Category: Training

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The 2018 STAR Puppy Challenge

00Group Classes, Puppies, TrainingTags: , , , ,

AKC STAR Puppy Testing in Providence, RI | Spring Forth Dog AcademyAre you ready to commit to the training and socialization your puppy deserves?

Join our AKC STAR Puppy Challenge! Any puppy under 1 year of age can participate. Read more about the test here.

The STAR Puppy test makes a fabulous training goal for new puppy owners. It will set you & your puppy up for a lifetime of teamwork, solid communication, & fun! By meeting the criteria for the test, you’ll provide your puppy with a foundation of basic manners and age-appropriate socialization.

Preparing for the test will expose your puppy to many situations he’ll need to be comfortable with for the rest of his life. The test includes scenarios like grooming, being handled by strangers, wearing a collar or harness, going for walks, and more.

This test is a great first step toward the Canine Good Citizen program, trick dog testing, or dog sport competitions – but it’s also a great way to make sure you’re being an active participant in your puppy’s education.

So, we’re challenging you to commit to taking the test with your puppy. To be eligible for the STAR Puppy test, you must attend at least 6 manners classes with your puppy. Our goal is to test at least 25 puppies in 2018. Will your puppy be one of them?

Puppies are eligible to take the STAR Puppy test after attending six manners classes with their owners, and the test is free as part of your Flex Class Pass.  You can take the test after class on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. We’ll also be adding special “STAR Puppy Testing Events” to our group class calendar, too.

Upon passing the test, you will receive a special medallion from us and we’ll take your pup’s “graduation photo” and post it on Instagram and Facebook. You will also receive a certificate, medallion, and puppy handbook from the American Kennel Club.

To sign up for the challenge, contact us or talk to one of our team members at the front desk!

Fear of the Clicker: How to Train Your Dog Through It

20Training, Tutorials and How-To GuidesTags: , ,

Fear of the Clicker: How to Train Your Dog Through It | Spring Forth Dog Academy in Providence, RI

Fear of the Clicker: How to Overcome It | Spring Forth Dog Academy in Providence, RI

Does the sound of one of these send your dog running for the hills? Read on for some tips to fix that!

Most dogs take to clicker training like ducks to water! But occasionally, one of our students goes home after Orientation, eager to start the training process with their dog, only to discover that their dog is afraid of the clicker.

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to teach a dog that a click isn’t so scary after all. Here are some of the techniques we’ve used to turn this fear around.

Setting the Stage for Fear-Free Clicking

First, make sure you’re using the highest value treats you can find. This will help all of these techniques work better! Even if the first couple of clicks startle your dog, pairing them with a very tasty snack may change your dog’s mind quickly.

Fear of the Clicker: How to Overcome It | Spring Forth Dog Academy in Providence, RI

Left: a box clicker, which is pretty loud. Right: an i-Click, which makes a softer, quieter click.

Be sure to use an i-Click, the type of clicker with a raised button, rather than a box clicker. i-Clicks are much quieter than box clickers. (See photo at right for an example.)

Unless your dog is scared of being outside, we recommend that you start training outside. This makes the click sound less unexpected.

I think some owners inadvertently startle their dogs by clicking in a quiet room when the dog doesn’t expect any unusual sounds. Dogs are used to hearing random noises while exploring outside, so the click sound won’t be as sudden.

It is true that you can train using a verbal marker rather than a clicker. However, some research has shown that using a clicker speeds up the training by about 30%. Anecdotally, we have found a strong correlation between owners who use the clicker and faster progress in training. So, it’s worth trying to work through your dog’s dislike of the click sound.

More info

Why “Paw” is Problematic

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Why "Paw" is Problematic | Spring Forth Dog Academy in Providence, RI

Photo by Bonner Springs Library (Flickr Creative Commons)

Many of you know that I enjoy teaching my dogs tricks, so today’s post might come as a bit of a surprise. However, there’s one behavior that dog owners love to teach that often interferes with their progress in Day School and makes their training path harder. That behavior? “Paw” or “shake.”

