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Canine Good Citizen Test Requirements – June 27, 2012

As many of you try to advance your training, you may want to consider working towards a ‘CGC’ certificate for your dog. Testing is conducted in the area often at various pet shops and training facilities. Here are the requirements:

AKC’s Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Program

Before taking the Canine Good Citizen test, owners will sign the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge. We believe that responsible dog ownership is a key part of the CGC concept and by signing the pledge, owners agree to take care of their dog’s health needs, safety, exercise, training and quality of life. Owners also agree to show responsibility by doing things such as cleaning up after their dogs in public places and never letting dogs infringe on the rights of others.
After signing the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge, owners and their dogs are ready to take the CGC Test.

Items on the Canine Good Citizen Test include:

Test 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 dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. With the dog sitting at the handler’s side, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming
This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so. It also demonstrates the owner’s care, concern and sense of responsibility. The evaluator inspects the dog to determine if it is clean and groomed. The dog must appear to be in healthy condition (i.e., proper weight, clean, healthy and alert). The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot. It is not necessary for the dog to hold a specific position during the examination, and the handler may talk to the dog, praise it and give encouragement throughout.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
This 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. The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. In either case, there should be a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The handler may talk to the dog along the way, praise the dog, or give commands in a normal tone of voice. The handler may sit the dog at the halts if desired.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd
This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler’s commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. Prior to this test, the dog’s leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to sit and then down. The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler’s commands. The handler may not force the dog into position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of the line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog. The dog may be released from the front or the side.

Test 7: Coming when called
This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to “stay” or “wait” or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog
This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may 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.

Test 10: Supervised separation
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold of the dog’s leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, “there, there, it’s alright”).

Equipment
All tests must be performed on leash. For collars, dogs should wear well-fitting buckle or slip collars made of leather, fabric, or chain. Special training collars such as pinch collars, head halters, and electronic collars are not permitted in the CGC test.
As of November 4, 2010, body harnesses may be used in the CGC test. The evaluator should check to make sure the harness is not of a type that completely restricts the dog’s movement such that it could not pull or jump up if it tried.
We recognize that special training collars such as head collars and no-jump harnesses may be very useful tools for beginning dog trainers, however, we feel that dogs are ready to take the CGC test at the point at which they are transitioned to equipment that allows the evaluator to see that the dog has been trained.
The evaluator supplies a 20-foot lead for the test. The owner/handler should bring the dog’s brush or comb to the test.

Encouragement
Owners/handlers may use praise and encouragement throughout the test. The owner may pet the dog between exercises. Food and treats are not permitted during testing, nor is the use of toys, squeaky toys, etc. to get the dog to do something. We recognize that food and toys may provide valuable reinforcement or encouragement during the training process but these items should not be used during the test.

Failures – Dismissals
Any dog that eliminates during testing must be marked failed. The only exception to this rule is that elimination is allowable in test Item 10, but only when test Item 10 is held outdoors.
Any dog that growls, snaps, bites, attacks, or attempts to attack a person or another dog is not a good citizen and must be dismissed from the test.

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Teaching Your Puppy to be Alone – June 20, 2012

Teaching your puppy to be comfortable and confident being left alone early on is as important as housetraining. You want to work to prevent any separation anxiety since that is one of the most difficulty behavior problems to resolve.

All owners find it occasionally necessary to leave their puppy at home alone. So before leaving your puppy for long periods, you should teach him how to amuse himself appropriately when left alone, such as by chewing stuffed chewtoys, and learning how to enjoy his own company without becoming anxious or stressed. A dog is a highly social animal and therefore requires adequate preparation for spending some of his time in social isolation and solitary confinement.

To teach your puppy how to settle down calmly and quietly when you are absent, start by teaching him to settle down with a chewtoy at times when you are present. Right from the outset, make frequent quiet moments part of the puppy’s daily routine. Following the confinement schedule will help your puppy train himself to settle down. Additionally, encourage your puppy to settle down beside you for longer and longer periods. For example, when you’re watching television have your pup lie down on leash or in his crate, but release him for short play-training breaks during the commercials. For a young puppy, you can’t have too many rules.

When playing with your pup, have him settle down for frequent short interludes every one or two minutes. Initially have the pup lie still for a few seconds before letting him play again. After a minute, interrupt the play session once more with a three-second settle-down. Then try for four seconds, then five, eight, ten, and so on. Although being yo-yoed between the commands “Settle down” and “Let’s play” is difficult at first, the puppy soon learns to settle down quickly and happily. Your puppy will learn that being asked to settle down is not the end of the world, nor is it necessarily the end of the play session, but instead that “Settle down” signals a short timeout and reward break before he is allowed to resume playing. If you teach your puppy to be calm and controlled when told, you will have years of fun and excitement ahead. Once your puppy has learned to settle down and shush on cue, there is so much more your dog can enjoy with you. Until you have trained your puppy to enjoy spending much of his day at home alone, you might recruit a puppy sitter who has time to spend with him.

