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We're back again with the Weekly Wag, still working on our CGC preparation tips. This week's test discussion is one that can't wait until the last minute to be addressed. The only way to make it is by practicing these skills since your earliest days of training to assure success.
Test 6 requires your dog to respond to a Sit and Down command. Following this you will be asked to require a Stay in either position that you, the handler, may choose. The test evaluator will watch as your dog remains in place, and will tell you when you may release your pup from his required position.
Is there a short cut or a sure-thing to make this test go smoothly? Not on your life! Fido will have to remain focused on you to avoid being distracted by other classmates, owners, testing assistants and anyone else that is around, including wildlife. If you're taking your test inside a pet superstore (I have, and believe me, it's distracting!) your pup will need a terrific power of concentration on the task at hand.
If your dog has a thing for critters, birds or anything that moves, you better hope this test is offered indoors. An outdoor test could sink you. On the other hand, an outdoor test may be less claustrophobic, which could be a good thing for some dogs. Crowds, as we discussed last week, are not always enjoyed by all dogs. It takes practice and adjustment. Getting to know your dog's strengths and weaknesses will help you select a test location that is best for your dog's temperament.
I found that holding a stay was best managed with the "Watch Me" command having been practiced and become a habit. Once your dog learns to keep his eyes on you when you are working together, you'll find that most every behavior is easier to learn and smoother in action.
Never used the "Watch Me" command? It's simple. With a treat pouch at your hip, hold up a high value treat (trainers often suggest cheese or hotdogs; we choose organic to avoid the garbage in a typical grocer's frankfurter) in front of your nose and command "Watch Me"! When your dog looks at the food, he's looking at you also. Praise him and offer the food immediately, repeating often and using this technique regularly until he habitually watches you while working with you. Now you're ready to perform.
Obviously, Fido must learn the Sit and Down command as well. These were taught back in basic training, so I won't bore you with those steps now. I will, however, suggest you practice these skills in places where people and dogs are present. Try the dog park, dog-friendly areas, outdoor dining spots and the patio of your Starbucks. Anywhere you can find people and/or dogs will work, and the more you practice the better Fido will get.
Join us next week for some straight talk on the most important command you can teach your dog. Anybody know what that is? See you next week!
Catch up on the earlier parts of this series here:
Introductory Tips to Getting the Canine Citizen Certification
CGC Test 1: Accepting a Friendly Stranger
CGC Test 2: Sit Politely for Petting
CGC Test 3: Appearance and Grooming
CGC Test 4: Walking on a Loose Leash
CGC Test 5: Walking Your Dog Through a Crowd