Teaching your dog to put his paw on you to earn praise or a treat is easy and seems like fun. But if your dog jumps up on people or paws at you for attention, you’re building value in your dog’s mind for the same behavior you’re trying to get rid of in other circumstances. It’s confusing to your dog. Is it acceptable to put your paws on people or not?

Additionally, the way most owners teach this behavior is problematic. In most cases, the owner puts a treat in their closed fist and waits for their dog to start pawing at it. When the dog makes contact with their hand, they release the cookie. We don’t want dogs to make contact with us if we’re holding food. Watch my Self-Control Around Food video and you will see why teaching “paw” in this manner is counter-productive.

We typically run into trouble while teaching down to a dog who knows paw, too. We teach down using a food lure, which turns into a hand signal. That looks a lot like the closed fist many owners use to teach “paw.”

Is it ever okay to teach “paw?”

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you never teach your dog this behavior. I have! While earning my certification through Karen Pryor Academy, I taught it to Strata on the cue of “pound it.” It’s super cute!

But at that point, Strata had already learned over twenty different behaviors. He had extremely solid self-control around food, and he never jumped up on people.

So before you teach “paw” or “shake,” make sure that you’re satisfied with your dog’s progress with these skills:

-Your dog no longer jumps up on people.

-You have already taught “down.”

-Your dog’s self-control around food is solid.

-Your dog does not paw at people for attention or to seek petting.

Pushing a Button with a Paw | Spring Forth Dog Academy in Providence, RIWhen you are ready to teach it, I recommend using a combination of shaping and targeting rather than luring to decrease confusion. Specifically, I like to shape the dog to touch an object with her paw first, and then transfer it to my hand later. This is what I did with my dog, Strata.

In the picture to the right, Charlie is learning to push a button with his paw. Later on, his owner could hold that button to transfer the behavior from the button to her outstretched hand or fist. Here’s a video showing how to clicker train your dog to touch a target with her paw.

Then, make sure to take the time to get it on stimulus control. That’s a fancy term that means your dog will only offer “paw” when you ask for it, and never offer “paw” in response to another cue. Eileen Anderson wrote a great blog post explaining how to achieve stimulus control, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I encourage you to check that out!

If that sounds challenging, you could consider teaching “wave” instead. With this alternative behavior, your dog isn’t rewarded for making contact with your body! That makes it an ideal skill for dogs who are still struggling with making inappropriate contact with people.

Summer Trick Training Challenge

10Dog Sports, Events, Group Classes, TrainingTags: , , ,

AKC Trick Dog Testing and Titles | Providence, RITrick training grows your bond with your dog and builds your training and communication skills. It’s a great way to burn off some of your dog’s energy when it’s too hot or rainy to play outside. Plus, it’s a ton of fun!

The American Kennel Club recently added a Trick Dog program to their catalog of events, which means your dog can earn official AKC titles for passing four different levels of tests.

For all of these reasons, we’re always trying to find ways to encourage our students to spend some time teaching tricks. So, we’re doing something brand new: a Summer Trick Training Challenge!

From now through August 31st, any dog who is signed up for one of our Intro to Dog Tricks classes will be added to this board in our lobby…

Trick Training Challenge Progress Board | Spring Forth Dog Academy, Providence RI

This board will keep track of everyone’s progress through the Novice and some Intermediate level tricks! For each trick you complete, we’ll place a sticker in the corresponding box on the board.

More info

Restricting Water Intake: A Dangerous Housebreaking Trend

70Puppies, Training

Restricting Water Intake: A Dangerous Housebreaking TrendAt Spring Forth Dog Academy, we work with a lot of puppies! Over one hundred puppies come to us each year for Puppy Day School and group classes. As a result, we get to talk to a lot of people about puppy raising.

Over the past few months, we have noticed a very concerning trend. Some of our clients were deliberately restricting their dog’s water intake as a potty training strategy.

Generally speaking, most pet dogs have access to water whenever they are not confined to a crate. They naturally limit their intake of water. Unless trained to the contrary or ill, dogs drink only as much water as they need.

But some puppies join our Day School program and as soon as play group starts, they rush to the water bowl and drink every drop. Or, at drop off, little Fluffy is frantically pulling towards the water bowl we keep by the door.

