Introduction to Advanced Obedience

Welcome to your new Advanced Obedience online class. Here you will be able to find detailed written instructions and homework to go with each of your in-person classes. 

To get you started, below is a link to download a free copy of our Official Kindred Companions Training Manual. Please give it is once over before you attend your first class. You can access them at the bottom of this page.




  • Be on time. 
  • Have your dog on a flat collar or harness. No choke, prong, e-collars, or retractable (flexi) leads in class. If you're transitioning off one of these tools, bring it to class along with the required class equipment and we will be happy to help you.
  • Poop bags - Every puppy's gotta poop!
  • Closed-toe shoes or sneakers - no sandals, flip flops, or heels. We don't want anyone falling on a dog!
  • Bring LOTS of treats! 1-2 ziplock bags at least. However, if you run out, you can always purchase more from the store. 
  • Do not allow your dog to greet or play with the other dogs in class unless you're directed to by your instructor. This is highly important to ensure class flows properly and all dogs can feel safe and pay proper attention.
  • There are no make ups for classes. Please refer here for the information you missed if you could not attend a class.

Once you have attended your first class, go ahead and click on the obedience skill that corresponds with the class you just attended. At the top of each page, you will find handy links which will help you navigate to each particular lesson as well as the real world exercise for that week. Underneath each lesson will also be a link to a PDF version of the lesson/exercise for you to print out at your convenience. 

Please do not jump ahead obedience skills without instructor permission as each topic will be covered in class at it's proper pace.

If you have any questions, please reach out to your instructor via email. They are always happy to help you.

Kindred Companions Official Training Manual

Responsible Dog Ownership

As part of the CGC test, you will be signing a Responsible Dog Ownership Pledge:

  • Responsible for your dog’s health needs

o   Regular veterinary check-ups and vaccines

o   Proper nutrition and clean water

o   Daily exercise

o   Regular bathing and grooming

  • Responsible for your dog’s safety needs

o   Using proper fencing if needed, no free roaming, using a leash in public

o   An identification tag and/or microchip

o   Supervision when children are present with your dog

  • Do not allow your dog to infringe on the rights of others:

o   No free roaming in the neighborhood

o   No nuisance barking in your back yard, in a hotel room, etc.

o   Picking up your dog’s waste in all public places & wilderness areas

  • Responsible for your dog’s quality of life:

o   Basic training is beneficial to all dogs

o   Give your dog your attention and playtime

o   No hours long separation without a dog sitter/walker

o   No hours long crating

o   Owning and caring for a dog is a lifelong commitment


As a therapy dog, your dog has an even stronger bill of rights (with thanks to Ann Howie):

  • Make sure that your dog consents to working as a therapy dog – just because he apparently likes people does not mean he should be exposed to all sorts of people
  • Provide your dog with gentle training to help him understand what he is supposed to do i.e. no forcing your dog to do stuff, no shouting, no aversive stuff. Remember that the public also perceives the kind of dog you have based on the way you treat him. If you treat him with leash pops, terse commands and impatience, the public will think your dog is out of control or even dangerous.
  • Help your dog to adapt to his working environment (hospitals, hospices, schools, nursing homes, etc.
  • Guide clients (patients), staff and visitors to interact with your dog appropriately
  • Focus on your dog as much as you focus on the clients, staff and visitors.
  • Pay attention to your dog’s non-verbal cues
  • Take action to reduce your dog’s stress
  • Support your dog during interactions with the client/patient
  • Protect your dog from overwork
  • Give your dog ways to relax after work sessions
  • Provide a well-rounded life with nutritious food, medical care, physical and intellectual exercise, social time and activities beyond work.
  • Respect your dog’s desire to retire from work when needed.


What is it? 

Your dog already knows these skills at a basic level. In this class, we work on polishing these skills to be under stimulus control.

Why is it an important skill? 

Stimulus control is an advanced training topic that helps us make sure that our dogs do as they are asked, no more, no less. We are looking for promptness, precision and willingness in their behaviors: Without hesitation. Without repetition. Despite distractions.

Remember that your dog can’t give you stimulus control if they don't trust you.

Your criteria (work on one criteria at a time):

  1. You need to cue the dog only once (this is not a test requirement, so we won’t belabor this point too much, but it is a good objective).
  2. Precision: You’re looking for your dog to give you the behavior you’ve asked for i.e. sit means sit, down means down, and stand means stand.
  3. Promptness: You’re looking for a minimum delay between your giving of the cue, and your dog responding to your request.
  4. Speed: You’d like your dog to be snappy in giving you the behaviors you’ve asked for.
  5. Duration: When teaching stays – we build that duration gradually. By the end of 8 weeks your dog should be able to maintain a:
    i) Sit-stay for 2 minutes
    ii) Down-stay for 4 minutes
    iii) Stand-stay for 30 seconds
  6. Distance: When teaching stays, we want to be able to leave our dog in the stay position whilst we move away up to 20 feet. Your dog will be on a long line for his/her safety.
  7. Distractions: When getting our dogs used to distractions, we will build these up gradually so that your dog can accept all manner of distractions e.g. people walking up to talk to you while ignoring your dog, people walking up to pet your dog while ignoring you, crowds, noises, cars, trucks, joggers, cyclists moving by, people shouting, odd things in the environment.

