You can always slam a few doors.
- Make use of the driveway or garage floor to drop metal objects on.
Just remember to start your dog well away from the noise when it occurs first. Allow him to watch so he understands the noise is harmless. Your reaction needs to be negligible as well because if you respond with fear, your dog will too. All this practice takes time and actually this is stuff you should expose your dog to throughout its life, not just in preparation for the CGC test.
Next week we'll discuss CGC Test Item 10, Supervised Separation.
Don't forget to check out the other CGC test items we've covered: