Friday, September 17, 2010

The CGC test is coming in October!

Years ago the American Kennel Club developed an objective standard of good canine public behavior called the Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) test and certificate, to help people assess their dog’s suitability to be out in public with them based on its behavior, not its breed(s).

I just learned last night that the Lomita Obedience Training Club (of which I am a member)will be offering the test in October.

In my opinion, the skill level required to pass the CGC is the minimum that every dog and owner should have. So I'm writing to encourage you to plan to take it. The test is only going to cost $5.00 to take, and if you pass you get a nice certificate from the AKC and you also get to send your dog's photo with a brief paragraph to me, to be included in the Canine Good Citizenship Hall of Fame at

The skills needed are intermediate level skills-- if you've successfully completed the entire curriculum for a beginning level class you'll only need a little more work to pass the CGC. (Examples of exercises in the test include walking up to another person who also has a dog on leash, and greeting him by shaking his hand, while your dog either sits or stands quietly at your side and does not reach over to sniff or interact with the other dog. Another example is having your dog stand quietly for an exam while a stranger brushes your dog and does some simple handling. So you can get an idea of the kind of practice and distraction training that your dog will need).

For more information about the CGC test, including a description of all the exercises, go to .

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where to take your dog out in public (South Bay)

If you have taken enough dog training to be at the point where you are practicing many of your behaviors out in "more distracting settings", I can't emphasize enough how useful and important this is, and in order to encourage you in this effort I wanted to share with you some of the many places I go with my own dogs. Please see below. Keep in mind that your dog will never do as well in a new environment the first time as he or she will do on the second, third, and fourth visit. So go out often with your dog, and go to the same places over and over again. Each time you go, there will be new distractions but your dog will also be getting used to the environment and to that AMOUNT of stimulation all at once.

Don't forget to bring high value treats. Here are some places I like to go:

1) The "Promenade" or whatever they're calling it these days-- the shops below Peninsula Center, where the Equinox gym is. There's a ton of stuff you can work on here--

(a) going up and down stairs without your dog pulling (work on this the same way you work on "let's go"

(b) going into the elevator, asking your dog to sit, and going up to the upper floor (don't EVER take your dog on an escalator- I know of a

dog who became frightened, he layed down in fear, and his tail and penis got stuck in the moving parts. It's toooo dangerous)

(c) walking around and doing a series of short sits and downs near the fountain that squirts water up

(d) walk over to the window where you can see into the ice rink, and let your dog see that. Go to the toy store where kids ride some scooter toys out in front, and do some sits at a safe distance. Be prepared to gently and immediately intervene any time a child approaches you and your dog. If you have any qualms about the child's controllability, or your dog's comfort, act like you suddenly forgot your keys in the parking lot and turn and zoom off in that direction with your dog. You can hide the fact that you are avoiding the child. If you do want to interact, be prepared to hand the child a treat to give to your dog if your dog will take it gently. If your dog won't take it gently, let's work on that at home. Meanwhile, you can give the treat to the child, and then flatten your own hand like a plate, and say, "Give it to Fido by putting it in my hand" (and then you immediately let your dog take it from your hand), and then say, "Oh, he liked that, thank you for giving him a treat".

(e) I use the flat planter benches around a lot of the landscaping as a bit of agility practice, inviting my dog to hop up there, and using a treat to lure him along (so he stays on the flat part and doesn't fall off). I say "off" as he hops off. I say "jump" as he hops onto it. "Jump" means jump your whole body onto something (the grooming table, the sofa, the bench) and "up" means "put your front feet up on this surface" (the wall, my lap, etc).

(f) In these environments, keep your dog close to you-- don't use a flexi-lead, for example. Don't tie him up and go inside to order a Starbucks coffee (your dogs aren't ready for that yet). These environments ARE a good place to do the recall game at a relatively short distance (15 feet). If the Promenade is really quiet, you could do a longer distance, but do it quickly and discreetly-- the security guards get nervous when they see a dog on a longer leash, doing an exercise that takes up a lot of room. Out of courtesy, only do this when you won't be disrupting foot traffic or creating an uncontrolled situation. The security guards will make themselves seen and will quietly check you out. Show them that you're responsible and know what you're doing. They'll be relieved and will leave you alone.