Download Sit / Down / Stand & Stay PDF



The tests require your dog to be able to handle distractions without becoming too spooked.  Each dog will react differently to different stimuli – some dogs are more sound sensitive whilst others might be very visually orientated.  Your evaluator will be looking at both of these elements.  Examples of distractions that typically occur in a community environment can include: 

  • A person using crutches, a wheelchair or a walker from 5 feet away
  • A sudden opening or closing of a door
  • Dropping a pan, a folded chair, or other object not closer than 5 feet from your dog
  • A jogger running in front of your dog
  • A person pushing a cart or crate dolly no closer than 5 feet away
  • A cyclist no closer than 10 feet away.

Here are the guidelines given to the evaluator about how you and your dog should be able to handle the situation:

  • Your dog may show casual interest and may appear slightly startled. Your dog may jump slightly, but should not panic and pull at the leash to get away.
  • Your dog may attempt to walk forward slightly to investigate the distractor.
  • Your dog should not become so frightened that they urinate or defecate.
  • Your dog may not growl or lunge at the distractor.
  • An isolated (one) bark is acceptable, but a dog that continues to bark at the distractor will not pass the test.
  • You, the handler, may talk to and soothe your dog: you may give encouragement and praise throughout the test. Your may be give your dog instructions to distract him away from the distraction (e.g. “touch” or “sit” or “watch me”)

Remember that distractions can be either pleasant (such as a tennis ball appearing in front of a ball crazy dog) or unpleasant (such as a bed pan being dropped on the floor).  One of the most beneficial skills you can ever teach your dog is how to handle those distractions. If you had your dog from its 8th week of life, and you spent a great deal of time in those early weeks exposing your dog to anything and everything that occurred inside and outside the house, then you will likely have a confident and self-assured adult dog.  If something went wrong, and you couldn’t achieve that, or your dog developed some unexplainable fearfulness at something, then the good news is that you can systematically desensitize your dog so that he does have appropriate reactions.  The secret is in taking small steps towards desensitization.  Show an example of this in class.

Dropped Items

There are high expectations in all of the tests (CGC, CGCU, CGCA and Therapy) that our dogs can handle distractions.  Therefore, we look at skills such as patience, impulse control, distraction training and adequate socialization.  If your dog is not strong in any of these areas, we will help your dog with ‘socialization’ to strange objects:

This week we consider dropped objects: we habituate our dogs gradually to an increasing intensity of sounds: metal pans clanging together, food bowls being dropped, crutches being dropped.  Be very careful that you read your dog’s body language very well here.  The purpose is not to make him unhappy about sudden noises so that he becomes increasingly worried at getting surprised. Rather we want to desensitize our dogs to unexpected noises.  The test allows your dog to show a normal startle response and/or casual interest, but he should not panic, pull at the leash to get away, bark continuously, or urinate/defecate in response to the dropped item.


Practice LLW past a pile of food on the ground. Dog inside/outside of handler.

Practice LLW past a bowl of food on the ground. Dog inside/outside of handler.

Practice LLW past a McDonald’s fast food wrapper on the ground. Dog inside/outside of handler.

Registration Tables

 Your dog should be able to stand, sit or lie down and wait under control while the owner

  • Sits at a table and fill out paperwork
  • Sits at a table and has a snack or visits with another person (e.g. at a park bench or an outdoor café)


City Noises & Surfaces

For the Urban CGC: Your dog should be able to accept city noises and distractions:  take them to town centers like Flemington, Princeton, Lambertville, New Hope or Frenchtown at first. The more variety, the better. Then expand by taking them to Hoboken, NYC or Philly.

Take them close to blue tarpaulins, let them walk across the blue tarpaulin if your dog is comfortable with that. Let them walk across sidewalk gratings, around trees planted in a sea of concrete. Make sure they’re comfortable with passing trucks and buses, noisy construction worksites, steaming vents, smells, public transit places, cars, movement, pedestrians. 

Always take lots of treats with you, and work at your dog’s pace: make sure that he is comfortable, and always set him up to be successful.


Crowds, Joggers, and Cyclists

Practice walking through a crowd, passing a cyclist or jogger: Every time the dog chooses to re-orient towards the handler, give the dog two cookies: one for looking at the handler, and one for moving with the handler.



Leash Walking

Level 1


• While on leash, your dog pays attention to you as you take your first step together.
• Build a history of reinforcement at your left leg pant’s seam.