Separation Anxiety

Maintaining your puppy’s confinement schedule when you are at home prepares your puppy to be calm when you are gone. Allowing a young puppy unrestricted access to you when you are at home quickly encourages him to become overly dependent, and overdependence is the most common reason why dogs become anxious when left at home alone. Try your best to teach your puppy to enjoy his own company, to develop self-confidence, and to stand on his own four paws.

Once your puppy is confident and relaxed on his own, he may enjoy all of his time with you when you are at home. When leaving your puppy for hourly sessions in his short term confinement area (dog crate), make a point to check how he fares when left in another room. For example, periodically confine your puppy to his crate in the dining room while you prepare food in the kitchen, then keep the pup in his crate in the kitchen while the family eats dinner in the dining room.

Most importantly, when you are at home, make certain to familiarize your puppy with his long-term confinement area (puppy playroom). Confining your pup when you’re home enables you to monitor his behavior during confinement and check in on him at irregular intervals, quietly rewarding him for being quiet. Thus your pup will not necessarily associate his confinement area with your absence, but rather he will learn to look forward to time spent in his playroom with his special toys.

Give your puppy plenty of toys whenever leaving him on his own. Ideal chewtoys are indestructible and hollow (such as Kong products), as they may be conveniently stuffed with kibble and occasional treats which periodically fall out and reward the pup for chewing his toy. If your puppy is gainfully occupied with his chewtoy, he will fret less over your absence. Additionally, leave a radio playing. The sound will provide white noise to mask outside disturbances. The sound of a radio is also reassuring, since it is normally associated with your presence.

When Leaving Home

Make sure to stuff a number of chewtoys with kibble and treats. Make sure to stuff a piece of freeze-dried liver into the tiny hole of each Kong, or deep into the marrow cavity of each bone. Place the tastily stuffed chewtoys in your puppy’s long-term confinement area and shut the door . . . with your puppy on the outside! When your puppy begs you to open the door, let him in and shut the door, turn on the radio or television, and leave quietly. Your puppy’s chewing will be regularly reinforced by each piece of kibble which falls out of the chewtoy. Your puppy will continue to chew in an attempt to extract the freeze-dried liver. Eventually your puppy will fall asleep..

Home Alone

Dogs are quite happy to sleep all day and all night. They have two activity peaks, at dawn and dusk. Thus, most chewing and barking activity is likely to occur right after you leave your pup in the morning and just before you return in the evening. Leaving your puppy with freshly stuffed chewtoys and offering the unextracted treats when you return prompts your puppy to seek out his chewtoys at times of peak activity.

Jekyll-and-Hyde Behavior

Smothering your puppy with attention and affection when you are home primes the pup to really miss you when you are gone. A Jekyll-and-Hyde environment (lots of attention when you are there, and none when you are gone) quickly creates a Jekyll-and- Hyde puppy which is completely confident when you are there, but falls apart and panics when you are gone. If you allow your puppy to become dependent upon your presence, he will be anxious in your absence. When stressed, dogs are more likely to indulge in bad habits, such as housesoiling, chewing, digging, and barking. During your puppy’s first few weeks at home, frequent confinement with stuffed chewtoys is essential for your pup to develop confidence and independence. Once your puppy is quite happy busying himself with his chewtoys whenever left alone, you may safely allow your now wellbehaved and confident pup to enjoy as much time with you as he likes, without the fear that he will become anxious in your absence.

Wonderful Weekends and Worrisome Weekdays

Whereas weekend attention and affection is wonderful, it primes your new puppy to miss the family on Monday morning when the parents go to work and the children leave for school. By all means, play with and train your puppy lots during the weekend, but also have lots of quiet moments to prepare your puppy for lonely weekdays.

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Focus Building Excercises for you and your Dog – June 13, 2012

