Basic Obedience: Canine Good Citizen Stage 5 & 6

basic obedienceA lot of the test items deal with everyday situations your dog may be asked to encounter in the real world—being approached by a stranger, being startled by a cyclist, seeing another dog at the end of the block, getting examined by a vet or brushed by a groomer… all of those fall under what I think of as the “socialization stuff.”  Stefani Fortney discusses the next two stages that involve integrating good social skills with basic obedience training.

Introducing “Basic Obedience Stuff.”

Depending on your dog’s strengths and weaknesses, the basic obedience items on the test can be a piece of cake–or your worst and most embarrassing nightmare. In my household full of emotionally disabled rescue dogs, the basic obedience stuff is easier to handle than the socialization stuff. They’ll happily sit, down, stay, and come on command, but heaven help us all if a stranger with an umbrella approaches! (I think it’s important to admit that a trainer’s dogs aren’t necessarily perfect. )

The basic obedience portions of the test can be practiced and perfected relatively easily while the socialization portions take a huge amount of effort to master if you have an insecure, fearful, or shy dog.

Stage 5: Walking Through A Crowd

According to CGC testing materials:

“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.”

In other words, this test shows that your dog won’t be a danger or annoyance to you or others when walking in public. It’s a sideways step from the basic obedience command “heel”. While we don’t see that exact word here and we aren’t expected to keep a strict “nose-to-knee, eyes on me” form, the behavioral result is very similar. You want a dog who never forgets who’s on the other end of the leash.

Practice keeping your dog’s focus when walking by maintaining vocal communication, rewarding your dog for good behavior, and teaching her (through praise, treats, and positive reinforcement) that you are exponentially more interesting than anything or anyone else around.

Stage 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. Before 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.”

Don’t panic. This is just basic obedience. I know this seems like the stuff where you start to sweat and have waking nightmares about how your dog will refuse to sit on command, then break his stay and eat a child’s ice cream. Take a deep breath. You’ll be okay. It’s just basic obedience. (Repeat that until you believe it.)

Here’s a tip for nailing this stage—practice. Practice in every situation you can find. Before you test for the CGC, have Rover so solid on sit, down, stay, and come (which we’ll discuss next time) that he could do puppy pushups in his sleep. Make these basic obedience commands second nature to you and your pup.

Check out the rest of the Canine Good Citizen Test series:

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