Lay the Foundation:
1. Inside your house, with your dog on leash, say your dog’s name to get eye contact, then take one step backwards away from your dog. CT for any movement towards you. Make sure that you always present the treat at your left pant’s leg seam. Repeat until your dog is fluently moving with you.
2. Repeat for moving right, left, forwards and backwards.
3. Say your dog’s name to get eye contact, then say “let’s go”, and take two steps away from him in any direction. CT for any movement towards you. Repeat in different directions.
4. Gradually increase the number of steps, one at a time before you CT. Don’t always make it harder: sometimes you should click for taking fewer steps.
5. Practice in new locations inside the home, and increase some distractions e.g. ask your partner to stand in the room (but ignoring the dog). Then take it outside into your back yard.

Helpful Hints:
• This teaches your dog to walk at your side, rather than exploring, forging or pulling on leash.
• Do not expect your dog to walk perfectly on leash within a week. This exercise takes a lot of practice by both of you. If it takes you 20 minutes just to get down your driveway then consider that time well spent.
• If you’re having trouble holding the leash, clicker and treats in your hand as well as your dog, talk to your instructor for some options to help you. Each person is an individual so there is no general holding technique that will work for everybody.
• It’s important to start this training indoors or in your backyard with minimal distractions.

Download Leash Walking PDF


Level 2


• You gradually increase the number of steps you take between rewards.
• Your dog walks on a loose leash even when there are distractions.

Develop Understanding:
1. Now start taking more forward steps, and reward your dog for every two steps that he takes with you. Click as your dog is moving with you. Then stop and offer a treat from your left hand to your left pant’s seam.
2. If your dog pulls ahead, stop and stand still. Do not reinforce pulling by moving forward. Wait until your dog’s attention returns to you and then change direction. Turn left, right or go backwards before going forwards again.
3. Ask your dog to sit next to you whenever you stop, and stop often.
4. Gradually increase the number of steps, one at a time before you CT. Don’t always make it harder: sometimes you should click for taking fewer steps.

Helpful Hints
• CT whenever your dog looks at you to reinforce his attention on you. Be proactive and always reward appropriate walking.
• When training small dogs, use capturing or a target stick to prevent having to walk bent over.
• Use a visual marker, e.g. lines in the sidewalk, to remind yourself to click and deliver a treat every few steps.
• Make sure that you always reward your dog at your pant’s seam for walking next to you. This will help to encourage the dog to stay close to you in his “reinforcement zone”.
• It’s important to start this training indoors or in your backyard with minimal distractions.
• It takes two to pull. You should never exert your force to drag your dog anywhere. However, if your dog pulls you, you should stop dead in your tracks, and wait for him to turn around to look at you and then change direction as you start moving again.

Download Leash Walking PDF


Level 3


• You gradually increase the distractions and duration of steps.

Practice Proficiency:
1. Add more steps to your forward movement.
2. Vary the number of steps and change direction in a random fashion (yes, your neighbors will start to worry about you). Keep CT’ing for the first movement towards you whenever you change direction.
3. Add distractions and head out on the road.
4. Make the distractions more challenging.
5. Remember to use your verbal cue “let’s go” every time you take that first step after a halt.

Helpful Hints
• Take breaks to allow your dog to explore and sniff. Consider using a cue “free” to signal exploration time

Download Leash Walking PDF


Advanced Activities & Distractions


  • Your dog is able to maintain loose leash walking when presented with the following situations.

Activities & Distractions:

1. Turns & Halts: 

Halt: Your dog automatically sits at your side whenever you stop walking.

We will also work on helping your dogs understand changes of directions – left turns, right turns, left about turns and right about turns.

2.  Crowds:

We will teach the dog to ignore the crowd of people and be able to maintain loose leash walking as you weave through a group of people. 

3. Dogs: 

You will help your dog to be able to ignore another dog in their presence.  We will be walking past another dog.  Then we will walk back to that handler/dog team; we will greet the other person whilst ignoring their dog. Then we’ll turn around and sit our dogs 5 feet away from each other.  Then we will walk off together with the other person and dog.  Your dog will need to ignore the other dog, no matter what the other dog is doing.

4. Food:

Practice LLW past a pile of food on the ground. Dog inside/outside of handler.

Practice LLW past a bowl of food on the ground. Dog inside/outside of handler.

Practice LLW past a McDonald’s fast food wrapper on the ground. Dog inside/outside of handler.

5. Environment:

You will help your dog not interact with environmental distractions: 

We will walk a course containing some distractions on the ground such as:  a food wrapper, a dog bowl with food in it, a dropped treat, a dog toy, a blanket, a wagon being pulled, a skateboard, a coffee cup, a staircase, an elevator.

6. Crossing the Street: 

Let’s talk about your requirements when you cross a street:

  • You’re in danger from being run over by a car. Your dog is in danger from being run over.  Your first requirement is safety.
  • You need to walk at a brisk pace with no pauses in between – you don't want to frustrate the car drivers by having to wait for you whilst your dog dilly-dallies across the road.
  • You don't want to have to stop mid-way.
  • You want your dog to be close to you, and moving with you.

Practice Proficiency:

1.     Shorten your leash so that your arm is vertical at your side with your hand as close as it can be to the dog’s collar without lifting the dog off the ground.  Grip the lead and wrap it once around the back of your hand to prevent it slipping.