• Plan ahead. Know which exercise you’ll be training and be prepared to promptly and effectively deliver that reward when your dog produces the desired behavior. You miss a learning opportunity and your dog’s focus is dissembled when you send changing body signals to your dog by rooting around in your pockets for a food reward, or trying to untangle a something from your belt.
• Orchestrate success. Introduce early focus-building exercises in a quiet environment without distractions. As your dog develops its focus skills, incrementally transition the exercises to more stimulating environments. Key the training environment to your dog’s focus skill level with an appropriate progression over time from a distraction-free environment to a highly stimulating one. Prematurely expecting or demanding too much of the dog will set the scene for failure for the dog, for you, and for the overall training.
• If you are using a ball/toy/tug reward in your training, identify the one that is most favored by your dog and reserve it for training purposes only. Don’t allow your dog to have access to this favored item during idle moments, in the crate, for puppy teething/chewing, etc.
• Avoid displaying the reward visibly in your hand, and inadvertently making it the primary object of your dog’s focus. A tug can be tucked into your waistband, a ball in your pocket, or food kept out of sight in a pouch at your side, until needed for reward purposes.
• Keep it up close and personal. Use a leash length that keeps the dog in close physical proximity to you. When using a toy reward in the training, keep it close to your body. A ball on a short leather lead, or a tug with handle, will provide an outstanding reward while keeping the dog physically close to, interacting with, and focused on, you.
• Make your dog’s play time fun and exciting one-on-one interaction with you. Allowing your dog to spend all of its recreational time with other dogs or other people will diminish your position as the most interesting, rewarding, and desired prize in the universe. Allowing your dog to regularly run freely with other dogs, either at home or at an off-leash park, is squandering time, energy, and focus better spent with you in constructive play in training.
• Familiarize yourself with the basics of Operant Conditioning and develop your own method of precisely marking desired behaviors (e.g. clicker, vocalization) and rewarding appropriately (e.g. food, toy, praise, release). Build the intensity and duration of your dog’s focused obedience by incrementally extending the period of time between (a) marking the correct response to your command, and (b) rewarding it.
• Maintain consistency in your total body language, hand signals, and verbal commands. The more precise and unambiguous your communications, the less unwanted distractions to potentially diminish your dog’s sensory awareness of and focus on you.

• Deliver a clear and consistent command to mark the end of a focused obedience exercise. “Okay”, “Break”, “Release”, and “Free” or “Free Dog” are examples of unique release commands. The release command builds anticipation and focus by signaling the completion of a required behavior and releasing the dog physically and psychologically from the stressors of training. The release command can be supplemented with a reward, or it can be a reward in and of itself.
• Crate-train your dog and utilize its time in the crate for resting periods between training and play interaction. Allowing your dog to idle around the yard or house 24/7, especially in your absence, creates boredom and encourages the dog to identify alternate sources of stimulus and pleasure.
• Utilize moments of interaction with your dog as spontaneous training opportunities. Create the environment where your dog is earning each desired activity. For example, require a sit before allowing your dog access to his food bowl; a wait before going through the door into the house; a quiet before being allowed out of the crate or kennel; a teeth, ears, or toes command and examination before petting. Vary the required behaviors to maintain spontaneity and keep your dog alert and focused on you to hear, see, or feel your command.
• Create an attitude of purpose and direction in your daily walks. A purposeful, energetic walk with many turns and changes of pace and terrain will build the dog’s focus on you and secure its confidence in your leadership. A slow, lazy walk in a straight line will allow your dog to sniff and smell whatever strikes its fancy and encourage a head-down, indiscriminately scenting dog intent on ‘reading the newspaper.
• Employ the powerful effects of touch. Regular grooming and massage sessions with your canine partner are superb opportunities for bonding. The stronger the bond between you and your partner, the better the focus. Spending quiet, one-on-one time in close physical contact is relaxing and healthful for both you and your dog, and is the surest way to closely examine your dog from nose to tail tip to identify and treat minor health issues before they become major.
• Shape your dog’s behavior to await your explicit permission to sniff and greet other people or animals. Withhold that permission far more often than you grant it.
• Take control of the learning curve. Proactively create opportunities for your dog to successfully learn and develop desired behaviors and skills. When this is done correctly, you should be generating 500 opportunities to praise your dog for every one time you correct your dog.
• Less is more. A five-minute training session with an energetic, enthusiastic, highly focused dog and handler that concludes with a celebration of success will always be more productive than a 60-minute training session with progressively diminishing mental and physical resources that concludes in frustration and failure.
• At the end of every training or play session, leave your dog wanting more, more, more and enthusiastically looking to you to provide it!

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Play Together, Stay Together – June 7, 2012

Too often, we’re left to our own devices when it comes to living with or shaping the behavior of another creature (and that includes spouses and children), yet some people do it incredibly well. What’s their secret? Couples who have been together a long time will tell you it has a lot to do with trust, respect, and reasonable expectations of each other. But they’ll also tell you that keeping a good sense of humor and having fun together was critical in sustaining the relationship over the long haul. If they could, I think our dogs would give these observations a definite “thumbs up,” to let us know that living with and training a dog should also be about trust, respect, realistic expectations – and having some fun.