When asked, owners tell us something like, “He was having a lot of accidents, so we stopped giving him so much water. Now we just give him a bowl every few hours.”

What is normal water intake?

The short answer is, “It depends.” WebMD reports one ounce per one pound of a dog’s body weight, but notes that puppies and active dogs need more.

According to this formula on DVM360, normal consumption of water in adult dogs, in layman’s terms, works out to be about 1.37 ounces of water per pound of body weight. But they also mention, “Puppies and kittens are predisposed to rapid dehydration as a result of their higher water requirements.”

Dr. Tracy Johnson, a veterinarian at Country Companions Veterinary Services in Bethany, CT, notes, “You don’t know how much water is appropriate for each individual puppy. Diet, weather, and exercise can also play a part in how much a puppy needs to drink. This can vary from day to day.”

Abnormally frequent urination and increased thirst are both signs of medical problems. These include diabetes, Cushing’s disease, urinary tract infections, and kidney disease. If you think your puppy is peeing “too much,” talk to your veterinarian before taking the water bowl away.

Keeping a log will help. Note every time your puppy drinks or urinates (indoors and out). The data may help you discover patterns, like an accident at a particular time of day. But, it’s also helpful information to provide to your veterinarian. It may help her make a diagnosis or help you determine what is normal.

Why is water restriction dangerous?

Restricting Water Intake: A Dangerous Housebreaking TrendDr. Julie Mahaney, a veterinarian at Oaklawn Animal Hospital in Cranston, RI says, “Water restriction can result in dehydration, urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and water obsessive behaviors.”

There are a variety of medical and behavioral reasons why limiting a puppy’s access to water is dangerous:

1. “Obsessive” behavior around water. If water is limited, you will condition your puppy to drink all of the water every time you put the bowl down. As a result, she will work very hard to gain access to water.

“If water is severely restricted, and the puppy isn’t given enough water and it’s thirsty all the time, you could cause resource guarding because now the water is a very valuable resource,” adds Dr. Johnson. (In addition to being a veterinarian, she is also a professional dog trainer working with dog owners through her business Happy Homes Pet Behavior Training.)

Thirsty dogs may jump up on the counter to try to reach the sink, drink from the toilet, or drink standing water outside. Puddles may contain antifreeze, fertilizer, and intestinal parasites.

“Risks of drinking from puddles are primarily leptospirosis and giardiasis, but other fecal parasites like round, hook, and whipworms could be ingested as well,” Dr. Mahaney explained.

2. Health risks of drinking too much water at once. Dogs with restricted water intake often become conditioned to drink all of the water they see. If your puppy unexpectedly gains access to a large quantity of water and drinks all of it, this can lead to trouble beyond urine accidents.

Health risks of drinking too much water in one sitting include vomiting, water intoxication, or even bloat (gastric torsion) which is life-threatening.

3. Urinary tract infections. Dehydration contributes to painful urinary tract infections. If you’re not giving your puppy enough water, you’re setting the stage for a UTI. If not treated early, UTIs can lead to bladder stones, permanent kidney damage, and sepsis.

We’ve kept statistics on this. Of puppies in our Day School program experiencing restricted water intake, more than half are diagnosed with a urinary tract infection within the first few days of starting our program. When we notice symptoms, we refer the client back to their veterinarian for input.

Is restricting water intake ever a good idea?

I suspect that this idea began with a piece of advice taken too far. Picking up your dog’s water bowl 30-60 minutes before bed time can help set your dog for success. It prevents a last-minute “tank up” right before 6-8 hours in the crate overnight.

That’s very different from only giving water at meal times, which some of my clients have tried. It’s very different from crating your dog without water for 8 hours during the day and 8 hours overnight. If a professional suggests making a change to your dog’s water intake, ask for specifics and write them down. That way, everyone in your household understands the recommendation.

If your puppy is having a lot of accidents in the house, contact us. We can help! In addition to our in-person training in Providence, RI, we also offer long-distance consulting just for potty training.