2.     Focus on your destination and briskly walk to that point stopping for nothing unless it is a safety consideration. If you need to pull your dog along at this point (until they understand that this situation), then you’re doing it for safety reasons. It’s not becoming a habit and it serves the purpose of “getting outta there quickly”.

Helpful Hints:

You might want to start this training with only one step at a time, stop, one step, stop, one step, etc. until your dog understands the information coming through the collar and leash.

Your dog will quickly figure out that this new way of holding the leash between you means business.  

Leave it


Level 1   /   Level 2   /   Level 3   /   Level 4

What is it? 

Your dog will learn to ignore food or other items that have been left on the ground, or are dropping to the ground in front of your dog. The cue is also useful for leaving other people and dogs alone.

Why is it an important skill? 

Your dog has to be able to move around in the real world without putting his nose into everything. For some dogs this is a tough skill to learn.

Consider the current level of your dog:

• Level 1: Can he leave food alone that you’re holding in your hand?

o Yes? Move to Level 2
o No? Start teaching him at Level 1

• Level 2: Can he leave food alone on the floor?

o Yes? Move to Level 3
o No? Teach him to leave stuff lying on the ground alone (Level 2)

• Level 3: Can he ignore other items everywhere?

o Yes? Move to Level 4
o No? Expand his repertoire of items that he should ignore (Level 3)

• Level 4: Can he ignore items that are dropping in front of him?

o Yes? Well done. You really have a nearly bombproof dog. Keep reminding your dog about the various leave-it items
o No? Work on letting your dog understand that objects dropping in front of him are also to be ignored (Level 4).

Download Leave It PDF

Teach your dog to ignore food offered in your hand

  1. The dog moves away from a treat in your closed fist: Present your fist (with a treat in it) to the dog. She will lick and sniff your hand, but eventually give up and move her nose away. The instance that she moves her nose away is the instant you mark her (i.e. click or say ”yes”). Then give her a treat from your other hand. Repeat until she no longer bothers to sniff your hand.
  2. Teach Step 1 again, but now ask your dog to stay away from your closed fist for 5 seconds. Start with a 1 second delay before you mark and reward, then gradually increase to 5 seconds.
  3. When you can see that she knows that the way to earn a treat is to keep her nose away from your hand, start adding the verbal cue “leave it”.
  4. Repeat Step 1, but now hold the treat on your open palm, again slowly building up to 5 seconds before you mark and reward. Start by holding your palm out to the dog just above nose height. If your dog goes for the treat, just close your fist but do not jerk your hand out of reach.

Download Handling Skills PDF

Teach your dog to ignore food on the floor

  1. Lower your open palm (with treat on it) to the floor so that your knuckles are resting on the floor while saying, “leave it”. Your dog should continue to ignore the treat. If he goes for the treat, again close your hand into a fist, but do not jerk your hand away.
  2. Then start to place the treat on the floor as you say, “Leave it”. Be prepared to cover the treat with your hand if your dog really cannot resist it. Repeat until your dog is reliably ignoring the food in your hand at floor level.
  3. Finally, you need to start standing upright whilst the treat is still lying on the floor. You may use your foot to cover the treat if needed.
  4. Repeat the entire exercise with an item that the dog may not have (e.g. a kid’s toy, a sock). Place the item on the floor in front of you as you say, “Leave it”. If your dog looks away from the item and/or makes eye contact with you, mark and reward.

Download Handling Skills PDF

Practice proficiency

  1. Ask your dog to sit (or down) and stay, then place a treat on the ground about 4 feet away from the dog. When he hesitates and/or looks at you, mark and reward.
  2. Begin to place the desirable item a little closer to your dog as you say, “Leave it”. When he hesitates and/or looks at you, mark and reward.
  3. Repeat Steps 1 & 2 with a different object.
  4. Repeat Steps 1 & 2 with a person as the “leave it” object.
  5. Repeat Steps 1 & 2 with another dog as the “leave it” object.

Download Handling Skills PDF

Practice with dropping objects in front of your dog

  1. Ask your dog to “leave it” as you drop a treat from your hand to the floor. Yes, drop it, and let it roll. If he can’t succeed, then go back to an earlier step and rework the procedure from there.
  2. Continue training and/or refreshing this cue to your dog periodically until your dog can resist food/objects dropping to the floor in response to the “Leave it” cue.

Download Handling Skills PDF

Proper Attire: Collars & Harnesses


All tests must be performed on leash. Dogs should wear well-fitting buckle or slip collars (including martingales) or body harnesses.

Helpful Tips

  • Body harnesses should not restrict the movement of the dog.
  • Special training equipment such as pinch collars and head collars are not permitted. The leash should be made of either leather or fabric.
  • Retractable leashes may not be used in the test.
  • The BBTD Test only allows buckle collars or slip collars, and body harnesses.  But the only body harness that they currently allow is the EasyWalk harness.


