Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Training Tips: CGC Test Item 4

The fourth in 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 3 was covered previously.

Test Item 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose leash)

This CGC test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog's position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler's movements and changes of direction. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops. In the walking pattern, there will be a left turn, right turn, and an about turn, with at least one stop in between and one at the end. The handler may talk to the dog along the way to praise or command it in a normal tone of voice.

A great example of walking with a loose leash.
Photo taken from springforthedog.com

So Your Goal: For your dog and you to walk together as a team, with a loose leash.

Training Tips:

Alright let's get moving! We've all seen dogs that want to charge ahead and drag their owners along behind, making walks very unpleasant and not fun. I'm sure many of us have even experienced this first hand (I know I have ... to many times to count)! Many people automatically turn to collars for control - pinch/prong, choke, head halter, or no-pull harness. If safety is a concern, then yes you should use something that helps control your dog on your walks. But when you start actually training loose leash walking, you should do so with just a flat buckle collar or martingale (if your dog has a throat or breathing problem, then use a regular harness). And you should start training in the least distracting environment you can manage, like your living room, basement, garage, or driveway. Once your dog gets the idea of what you are asking (walking next to you with slack in the leash) then you can gradually add more distractions and take your training around the block and out into the real world. But first, your dog has to understand what you are asking of them. There are many different techniques to teach this. I'll cover the things that have worked with my dogs and fosters. Please remember that loose leash walking does not happen overnight :).

First, I start in my driveway (it's not very distracting because my house blocks most of the view of the street) and I make sure I have VERY TASTY treats. Treats my dog will go nuts to get.
  • Start with your dog at your side (whichever side you would like to have them walk on).
  • Hold the food in your hand (that is on the side your dog is walking on) and the leash in the opposite one.
  • Walk forward and as your dog walks along, reward with treats.
    • At first you want a high rate of reinforcement, so about every other step you would give a treat. As your dog starts to get the idea, you can start to vary your rate of reinforcement and eventually fade out the food. However, I still do randomly treat my dogs when walking with a loose leash as it keeps the excitement fresh.
    • If when you start walking, your dog forges (walks faster than you so ends up in front) try dropping the treats on the ground next to your leg as you start walking so your dog has to pause to eat them.
  • I also walk in unusual patterns, throwing in circles, quick turns, pace changes, and random stopping.
Here is a video of me working with Monday in the driveway behind our house. There was a dog walking by on the street so she was a bit distracted (I was making noises at her to keep her attention as I was rewarding) and a bit aroused (hence some frustration jumping and demanding behavior). If your dog jumps up at the treats, just ignore them and continue walking. When all four feet are back on the ground, then wait 3 seconds and reward. 

You'll notice that I didn't use the leash. It just sat in my right hand as a safety measure but I didn't do anything with it. That is the goal. :) Your leash is not a steering wheel!

Here is another peek at Monday heeling (you'll have to excuse the hovering sits she is offering - obviously we need some work on that!!!).

You can also do this with a toy if your dog prefers a toy over treats. Monday is not very toy driven and it's something that we are working on building. Tug can be a great motivator, so if your dog enjoys it, use it in your heeling! Here's Monday heeling with a toy. It's harder to keep her interested so you'll notice I talk to her more to engage her with me.

Obviously, using a toy for motivation for Monday isn't a hot ticket item for her. Treats are the way to her heart, but every dog is different. So make sure you find something that is rewarding for your dog!

Taking it around the block

Once your dog gets the idea, you can start adding distractions and test driving your new skills in the real world. However, do not move too fast too soon or you will be starting all over! If your dog is performing like Monday in her videos, then you are ready to start walking on your block. It might not be the whole block, it might only be three houses down and the back, but it will start exposing you to more distractions.

It will be harder to keep your dog's attention on you when you start walking the block. If your dog begins to walk ahead of you and/or pulls, stop dead in your tracks. Don't correct your dog and don't move forward as long as the dog is pulling. Just stop and wait. After a few seconds or even minutes, if they don't return to your side, call them there and indicate what you want (at this point I usually change directions to go in the opposite way as that helps bring them back to your side). Remember to keep rewarding them when they are walking by your side. Repeat this process for your entire walk. Your dog will eventually realize that you don't intend to walk forward unless he is beside you. Also remember to throw some curve balls in your walk - circles, quick turns, changes of pace - things that spice up the walk and keep their attention on you.

Continue this for as long as it takes to get the message across. Many dogs respond nearly immediately but regress with each new walk, until you go through the drill quite a few times. Soon it will become habit and you'll rarely have issues. Other dogs (dobermans in particular it seems!) may require a month of walks before they finally get the picture. One day you'll get a light bulb moment and what a joy that will be!

Preparing for the test day: Be sure that you take a nice long walk or have a good play session before the test. Long enough to adequately diminish your dog's energy level. :)

Next week we'll discuss CGC Test Item 5, Walking Through a Crowd.

Don't forget to check out the other CGC test items we've covered:

No comments:

Post a Comment