(2) Terranea :Walk all over, and sit for a bit in one of the upholstered chairs outside, by the conference rooms, and practice having your dog lay by your feet and stay laying there. I hope I don’t need to tell you that it would be bad manners to let the dog up on the furniture there, ever. At Terranea there are a lot of people walking their dogs, especially little dogs, and many of those dogs are on flexi-leads and will be allowed by their owners to zoom over to you. Good practice for “leave it”, and making your dog walk away and stay focused on you. Please, no flexi-leads here either. This is an expensive resort, so take extra care about where you let your dog eliminate—as a courtesy, try to make it happen out of sight of the guests. If it’s the kind that needs picking up, as always, baggie it immediately and then look for a trash in a location that won’t create a nasty smell for the guests. Don’t deposit it by the pool, for example.

By the way, I’m not opposed to letting dogs sniff and interact, but I don’t feel obligated to do it with a every dog and person on the street—the opportunity is actually more valuable to me as a chance to practice “leave it” and focus. As long as your dog is getting lots of appropriate playtime with other dogs, he doesn’t NEED to stop and greet and sniff and interact with every dog on the street. I don’t want him to think that just because we see another dog or another dog is walking by it automatically means we’re going to greet them and interact. If you allow that, you create a dog that is unable to focus in the presence of another dog.

(3) Riviera Village: Catalina Avenue is a rich opportunity to practice walking calmly past cafĂ© tables full of people and food (sometimes with a dog or two near the table as well). Pay close attention as you enter these situations—if there is a dog at the table and the owner is not paying attention, that dog may bolt and react when your dog approaches, which can scare your dog. So look to see if there is room to step away from the table as you pass if necessary—or is there a crowd of people standing there? Can you wait a moment until they move? If you see a dog at table reacting to other dogs, before you go by do the table a favor and walk around it the other way, giving them wide berth. When we dog owners show that kind of courtesy in doing what we can to avoid a barking spectacle (no matter whose dog is barking), everyone appreciates it. We like to walk all the way up one side of the street, down to the Esplanade along the upper part of the beach walk, and then back to Catalina Ave and down the other side of the street. (Note that you cannot take your dog down to the Strand along the beach in Redondo, sadly, but people walk along the upper sidewalk by the street).

(4) The grocery store: Keep your dog safely in your car (see my blog post about that) and after you shop and load your groceries into your car, take your dog out for a few minutes of loose leash walking and sits and stays in the parking lot and along the front of the store. The racket of the carts and the doors opening and the customers going in and out is great for distraction training.

(5) Del Amo mall (the outside section, where PF Chang’s is). Walk your dog around, practicing some basic behaviors. Great distractions from people walking, the dangling strings of lights above, the sounds bouncing off the buildings, water features, a large escalator, a staircase to work with, an elevator between floors. Do some backup-recalls and some down-stays.

Some stores don’t explicitly DISALLOW dogs but please don’t bring your dog into a store unless he is really ready for it and able to behave perfectly, and unless you are really able to focus on him. If you have a male, keep an extra eye on him to make sure he doesn’t mark a vertical surface—sometimes the unusual smells in a store can spark this behavior even in dogs who don’t normally do this. I’ve brought my dog into hardware stores, certain bookstores, a cosmetics store (Origins), and a few others.

If you discover that you’re the kind of person who wishes you lived in Europe where people are allowed to bring their dogs almost everywhere, please consider becoming a volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence, which breeds and trains service dogs to assist people with mobility impairments. I’ve done 7 puppies for them, and 3 for Guide Dogs of America. Please ask me about it if you’d like to learn more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How to cut up your Natural Balance into dog treats

What's the most efficient (and safe) way to cut up the large salami-shaped Natural Balance semi-moist dog food into little treats we can use in training?  This video shows you!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

10 etiquette tips for dogs at church

In honor of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, which is now welcoming “well behaved dogs” at all services, I’m offering this blog entry on the subject of what constitutes a well behaved dog in a church setting.  This is offered with a special thanks to the spiritual community that welcomed the service dog puppies (Nika and Glenna) we raised while members at this church.