Level 1   /   Level 2   /   Level 3


What is it? 

Your dog will learn to enter a holding pattern until you give him permission to go forward again. This cue is used a whole lot more than “Stay”. You will use “wait” at any sort of boundary e.g. a doorway, a gate threshold, a crate, or a car door. The “wait” cue is always combined with a release cue such as “okay”. Unlike “stay”, “wait” does not involve asking your dog to sit or down at the boundary. The position your dog is in does not matter; he simply has to stop all forward movement.

Why is it an important skill?

It’s a safety issue. Wait is a piece of the self control puzzle that all dogs need to know. It keeps our dogs safe, and also keeps other people safe on the other side of these thresholds.

Download Wait PDF

Introduce waiting at a boundary

  1. Set up a visual boundary by stretching a rope in a straight line or taping a line on the floor (at home you can use an actual internal doorway).
  2.  With your dog on leash, walk up to the boundary. Stop on the inside of the boundary, mark (click or say ”yes”) and place a treat on the ground on the inside of the boundary. Whilst your dog is eating that treat, you (not your dog) step across the boundary, immediately mark and place the treat on the ground on the inside of the boundary. Take another tiny step whilst your dog is eating the second treat, mark and again toss the treat on the floor inside the boundary. Three marks, three treats.
  3. Repeat Step 2 five more times, or until your dog is hesitating on the inside of the boundary.
  4. Introduce the cue “wait”, and when your dog hesitates, mark and reward. Repeat another 5 times.
  5. Now say, “wait”, and drop the leash as you cross the boundary. Mark and reward as your dog stays on the inside of the boundary.
  6. Instead of doing the third click, replace it with a release word such as “okay” or “let’s go” that will cause the dog to cross the boundary to join you. Reinforce the release with a treat. If needed, you can also wave your arm in a “come and join me” fashion.

Introduce distractions to the wait

  1. Begin with a quick warm-up from Level 1.
  2. Repeat, but do not click (or say “yes”) when your dog waits at the boundary, but rather release him with your release word “okay”. Deliver a treat to your dog’s mouth when he crosses the boundary with you.
  3. Finally, introduce some distractions, such as a tossed toy or a person standing on the other side of the boundary. Cue “wait” and when the dog hesitates for a few seconds, release and reinforce with a treat or access to the distraction.
  4. Keep reinforcing the wait too: Sometimes in those seconds of hesitation, go back and hand-deliver a treat to his mouth to tell him what a good boy he is for waiting.

Introduce real-life distractions: practice at outside doorways, at shops, at the vet, at friend’s homes

  1. Stand next to the dog on the inside of a doorway that leads to the outside. The door should be closed. Cue “wait” and open the door a crack (one or two inches). When the dog hesitates and/or looks at you, release with an “okay” and cross the boundary with your dog. Reinforce with a treat and/or play or a walk.
  2. Continue practicing, opening the door an inch or two more, until the dog will respond to the “wait” cue when the door is wide open. Release with “okay” and reinforce.



Level 1   /   Level 2   /   Level 3 / Recall Distractions


Your dog will learn to come immediately when you call him.


This is your dog’s most important skill. It’s valuable during emergencies when your dog is about to cross a busy road; when he’s about to disappear from the other side of the field in pursuit of a squirrel; or when he has been frightened by something (e.g. a loud noise), and is on the verge of running away. A good Recall will interrupt your dog’s thought or emotional response to something and have him coming straight back to you.

Download Recall PDF



1. Never call your dog for anything unpleasant such as nail clipping, bathing or having his leash clipped on to go home from the park. In short anything that might give him pause the next time you call him.

2. Never call your dog if you are not sure he will come. All recalls should be successful recalls. Work at your dog’s level. If he has a kindergarten recall, don’t give him a graduate assignment like being called away from a cat in a tree.

3. If you call your dog and he doesn’t come, you must make it happen. Run over to him and put a treat in front of his nose, backing up as you get his attention so he follows you.

4. Never repeat the cue. Resist the urge to call over and over and over. It only teaches your dog to tune out the cue. Call once and, if necessary, use rule 3. Make the recall happen.

5. Fabulous rewards get fabulous recalls. If you want your dog to stop whatever interesting doggy thing he is doing and come running to you, make it worth his while. Use extra yummy treats—no dry biscuits here!—or a well-thrown ball, if that is your dog’s fancy. Give a minimum of 5 treats for every single recall.

Level 1


  1. Inside your house, call your dog to you. Always use a cheerful tone of voice, and make sure you are loud enough to be heard. Remember to actually give the cue (“Fido, here”); your dog’s name by itself is not a recall. The dog doesn’t have to come from a great distance away. Even three feet away from you that first time is good enough.
  2. When your dog comes to you, give him a minimum of five very yummy treats. Actually 30 treats would be better. Give the treats to him one after the other so that he doesn’t just swallow them in one go.
  3. Practice this just once a day for the next two weeks. Every day. Inside your house. No distractions.