Training Your Dog to Come When Called

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Coming when called is a behavior that dog owners almost universally desire. A great recall means the difference between participating in a lot of fun activities – such as romps on the beach, playing at the dog park, hiking off-leash in the woods, competing in dog sports – and sitting on the sidelines. We get asked about it so often that we have a class, Come This Way, devoted to building and maintaining this skill!

It is also the behavior that dog owners take for granted in their new puppies, or inadvertently punish by making simple mistakes. Building a strong recall means avoiding these common pitfalls and maintaining a specific, positive association in your dog’s mind to his recall cue.

Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called | Spring Forth Dog Academy in Providence, RI

My Name = AWESOME!

Imagine how most dogs react when they hear a potato chip bag crinkle. They stop what they’re doing and come flying into the room! Hearing that sound is the highlight of their day. THAT is the response you want to your dog’s recall word.

The response to the crinkle sound is so strong because the potato chip bag almost always means a salty, oily, tasty special snack, and it definitely never means playtime is over, nail trimming time, or some other form of discomfort.

Recalls always need to be a positive experience for your dog. Be sure not to call him if you have to do something he doesn’t like. Common examples of things that are punishing to dogs include bringing him back inside when he’d rather be playing in the yard, calling him to groom him or trim his nails, and calling him only to pat him on the head (which most dogs don’t enjoy, but that’s a different topic). More info

AKC STAR Puppy Program

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AKC STAR Puppy Testing in Providence, RI | Spring Forth Dog AcademyAre you a responsible puppy owner? The American Kennel Club’s STAR Puppy program is designed to reward owners who take their puppies to training classes. “STAR” is an acronym for the four critical parts of puppy raising: Socialization, Training, Activity, and Responsibility.

The AKC recognizes that well-trained puppies make better companions and are less likely to be relinquished to shelters. In fact, behavior problems are the #1 reason for giving up a dog to a rescue. The STAR Puppy program is an incentive program for responsible puppy ownership. Working towards this goal will give you and your puppy a head start toward a lifetime of great behavior.

In order to be eligible for testing, puppies need to attend at least 6 group dog training classes with their owner. The program is open to all puppies up to one year of age, regardless of breed or mix.

Once your puppy has attended at least 6 classes with us, we can test your puppy immediately after any of our Flex Classes. It doesn’t take long, and many of the test items can be observed during class time.

STAR Puppy Test Items

The STAR Puppy test consists of “20 Steps to Success,” a total of 20 test items. The first six are owner behaviors, and the other 14 are puppy behaviors. The items are:

Puppy Day School | Puppy Training in Providence, RI | Spring Forth Dog AcademyOwner Behaviors

1. Maintains puppy’s health (vaccines, exams, appears healthy)

2. Owner receives Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge

3. Owner describes adequate daily play and exercise plan

4. Owner and puppy attend at least 6 classes by an AKC Approved CGC Evaluator

5. Owner brings bags to classes for cleaning up after puppy

6. Owner has obtained some form of ID for puppy-collar tag, etc.

Puppy Behaviors

7. Free of aggression toward people during at least 6 weeks of class

8. Free of aggression toward other puppies in class

9. Tolerates collar or body harness of owner’s choice

10. Owner can hug or hold puppy (depending on size)

11. Puppy allows owner to take away a treat or toy

Pre-Canine Good Citizen Test Behaviors

Puppy Training in Providence, RI | Spring Forth Dog Academy12. Allows (in any position) petting by a person other than the owner

13. Grooming-Allows owner handling and brief exam (ears, feet)

14. Walks on a Leash-Follows owner on lead in a straight line (15 steps)

15. Walks by other people-Walks on leash past other people 5-ft away

16. Sits on command-Owner may use a food lure

17. Down on command-Owner may use a food lure

18. Comes to owner from 5-ft when name is called

19. Reaction to Distractions-distractions are presented 15-ft away

20. Stay on leash with another person (owner walks 10 steps and returns)

What Comes Next?

After passing the test, owners mail the completed test form to AKC to receive an AKC STAR Puppy Medal, a certificate, and the AKC Puppy Handbook. The STAR Puppy program is a stepping stone to the three tests of the AKC Canine Good Citizen program.

If you have a new puppy, check out our Flex Class program to get started in training classes. You can start any time, and begin working toward your goal of a STAR Puppy!