Like humans, dogs tend to be healthier and happier when they get regular exercise, and most dogs are only too happy to accompany you on a walk around the neighborhood. A half hour walk provides plenty of practice time for recalls, heeling, socialization and sits. If you walk your dog on a long line, you may log in three miles while your dog puts in six. When the dog is at the end of the leash you can call him back, provide a treat for coming and send him on his way again. When bikers, runners, or kids-on-wheels approach, call the dog to you and practice precision heeling, or put your dog on a sit/stay and focus on attention work. When traffic has cleared, reward your dog with his kibble or a special treat for a job well done.

At home, you can play hide and seek games with your dog while practicing recalls. One person holds the dog while the other person hides. The person-in-hiding calls the dog. When the dog locates the hidden owner, the prize can be a cookie, the dog’s favorite toy – or an animated game of “chase.” This activity not only reinforces recalls, but encourages the dog to think and use his senses. Friends and family can take turns calling the dog back and forth in the yard or up and down carpeted stairs. The dog’s recalls will improve and he’ll be well exercised.

Teaching a dog to stay can be a useful skill around the house and is easy to incorporate in a daily routine. Ask the dog to stay while you place his food bowl on the floor. If he gets up, the food bowl is removed. Once the dog returns to sitting, the food bowl returns to the floor and becomes the reward. When your dog wants to go outside, ask him to sit and stay first. Access to the great outdoors becomes the reward in this instance. Using tricks to train the dog is also fun and never fails to impress your friends and neighbors. The old “bone on the nose” trick is a great way to teach a dog to hold still and to develop a little self-control in the process.

Does your dog become a tornado on paws when the doorbell rings? That’s because it usually predicts an intruder on the premises. Teach the dog that the doorbell means something else, by having a friend or family member press the bell several times during a twenty-minute training session. During this time, no one enters the house. Once the dog realizes that the bell no longer predicts intruders, it should become less meaningful and his reactions to it will decrease. When you get to this point, have someone ring the doorbell again. This is your cue to produce the most desirable food you can think of in his room, crate or bed. Does the name Pavlov sound familiar? Soon, the doorbell will predict a feast instead of an intruder, and the dog will go running to his crate to find it, eliminating the frenzy at the front door when someone comes to visit.

Dogs who greet people by launching themselves to breath-taking altitudes, need to learn “sit” as their default mode. When someone approaches they should ask the dog to sit. Only when he is sitting will he receive praise, petting or treats. Family and friends can practice this exercise by randomly calling the dog back and forth. Each time he comes to a new person, he must sit before receiving a reward, and before moving on to a new person. If your dog likes to greet friends at the door, insist that they ask for a sit before interacting with the dog. As is often the case in dog training, sometimes you have to train the people before you can train the dog.

Training your dog is an art and a science, and if you find a way to make it fun and entertaining, you’re more likely to do it on a regular basis. It’s a good first step on the journey of building a life long relationship with a well-behaved dog who adores you.

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Socializing Your Dog or Puppy – June 1, 2012

Ongoing socialization is extremely important to prevent behavior problems. Socialization is especially important before the age of 3 months, but should also be done throughout your dog’s lifetime. Gentle socialization plays a huge role in preventing aggression and fearful behavior. If you have an older dog that is already fearful or reactive, you will need to ‘desensitize’ him to new things vs. overwhelming with too much socialization.

Lack of socialization can lead to hyperactive behavior, barking, shyness and aggression. The younger you begin socializing your dog, the better, but all dogs can be gradually brought into new and even initially fearful situations and learn to enjoy them.

Socialization is a lifelong process. For example, if your dog does not see any dogs for months or years at a time, you would expect his behavior to change around them when he does finally see them again.

How to expose your dog to something new or something he is wary of:

• Make sure that you remain calm, and up-beat and keep his leash loose, if he is wearing one.
• Expose him gradually to what he is fearful of, never forcing him. Allow him to retreat if he wants to.
• Reward him for being calm or for exploring the new situation.

Try to expose your dog regularly to all of the things and situations you would like him to able to cope with calmly in the future. Progress slowly enough so that it is easy for your dog to enjoy the sessions. It will seem like a lot of time to spend at first but it will pay off with a well-behaved dog.

Below are some examples, but this is just a start:

• Meeting new people of all types, including children, men, crowds, people wearing hats, in wheelchairs, etc.
• Meeting new dogs (do not bring your pup to areas with lots of dogs until after 4 months)
• Exposure to other pets such as cats, horse, birds
• Teach him to enjoy his crate
• Riding in the car (be sure to restrain him using a crate or seatbelt for safety)
• Being held, touched all over and in different ways, being bathed and groomed
• Visiting the Vet’s office, groomer, daycare, boarding kennel
• Exposure to loud noises and strange objects (example – umbrella opening)
• Exposure to traffic, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, joggers
• Getting him used to being left alone for a few hours at a time

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