Helpful Hints:

  • Use extra yummy treats: pecorino romano cheese, thick sliced ham, last night’s beef roast. Cut the treats small as always, and give them to your dog one at a time. This prolongs the excellence of the reward and thus reinforces the behavior even more strongly.
  • Use a special word for the recall. Many people have burnt out the word “come” for their dogs through overuse.

Level 2


  1. Gradually start to increase the distance that your dog has to come to you.
  2. Always give him a minimum of five very yummy treats. You will do this for the rest of his life.
  3. Now lure your dog with that first treat to sit directly in front of you, close enough that you could reach out and touch his collar (but don’t touch it yet). Also, do not verbally cue the sit; we want the sit to be a part of the recall cue.
  4. Once your dog is confidently sitting in front of you to receive his treats, start to reach out your other hand towards his collar. Gently take hold of his collar.
  5. Practice again, but this time, add clipping the leash on to your dog’s collar.
  6. Now introduce mild distractions such as toys lying around, people standing nearby, etc.

Helpful Hint:

  • If your dog flinches away from you when you reach out to take hold of his collar, then you have proceeded too fast too quickly. Back up a step, and work at desensitizing your dog to having his collar taken a hold of (speak to your instructor if you’re not sure on how to do this).

Level 3


  1. Whenever you ask your dog to come to you for the next 10 – 15 years of his life, make sure that you have some yummy treats to give him. Occasionally remind him of the fabulous reward of 30 treats.

Helpful Hints:

  • It’s important to keep reminding your dog that the recall really means “cookies” for the rest of her life. This is your dog’s emergency recall, and the stronger and more ingrained the behavior is in her repertoire, the easier you will be able to save your dog’s life should you ever need to.
  • Concentrate on Recall as a good thing.

Recall Distractions

Start indoors.  Each dog/handler team are connected to each other using their usual 6 foot leash. Progress to the next stage or back up to a previous stage depending on the dog’s progress. Working with individual teams at a time:

  • The handler asks the dog to wait or stay (handler’s choice), then walks to the end of the leash leaving their dog behind.
  • The instructor will stand to the side of the handler/dog team forming a triangle, but outside of leash length so that the dog can’t reach the handler.  The instructor holds a small canister containing food.
  • The handler will call the dog to come to them.
  • As the dog returns to the handler, the instructor will wave the canister in front of herself.
  • Reward with the dog with a minimum of 5 treats for a successful recall.
  • Repeat, the instructor drops the treat canister to the ground.
  • Repeat, the instructor drops a toy (ball or squeaky toy) to the ground.
  • Repeat, the instructor throws the toy into the dog’s path.


Go to a new location, preferably outdoors, and put the dog/handler teams onto an extra 10 foot long line. Repeat the above exercises.

Repeat on a 20-foot long line.

Medical Equipment

Medical Equipment Etiquette

As a therapy dog team, you and your dog will meet many people with special needs.  There are some common rules of etiquette in how you interact with a person in a wheelchair:

  • The wheelchair is part of the person’s body image.  Respect this.
  • Do not talk down to or over a person in a wheelchair. Rather, sit down or crouch so you are at eye level when talking, especially if you plan to visit for longer than a few minutes.
  • Do not lean on a person’s wheelchair.
  • Speak directly to the person in the wheelchair, not to a person nearby or pushing the wheelchair.
  • Recognize that people in wheelchairs have varying capacities. Some can walk short distances while others rely entirely on their wheelchair.
  • For safety reasons, ask the person to lock their wheelchair’s brakes.
  • Do not allow your dog around behind the wheelchair.  Wheelchair users often have a bag on the back carrying their equipment, including colostomy bags or their own food supplies.
  • Take a cautious approach around wheelchairs for the safety of your dog: Tails and paws can easily get trapped.

Interacting with medical equipment

We will introduce your dog to each of the pieces of medical equipment, and how they will be used in the test.

  • Wheelchair: the handler and dog approach the wheelchair from a distance of about 5 feet.  The handler leads the dog up to the wheelchair and encourages the dog to interact with the evaluator. The evaluator gently pets the dog and bumps the dog with the wheelchair.

o   Handler should ask the wheelchair user if they might approach. 

o   Handler should ask the wheelchair user to please apply his/her brakes.

o   Handler should keep his dog in front or at the side of the wheelchair, and not allow the dog to go behind.

  • Crutches: With the dog seated at the handler’s side, the evaluator approaches with the crutches, as if disabled. The evaluator pats the dog roughly on the head and body, and bumps the dog gently with the crutch.

o   Handler should not allow the dog to weave in between the crutches and the evaluator, nor circle behind them.

  • Walker: While the dog is seated at the handler’s side, the evaluator approaches noisily with the walker. The evaluator pats the dog on the head and body and bumps the dog gently with the walker.

o   Handler should not allow the dog to weave in between the walker and the evaluator, nor circle behind them.

