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.
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.
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.