Friday, July 13, 2012

Walk Your Dog Through a Crowd:
Canine Good Citizen Test #5

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
Good Practice, but
This Won't Help You in a Crowd
Here we are again, back in social opportunity territory. This part of the Canine Good Citizen exam is easier for those dogs who are less social, yet at the same time can be intimidating if your pup finds crowds to be a bit overwhelming. Gradually helping your dog become accepting of larger groups takes time and effort, but will pay off greatly in terms of the multitude of places you will be able to take him over the years.

Your goal is to reach a point where your dog will see a group of people as a pleasant experience without the exuberance that might end in a jumping exhibition or over-excitement. It's a fine line between accepting the group and not pushing to greet each person in it gregariously.

Whether your dog is on the shy or aloof end of the sociability scale or the extremely friendly end, you'll still want to start preparing for this part of the test with the same steps:
  • Master greeting individuals with a calm, yet friendly demeanor. When your dog is handling this well, he is ready to move on to small groups.
  • Start with groups of only a couple of people. In the test, you'll be required to weave through a room full people without fear, aggression or excitement. Your dog will be required to leave the humans alone at your direction. 
  • I found that teaching the "Leave it" command to Tanner was a big help with this part of the exam. He understood the meaning of this command and immediately was able to 'get' my request. I'm not saying it was easy for him, but he did understand. Honestly, his outgoing nature was telling him to run to each person and give them a very personal kiss, so that's where my challenges were. Oliver was much the same way, but caught on a bit faster, thank goodness. 
  • One particularly astute trainer assisted me when working on this command by walking behind my dog and offering backup commands such as "Leave It", while encouraging me to simply call Tanner back when his attention diverted to the humans, using the "Watch Me" command and a treat. This confused and redirected Tanner to me, working quite well to break his ultra-social habit.
  • Note that some trainers will include dogs in the groups, so this should be part of your preparation in training.
  • As your pup gets better and better, continue to add to the groupings, visiting pet superstores on a Saturday when lots of people and pets are around. When your dog can navigate a superstore without dragging you off to every meet-and-greet he sees, you can finally consider him ready for this part of the exam.
  • One caveat to all of this is that you don't want your dog to lose his friendliness with humans. I believe it is important to maintain a regular socialization experience that is intertwined with these other training episodes. While you're visiting the pet superstore, this is a great time to practice greetings. Bring a chair and camp out at the entrance, staying on top of your dog's interest in each owner and dog that arrives at the store. This is a great way to send the message that there is a time and a place for greetings.
  • Don't forget the training treats. Associating positive behavior and praise with high-value food will help to bring the desired behavior around sooner.
It's time to start a list of the previous CGC prep posts, for those of you may want to catch up:
And finally, always remember and never forget the reason for taking this exam is to push yourself to help your dog be a better behaved, more enjoyable family companion. There is no greater reason than that to follow through with this testing. Happy tails!

Join us each week for the Weekly Wag bonding series, held during the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop. The hop is hosted by Life with DogsTwo Little Cavaliers, and Confessions of the Plume. You are welcome to link up here, or check any of their sites for their rules of participation. Happy hopping! 


pinkpixie786 said...

just dropped by from the blog hop...thanks for the tips, Carrie...we will practice on the "Leave it" command...i'm not sure if i'll get this fast cuz there's so many distractions out there...
x0x0x Vanilla Bean

snoopy@snoopysdogblog said...

Hi Carrie,

The leave it command is a great idea for this scenario :)

I was lucky that we did the crowd thing from when I was a puppy, so I'm totally cool with crowds now and it's really paid off as I've been able to go to lots of events with my family and even visit High Schools (where I was kinda mobbed by all the students) :) as part of my Therapy visits :)

It's a great skill to teach any Dog,

Hope you're having a fun day :)

Your pal Snoopy :)

Jessica @ YouDidWhatWithYourWeiner said...

Whew! I know neither of my dogs could pass this test. Chester is just so friendly and Gretel is to afraid. Ironically, it is my scardey Gretel who would do better because she doesn't really like to go up to people :)

Kolchak Puggle said...

Felix feels quite strongly that the whole "don't stick your snout in a stranger's you-know-where" rule does NOT apply to him. never considered using the Leave It command like would with a toy or a treat. I'll have to give this a try. Thanks!!

Stephen said...

Hi Carrie, great post on how to walk your dog, we will definitely try it on our dogs.


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