  • Cane/Awkward Stranger: The dog is seated at the handler’s side. The evaluator approaches with the cane moving erratically with hunched posture, while speaking in an odd voice. The evaluator pats the dog on the head and body and bumps the dog gently with the cane.

o   Handler should not allow the dog to weave in between the cane and the evaluator, nor circle behind them.

Download Medical Equipment PDF



Greeting with Strangers Skills


Level 1   /   Level 2 / Accepting Strangers

What is it? 

Your dog needs to learn to remain calm while allowing a friendly stranger to greet you. Your dog should be able to remain seated at your side while you spend time talking to the stranger or while the stranger pays attention to your dog.

Why is it an important skill? 

As a CGC or therapy dog, your dog will be out and about in the community a lot more than average pet dog companions. As such, your dog acts as a canine ambassador, and should set the best example:
• Your dog should show no sign of resentment, aggression or shyness
• Your dog should not rush or jump on strangers in order to initiate contact
• Your dog should be under control throughout the whole experience. You should not need to use excessive corrections or force to keep your dog from behaving badly.

A stranger greets you but ignores your dog


  1. Do a quick warm-up by cueing “sit” a few times and reinforcing correct responses.
  2. Take your dog to a local park or pet store. Ask your dog to sit at your left side as a stranger passes by. Can your dog remain sitting when the stranger passes at about?
    • 15 feet away?
    • 10 feet away?
    • 5 feet away?
  3. Can your dog remain sitting while you initiate contact with a person that is about 5 feet away? “Isn’t this a beautiful day?”
  4. Can your dog remain seated while the stranger approaches you, talks to you, reaches out to shake your hand? In this part of the exercise, the stranger does not touch your dog.
  5. Can your dog do step 4 while being approached by all sorts of different people? Males, females, adults, children, different ethnicities, etc.
  6. Can your dog do step 4 while the stranger varies their level of animation? From calm, quiet, slow-moving people to hyper, excited, loud, or energetic people?
  7. Can your dog remain seated while you and the stranger engage in a lengthier conversation?

Download Stranger Greeting PDF

A stranger wants to pet, hug or make a fuss over your dog

a) Do a quick warm-up by cueing “sit” a few times and reinforcing correct responses.
b) Next, ask your dog to sit at your side whilst a familiar person approaches you and your dog, asks to pet your dog, pets him briefly, and then backs away.
c) Gradually extend the duration of petting while your dog sits at your side to a minute or so.
d) Then practice this same behavior with a stranger: a strange person approaches you and your dog (you cued your dog to sit as the person approaches), asks to pet your dog, pets him briefly, and then moves away.
e) Again, extend the duration of the stranger petting your dog to about a minute.
Practice these behaviors at every opportunity. A really active dog may take up to a year to learn to be calm and under control when people approach to pet him, so the more opportunities he has to practice these skills, the easier it will become for him.

Accepting Strangers

In the actual CGC and Therapy Dog tests, you can be guaranteed that the “strangers” your dog will be required to interact are fairly dog-savvy.  Your evaluator definitely is, and any other people you will get to meet during the test will have been coached to some extent on how to behave towards your dog.

Real life is a little different.  Each person that you meet is an individual.  You will not necessarily know their background, their likes, dislikes and fears, or what their disabilities are (remember that there are a lot of invisible disabilities these days too – people with PTSD, anxiety and panic disorders, depression, etc.).  Keep cognizant of the fact that you don't know a person’s background, treat everyone with respect, and don't judge people before you know all the facts (and when does that ever happen?).  As a therapy dog team, you and your dog both need to project a compassionate approach to your clients at all times.  Here are examples of the types of people that you may get to meet:

  • Someone who is hard of hearing
  • Someone suffering from dementia – they may ask you over and over again what your dog’s name is.
  • Someone who can’t move their right arm, and whose left arm has spasms and moves involuntarily.
  • Someone who walks unsteadily.
  • Someone in a wheelchair, or with a cane, walker or crutches.
  • A blind or partially sighted person – they may peer at you.
  • Someone with really bad breath
  • Someone who says “Get that dog away from me!”
  • Someone who insists on telling you a very traumatic story from their childhood – over and over again
  • Someone who is afraid of dogs
  • Someone who is allergic to dogs
  • Someone who starts to cry when they see your dog.

People vary a great deal in the way that they respond to dogs.  It is important that our canine good citizens and therapy dogs learn to accept that some people will touch them in ways that may appear rude to the dog.  The vast majority of people will lean over your dog and pet him/her on the tops of their heads. As an analogy, picture an elephant wanting to come up and pet you!  Can you imagine that huge elephant foot bearing down on top of your head?

You can be proactive by asking strangers who want to pet your dog to “please scratch him under his chin”, or “he really likes his ears being rubbed”, or “please pet him on his rump/shoulders”.

Note that if your dog lies down belly up for the stranger, then he is probably showing extreme submissive behavior, and you would be well advised to terminate the stranger contact, and adopt a much more conservative approach in gradually socializing your dog to these situations in such a way that your dog does not feel threatened by the situation.

