Friday, August 10, 2012

Your Dog's Reaction to Distraction:
CGC Test 9 Tips & Troubles

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
Imagine a Man-Made Noise Like This

Bang! Bonk! Wham! Clunk! This is one of the most chalenging tests for many dogs whose owners seek to pass the Canine Good Citizen test. Why? Unexpected noises that are loud and sudden often startle or frighten our dogs. The goal of this test is to determine if your dog is able to settle after an initial startle, without bolting, barking, cowering, whimpering, or otherwise showing fear beyond noticing the sudden noise.

Acceptable startle behavior includes turning, backing up a step or two (no more), sitting, moving slightly away without pulling you, or looking to you for feedback. Anything beyond these types of reactions may be considered too much fear. Each evaluator will have a different take on the guidelines here, and may not agree with you on how to score your dog's reaction. While you can discuss the decision with the evaluator, his decision will ultimately be final.

I've seen some quite varying examples of this test and will warn you that you need to prepare your pup for most every kind of noise. What's worse is many of the examiners will have the noise occur behind or out of sight of you and your dog, meaning that neither of you are expecting it. So much for mental preparation. If you respond with fear, your dog will too. So preparation includes quelling your own response to sudden noise.

Here are some of the noises CGC evaluators have used at tests I have been present for:
  • Drop a metal folding chair on a cement floor from about 4 feet high--very startling!
  • Ask the handler and the dog to walk on a sidewalk along a busy roadway, without significant issue over semi-trucks and fire engine noise.
  • Release the lifting mechanism of a pallet jack and allow it to drop to a cement floor--this one made me jump!
  • While facing away from a doorway, a door was slammed hard by a third party assistant.
  • A large bell with a deep and continuous bong was rung.
  • A 2 x 4 board was broken over a firm, narrow surface. Funny, I can't remember what they broke the board on???
  • Two heavy pots banged together at their bottoms.
  • Pushing a grocery cart, walker or wheelchair directly past the test takers is a very popular approach to one of the attempts to frighten your dog.
You get the idea, right? The CGC examiner will be out to trip you and your dog up big time. It's their job to make sure your dog can take a brief startle and then settle himself without any further ado. Most test evaluators will attempt to frighten your dog twice during this part of the test, so be prepared for the second try. It will likely be a different method :)

Here are my suggestions for preparing:

  1. Walk along busy roadways frequently and get your pup used to traffic, firetrucks and semi-trailers. They are unpredicable, bouncy, and noisy.
  2. When your dog is playing in the yard, practice hitting your car horn often to get him used to hearing the noise.
  3. Obviously, you can make some noise in the kitchen. Those cooking pots are great for startling Fido. Start small and gradually build up the intensity of the "bang". Your goal is to get him to the point where he tells himself, "Oh well, it's just mom or dad being noisy again".
  4. Slamming doors (unbreakable ones, hopefully) is another excellent test that will likely be used.
  5. If your dog has shown uncertainty around any particular object, that's your cue to train with that item. You could get unlucky and have that very object used in the test, so be prepared. Start practicing by having your dog sit at the end of a room, while the object lies on the floor. Tap it gently and watch Fido's reaction. Gradually increase the movement and noise. Roll it, set it down, drop it, bang it. He needs to be ready for them all.
  6. Make use of your driveway or other cement surface by testing your dog's ability to tolerate heavy metal objects dropped on them. Start with your dog well away when it occurs. Allow him to watch so he understands that the noise is harmless. Remember that your reaction needs to be negligible also. He will begin to follow your lead. Eventually you'll want to be able to drop a really loud item right behind him and get nothing more than a head turn. Then he's ready for the test.
  7. Find a grocery cart in a parking lot and walk your dog around with it. If you do this often enough he will become comfortable with the presense of this big object. You can also practice that at pet superstores where carts are available.
Weekly Wag ButtonAll this practice will take time. Although your prep class may only last a few weeks, these sessions of readiness should begin by 6 months and continue until you take the exam. If you discover a new noise, go toward it and see how Fido responds. Watch for everything that could trip him up and help him learn to accept it as safe, based on your calm reaction and lack of response. Remember, do not soothe or coo over your dog if he shows fear. You'll only be encouraging it. Ignore him and walk to the object showing no fear. Show him by example that this object is harmless. Time will embed this lessen and he'll get the idea. You've got his back!

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
CGC Test 6: Sit/Stay or Down/Stay
CGC Test 7: Come When Called
CGC Test 8: Reaction to Another Dog

Join us each week for the Weekly Wag bonding series, held during the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop. The hop is hosted by Life with Dogs, Two 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!


heyitsjethere said...

Hey Tanner, Hey Oliver, Jet here.

OMD... I'd fail before I began. I cannot get over my fear of noises Miss Carrie... Mom has tried many a option. :( I guess I will remain Mom's Good Boy instead of everyone's CGC.

Emma Messner said...

Well, for us human, we are distracted and even frightened by alarming sounds, what more can it affect a canine with sense of hearing far more extreme than us... thanks for this post...

Melissa Shang said...

Very informative post! Thanks! :)

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