“New & Completely Different” Flexible Group Dog Training Classes

04Group Classes, Training

abbygroupclass{{ UPDATE 2018: This is an old blog post! For the most up-to-date details and unbroken links, please visit our Flex Class page for everything you need to know. }}

 

We’ve held group dog training classes here in Providence for over two years now. We have always been interested in feedback from our wonderful students. Some of the things we heard back about our group class program included:

“They’re too early.”
“They’re too late.”
“That day of the week doesn’t work for me.”
“I’m going on vacation and will miss a class… or two… or three.”
“What if I get sick and skip a week?”
“I want to try a dog sport like agility, but I don’t know if my dog will like it.”

At first, we weren’t sure it was possible to address these concerns in our group class program. The whole point of group classes is that they’re not customizable… they’re held at a time that is convenient for most (but not all) so multiple people can attend together which brings the overall cost down. Allowing excused absences, vacation days, etc. became a logistical nightmare, so we just didn’t allow it.

Group Dog Training Class Graduates | Spring Forth Dog AcademyBut, we’re always looking to shake things up at Spring Forth, like we did in 2014 when we launched our Puppy Day School program. Our goal was for it to be better than dog daycare and way more in-depth than a Puppy Kindergarten class. It worked – clients love it, and the dogs make incredible progress that is simply not achievable in weekly lessons or classes.

So I said to my instructor team, “How can we reinvent our dog training classes to be even more awesome?”

And here’s what we came up with.

Introducing Flex Classes: Flexible Attendance Group Training Classes

Flex Classes are so different from regular dog training classes that it’s difficult to know where to start. I hope you’ll stick with me and read the whole post. Here goes:

You purchase a Class Pass that allows you to attend classes on your schedule.

Classes are offered on a rotating basis on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, and we’ve got a handy-dandy calendar set up so you can see when each class is offered. (Flex Classes start in December, so skip ahead to next month on the calendar.) If you can only attend one specific time slot each week, that’s okay. The classes will rotate so you can learn about every topic. But if your schedule is a little more flexible, you can attend classes multiple times each week and train your dog even faster.

You have plenty of time to attend classes: 2 to 6 months depending on which program you purchase. So if you need to take a night or week or month off… no sweat! Just pick up where you left off.

Focus on Specific Skills and Behaviors

Classes are based on particular topics like coming when called (Come This Way), stay (Settle & Stay Put), loose leash walking (Polite in Public), etc. This is in contrast to classes based on skill level or a dog’s age. Whether you’re a first-time dog owner with a brand new puppy, or an experienced dog trainer polishing your competition dog’s skills, there will be lots of great information in each class for you.

The classes are designed for you to repeat until you have mastered a skill – or at least achieved a level of success you’re happy with. You also get to focus on only the skills that matter to you. If your dog’s recall is great, but loose leash walking needs work, then just keep attending our Polite in Public class. There’s no need to spend time working on topics that don’t interest you.

Our three different levels of certification – Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Dog Manners – will make sure your dog is learning everything they need to become a well-rounded family pet. You can get tested after any class, and it only takes a few minutes.

Perfect for Puppies and Dog Sport Enthusiasts, Too!

Our Flex Classes are absolutely perfect for puppies. They’re only 45-minutes long, which is better for young attention spans. You can start right away instead of waiting for a particular start date. Our Super Puppy Flex Pass includes unlimited attendance at Puppy Playgroup, our drop-in socialization class. Plus, it comes at a discounted rate! We like to reward owners who are doing the right thing by getting started early.

If dog sports like noseworkagility, or rally are your thing, they’re offered in our Flex Class program as well. You can dabble in a new sport by attending class just once to see if you like it, or attend on a regular basis while still enjoying the flexibility that our new program allows.

Phew! I think that’s everything.

I really hope you’ll check out our Flex Classes. We have worked really hard on the program, and we want to know what you think. Now through Thursday, November 17th we’re offering 10% off all Class Passes. No promotion code necessary – it’s already discounted in our online store. (This offer can’t be combined with any other offers or promotions.)