Finally, be aware that there will always be people (especially children) that will simply rush over to your dog and start petting him or her without asking your permission first.  This is rude behavior (can you imagine a stranger coming up and groping your toddler? You would be right to be incensed!).  But, I’m sad to say, that retaliating to these people is not a good idea as it doesn’t educate anybody about the appropriate behavior.  In these situations, you might simply just ask the person to “scratch him under his chin”.  If a child rushed in to your dog, you might suggest to the accompanying adult that this is not safe behavior and that not all dogs are as friendly as yours.  Children should be taught to ask permission, both of their own adults, and of you, before they reach in to touch a strange dog.

As Kay Laurence, a UK trainer, says: “Your contract with your dog is for the next 15 years of his life; your need to be polite to that stranger lasts all of 30 seconds or so.  Your primary responsibility is towards your dog, his safety and comfort.

Handling Skills

Your dog will need to be comfortable with being handled, groomed and examined by somebody other than you, the owner.  Veterinarians, vet techs, and groomers all need to be able to touch your dog.

In the CGC test, the evaluator will need to touch your dog to determine if its clean and groomed. The dog must appear to be in a healthy condition (i.e. proper weight, clean, healthy and alert).  The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, in a natural manner.  She will then also lightly handle your dog’s ears and gently pick up each foot. Your dog doesn’t have to hold a specific position during this examination, and you are encouraged to talk to your dog, praising it and giving it encouragement throughout the examination.

The evaluator may give you specific instructions for handling the dog in a way that ensures safety. For example, the evaluator may ask you to lift each leg, or may ask you to hold the dog’s head steady while she examines his ears.

The evaluator may also hold the head away with one hand while lifting a foot with her other hand.

If your dog needs to be restrained to accept this handling, he will not pass the test. He may squirm or wiggle a bit, but this shouldn’t be so excessive that your dog can’t be brushed. Your dog should not struggle (pull away with intensity) to avoid the brushing.

Download Handling Skills PDF

Supervised Separation

Supervised separation is part of the CGC test.  Every so often, life intervenes, and we need to leave our dogs with a trusted stranger while we attend to something else.  For example, you may need to use a public restroom, or you’d like to walk into the Starbucks to buy yourself a coffee.  Our dogs will need to feel secure enough that they can remain calm and well-mannered whilst being left with somebody else.

The test does not require your dog to maintain a particular position, and the test evaluator may talk to and pet your dog whilst you are gone.  However, they will not be paying excessive attention to your dog, and will not play with your dog while you are gone.  Your dog may not continually bark, whine or howl while you are out of sight, and you will need to be gone for 3 minutes to pass this test element. The evaluator may choose to terminate the test if she thinks your dog is excessively stressed by your absence, and you’ll be called back to ensure the comfort of your dog (you won't pass this test element).  Also, your dog may not pull on the leash, nor may he urinate or defecate during this portion of the test.

Download Supervised Separation PDF

Real Life Manners




Car manners are important because the dog must be able to ride safely and not be a distraction to the driver. Teaching the dog to wait once the vehicle is stopped and calmly exit can prevent the dog from escaping. 

Car Safety:

Keeping your pet contained in the vehicle is important for keeping both the pet and driver safe. The dog will not be as much of a distraction while constrained. In the event of an accident, being constrained may help limit injuries. Below are some of the ways to keep your pet contained.

  • Harness
  • Barrier
  • Crate

Entering and exiting:

The dog must walk up to the car on a loose leash and be able to calmly enter the vehicle. When exiting the vehicle, the dog waits for the owner to give a verbal release cue. Then, the dog exits the vehicle and walks away on a loose leash. 



Small dogs are allowed to ride in a bag on some public transit trains and subways. Large dogs are not usually permitted on public transit vehicles. However, some areas don't allow dogs at all, so it is important to check Transit Policies in your area to make sure that dogs are allowed. 

The small dog must allow their handler to place them in a carrying bag and politely ride the train. Then the dog needs to calmly come out of the bag when they are off of the train. 

Skills needed:

  • Wait
  • Accept restraints (seatbelt, carry bag for small dogs)
  • LLW


Elevators and tight spaces

Elevators and tight spaces are a part of the Urban CGC test and Bright and Beautiful Therapy test. For these tests, the dog needs to demonstrate that they can be under control in a tight space where there may be other people and dogs.

The steps that the dog needs to do to pass this section:

  1. Walk up to the doors of the elevator and wait in a sit for the doors to open
  2. Calmly walk in, ride quietly, and calmly walk out. 

Skills needed:

  • LLW
  • Tolerate distractions / Adequate socialization
  • Wait


Stairs are a part of the Urban CGC test to demonstrate the dog's ability to handle different surfaces in a real life environment. In this section of the test, the dog must be under control and walk up to the stairs on a loose leash. The dog and handler go up at least 3 stairs and then come down. 

Skills needed:

  • LLW
  • Tolerate distractions / Adequate socialization

Download Real Life Manners PDF