We’re getting close to the end of our series on the Canine Good Citizen test. This week, Stefani Fortney takes you through stages 7 and 8 of the test. These test two behaviors that can keep your dog, the public, and you safe in situations where your dog may see something s/he wants very much. Having a strong recall (Come) and being able to exist around other dogs without acting like a heathen are skills that show a willingness for your dog to focus on you, his handler, rather than the more interesting world around you.
Canine Good Citizen Stage 7: Coming When Called
According to the Canine Good Citizen Handbook:
“This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. With the dog still on the 20-ft. line from Item 6, the handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and will call the dog. The handler may use body language and encouragement when calling the dog. Handlers may tell the dog to “stay” or “wait” (or another similar
command), or they may simply walk away. The dog may be left in the sit, down, or standing position. If a dog attempts to follow the handler, the Evaluator may distract the dog (e.g., petting) until the handler is 10 feet away. This exercise does not test “stay”; this exercise tests whether or not the dog will come when called.
The test is complete when the dog comes to the handler and the handler attaches the dog’s leash.”
Coming when you call is, perhaps, the most important skill you can teach your dog. If your pup is running toward a busy street, the edge of a cliff, or a hungry lion, a 100% solid recall will save Fluffy’s life. This means that it’s important for us to teach our dogs that when we say the word or phrase that means “Come to where I am,” they need to come right then with no arguments.
The best way to teach a foolproof recall is to get your dog to understand that we, The Handlers, are more interesting than anything they might see in the whole, wide world. To make that happen, we have to teach slowly, always set up our dogs for success, never call our dog when they have the option of saying no (in the learning stage), and rewarding them for their compliance with treasures beyond their wildest dreams. For the treasure part, I use either popcorn or squeak toys…
Canine Good Citizen Stage 8: Reaction To Another Dog
The Canine Good Citizen Handbook states:
“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 15 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on.
- The dog should show no more than a casual interest in the distraction dog. If the dog attempts to go to or jump on the distraction dog, it should not pass the test.
- The dog may move slightly toward the other dog/handler, then stop. The dog must stay back from the other dog/handler.
- The dog can stretch its neck and sniff without moving forward to the other dog/handler.
- When the handlers stop to shake hands, the dog does not have to sit. It can remain stand- ing beside the handler. If the dog remains standing, it should not cross over in front of the handler to go to the other dog.”
Good golly, is this one hard, or what? We ask our dogs to be near another dog and not act on their instinct to say hi, do a dance, and rule the world together. It also, though, keeps our dogs safe from strange dogs who may not enjoy being approached by another dog. More than anything else, preparing for this stage gives us the opportunity to teach our dogs that they need permission before engaging with other dogs.
To help our dogs prepare for this seemingly impossible mission, we can take them to a friend’s house with a dog they already know. Keep the dogs on-leash, sit down on opposite sides of the room, and have a conversation. Feed your dogs treats and give them the opportunity to settle down. Once they’ve achieved calmness, their ultimate reward will be playtime (as long as both dogs are into that).
Work slowly toward being able to have that conversation with your friend while you are incrementally closer together. Always distract your dogs from each other with treats to start, and only allow playtime once they’re calm.
Check out the rest of the Canine Good Citizen Test series:
- AKC Canine Good Citizen: Encouraging Responsible Ownership and Well-mannered Dogs
- Dog Obedience Tips: Preparing For The Canine Good Citizen Tests
- Preparing For AKC Canine Good Citizen Stage 3 & 4
- Basic Obedience: Canine Good Citizen Stage 5 & 6