Good Practice, but
This Won't Help You in a Crowd
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.