1.  Does the dog lay down and stay down despite the presence of other dogs and people, for at least 20 minutes at a time, until signaled by you to get up?  Practicing a very long down that teaches your dog to withstand boredomis important (no offense to the sermon, but staying down for so long IS boring for a dog). You can put your foot on the leash, but make sure you leave about 12” of slack so you’re not putting constant pressure on your dog’s collar.

2.  Will your dog lay in a position that minimizes the space he takes up?  If the chairs are conducive to allowing a dog to lay under them, work at home to teach your dog to go under the chair. (I don’t believe the chairs at SGN are conducive to this, though, unless the dog is kind of small).  Otherwise, you can seek out a seat before the service at the end of the aisle so your dog is not blocking people’s ability to take a seat (ie, they don’t have to step over you and your dog).

3.  Can you exit discreetly if your dog is suddenly restless, which may be a signal that he has to eliminate?  Sitting at the end of an aisle is helpful for this.

4.  Bring great treats in a fanny pack, and quietly and periodically reinforce your dog for good, calm, quiet behavior.  Reward that, and you’ll get more of it over time.

5.  Keep your dog on a very short leash at all times.  In other words, if your dog is on a 6 foot leash, don’t allow him to zoom to the end of it to greet another dog or child or person or whatever.  You lose a lot of control that way, and take up a LOT of space.  Have your dog sit and stay at your side, and if you have to, step on the leash so your dog has to stay close to you (this allows you to relax a bit, by “parking” your dog like this).  Teach your dog quiet, polite greetings, and give people a treat to give to your dog.  If your dog is laying down, encourage people to offer the treat low, at the dog’s head level, so the dog doesn’t have to pop up to get it.  Obviously, teach your dog to take treats gently.

6.  Pay attention to what your dog is doing at all times.  Don’t take this for granted.  There is a lot of beautiful, valuable stuff at SGN (or anywhere you take your dog) and if you don’t pay attention accidents can happen.  I once saw a very well-trained service dog (not mine, thank goodness) lift its leg and pee on a library bookshelf.  The owner completely missed it, and I had to alert her.  Dogs are not perfect.  So be vigilent about what’s going on – if a toddler is approaching your dog, intervene to supervise the interaction.  If it’s a quiet time in the service (like the blessing around the table before communion), stand on the periphery, where the kids won’t be tempted to play with the dog rather than pay attention to the service.  If you see a kid honing in on you, feel free to discreetly move to a different spot to discourage the interaction at the moment.  In other words, the dogs aren’t there to turn church into a dog park—they’re intended to be quiet, well mannered companions to a spiritual experience. 

7.  Tape the tags on your dog’s collar so they won’t make noise as your dog moves and shifts during the service.  If your dog is boney and won’t be comfortable laying on the floor, bring a folded-up towel for him to lay on which will help reduce his need to shift around a lot.

8.  Potty your dog before you come, and don't use the beautiful garden in the front of the building to do it.  Bring an extra baggie with you in case your dog has to eliminate-- pick it up immediately and find an outside trash can for disposal.  If you see another dog owner who needs a baggie, offer one.  If your dog is new to being in crowded settings like a church service, he may have to pee again sooner than you would normally expect, so pay close attention to his body language, and if in doubt, zip outside discretely and take care of it.

9.  Train your dog using positive-reinforcement methods, and I especially recommend clicker training.  You can discreetly click with your tongue in a church setting and it won’t be noticed.

10. Be sure to thank the staff who has created this policy of welcoming well mannered dogs to church, which is a wonderful policy.  Let’s not blow it.  Let’s make sure all the dogs have very impressive manners, manners so wonderful that if there was more room on the Dancing Saints mural, your dog would be up there, too!