5 Skills Your Dog Needs to Pass the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test

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Preparing for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test | Spring Forth Dog Blog

Loose leash walking is one of the most important skills to master before taking the CGC test, because it is a part of several test items.

In last week’s blog post, An Overview of the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test, I described the ten elements of the CGC test. Preparing for this test is key. There are a few specific behaviors that not all “well behaved” dogs know.

Preparing for the CGC Test

The CGC test is designed to reward well-mannered dogs and their owners. The first step towards a well-mannered pet is training. What people consider “polite behavior” does not come naturally to dogs. Sitting politely for greeting, walking on a loose leash, and coming when called are skills that need to be trained step-by-step. A basic obedience class should build the foundation for many of the skills necessary to pass the test.

Some trainers offer group classes specifically geared towards the Canine Good Citizen test. These classes are typically taught by CGC evaluators who will be able to find the weaknesses in your dog’s training and help you overcome them. Practicing the test items each week will also increase your familiarity with the rules, making test day as stress-free as possible. We cover the Canine Good Citizen skills in our Advanced Dog Manners group class.

It’s not impossible to train your dog by yourself to pass the CGC test. If you decide to go that route, study the test items carefully and be sure to practice in public places, such as dog-friendly parks and pet stores, so your dog gets used to performing around the distractions that will be present during the test.

Five Skills to Practice

Preparing for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test | Spring Forth Dog Academy

Your dog will need to be able to sit and lie down on cue, and hold one of those positions while you walk 20′ away.

I have broken down the elements of the Canine Good Citizen test into several specific behaviors that need to be taught:

A sit-stay: This covers SO many of the test items! A reliable sit-stay will keep your dog in place while you greet a friendly stranger (with or without another dog), while the evaluator brushes her and checks her front feet, the 20′ stay, and the 10′ recall.

Loose leash walking: You’ll need this to walk through a crowd and demonstrate your dog’s ability to stay at your side while you make turns and stop, too.

Down on cue: This is a required part of the test, but your dog does not have to hold a down-stay (as long as you can use your sit-stay for the 20′ stay test).

Come when called: The test only requires a recall from 10′ away. If you’re practicing from greater distances, as well as around distractions, you’ll be golden on test day.

Supervised separation: This is one of the hardest elements of the Canine Good Citizen test for some dogs. You can approach it in two different ways – either as an out-of-sight stay, or by building your dog’s comfort just “hanging out” with a stranger. It all depends on your dog’s temperament and what you prefer to train.

Test Day

To find out about upcoming Canine Good Citizen tests, visit the AKC’s test search page. Alternatively, you can contact a CGC evaluator in your area and inquire about testing. If you’re local, we hold CGC tests in Providence every quarter at Spring Forth Dog Academy.

On the day of the test, make sure your dog is feeling well and appears clean and well-groomed. Bring a leash and a collar or harness for your dog to wear. Don’t forget the brush that you usually use to groom your dog, too! If the test is outdoors, bring along a bowl and some water for your dog as there may not be any available. Give your dog ample opportunities to relieve himself, as you cannot pass the test if your dog eliminates during an exercise.

Be sure to relax and act naturally. Smile at your dog and take a deep breath before starting. Remember, it’s just a test — and if your dog doesn’t pass, there’s always another opportunity to take it.

When your dog passes the CGC test, you will get a copy of the test results from the evaluator. You can send this in to the AKC to receive a certificate to display. The AKC also has collar tags and embroidered patches available to celebrate your dog’s Canine Good Citizen status.

The Next Level

After your dog has passed the Canine Good Citizen test, there are two additional ten-part tests you may choose to take: the Community Canine (CGCA) test, and the CGC Urban (CGCU) test.

The Community Canine test is also known as the “Advanced Canine Good Citizen,” hence the abbreviation CGCA. This test is performed in the “real world” – not in a dog training facility or dog show ring. Distractions are added to each element of the test. (By contrast, dogs taking the CGC test are only tested on two discrete distractions.)

The newest test, Canine Good Citizen Urban, is designed to assess a dog’s suitability for city living. Test elements include city-specific distractions like traffic, skateboarders, construction noise, and food on the sidewalk. The dog and handler team demonstrate their ability to cross streets under control, walk in a public building, and navigate through a crowd on the sidewalk.

Train On!

Whether you decide to just take the original CGC test or aim to complete all three, keep your training sessions short, sweet, and fun for your dog. A lot of owners get tense when they start training with a goal in mind. Others cut out food rewards prematurely since they’re so focused on what is and is not allowed during the test itself. Laugh, relax, and have fun!

An Overview of the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test

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An Overview of the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test | Spring Forth Dog Blog

Every September, the American Kennel Club sponsors Responsible Dog Ownership Days. On that note, I would like to discuss the Canine Good Citizen program, which rewards responsible dog owners across the country. As an approved AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, I am often asked about the requirements for passing the test. What does it take to become a Canine Good Citizen?

Eligibility

First, the CGC test is open to dogs of any breed or mix of breeds. One of the most common misconceptions is that dogs must be purebred, since the test was created by the American Kennel Club, but that’s not the case. (Did you know that mixed-breed dogs can now compete in AKC performance events like agility, rally, and obedience, too? It’s true!)

There is no age limit for the CGC test. However, AKC now has a separate program just for puppies called S.T.A.R. Puppy. Puppies are eligible for S.T.A.R. until they reach 1 year of age.

Test Overview

The Canine Good Citizen test has ten exercises, and the dog must pass all ten to earn its certificate. The exercises include the following:

Accepting a friendly stranger. During this test item, the dog allows a stranger to approach its handler, and remains neutral while the handler and stranger exchange pleasantries.

Sitting politely for petting. The dog sits and allows a stranger to approach and pet its head and body. The dog can stand up, but may not show “shyness or resentment” (or jump up and give the stranger kisses, which is far more common!).

Appearance and grooming. The dog must appear healthy and well-groomed to pass the test. The evaluator will visually assess the dog, then use a brush provided by the handler to gently groom the dog, check both ears, and pick up both front feet. The dog doesn’t need to hold a specific position during this test item, but does need to cooperate with the evaluation.

Out for a walk. The evaluator observes the dog and handler demonstrate loose-leash walking, with at least one left turn, right turn, about turn, and stop. The dog does not need to be perfectly aligned with its handler, but it must be apparent that the dog is attentive to the handler’s’ cues.

Walking through a crowd. This is similar to the prior test item. The dog and handler must demonstrate loose-leash walking through a group of pedestrian traffic (a group of 3+ people). The dog is allowed to show some interest in the strangers but needs to stay attentive to its owner, without straining at the leash or jumping up.

Sit & down on command and staying in place. To demonstrate the dog’s training, the handler cues the dog to sit and down. The owner then cues the dog to stay in place (either in a sit or a down — handler’s choice) then walks to the end of a 20′ leash, turns around, and comes back. The dog must stay in place until released by the handler, though it does not need to hold the sit/down. Multiple cues are allowed.

Come when called. In this test, the handler leaves the dog and walks 10′ away, then calls it. The handler can encourage the dog towards to come by using verbal cues, crouching down, patting their legs, etc.

Reaction to another dog. This is one of the hardest tests for students to master! Here’s the exact description from the AKC website: “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.”

Reaction to distraction. The evaluator will pick a couple of random distractions and observe the dog’s reaction. Distractions can be anything the evaluator deems appropriate, such as dropping a book, knocking over a chair, a jogger running past the dog, or opening an umbrella. The dog may show interest in the distraction but should not bark, panic, or try to escape the situation.

Supervised separation. The evaluator takes the dog’s leash, and the owner goes out-of-sight for three minutes. This is another challenging test element. The dog does not have to hold a specific position, but may not panic, bark or whine continuously, or show excessive nervousness. The evaluator is allowed to speak to the dog but cannot pet the dog or excessively comfort it.

The handler is allowed to talk to the dog during all of the test exercises, except for supervised separation as the handler is not present. Food or treats, clickers, toys, and corrective collars are not allowed to be used during the test. A dog that growls, snaps, or bites (directed towards another dog or a human) at any time will be dismissed from the test.

In Monday’s blog post, I will discuss how to prepare for the test, as well as the new higher-level tests in the Canine Good Citizen program.