Friday, March 7, 2014

Paw-sitively Fabulous: American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Training

Holly and I have been attending Petco's dog training courses since right after I got her. I love that they provide a safe space for her to play with other dogs (off leash dog parks make me too nervous because of their unpredictability), and over a whopping FOUR six week courses, Holly has made some fast puppy friends and fallen head over heels for our local Petco's trainer. Whenever we visit she insists on dragging me back to see if she is working, which, by the way, is not a behavior typically encouraged in the dog training courses! Holly gets a free pass, obviously, because she is so cute :)

Holly on her First Day of School!
I wanted to highlight the latest course Petco has to offer, which Holly and I have been participating in the past few weeks. The course is a six week prep for the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Certification Exam, and is offered at Petcos across the United States.

The AKC CGC Certificate is awarded to dogs with exceptionally good manners at home and in their community, and consists of a 10 part test that challenges dogs on some of the more difficult day to day behavior issues they may encounter. Having this certificate can be helpful in convincing apartment buildings (or tricky coop boards) to accept your pup, will circumvent some hotels' no pet policy, and is a first step for animals who want to move on to more difficult training programs such as those required for service dogs, agility, or tracking.

Over the course of the six week class, our trainer worked with each of the individual dogs on each of the 10 points covered by the test, and identified specific areas that needed to be worked on. In order for dogs to receive the CGC Certificate, they must pass the test in all 10 areas--and let me tell you, these tasks are challenging! Dogs must be able to calmly walk through a crowd and past other dogs, be greeted by a friendly stranger, sit and stay for a prolonged period, not react to loud noises or standard grooming, walk loosely on a leash through various turns and about faces, and be separated from their pet parent for a full three minutes without any reaction.

Demonstrating greeting a friendly stranger with Uncle Alex!
Just kidding--they aren't actually allowed to give the friendly strangers kisses :)
Did I mention that all of these must be completed without treats? As soon as we heard no food rewards were allowed, we knew we were in BIG trouble. Unless there is a treat in my hand, Holly pretends she doesn't even know her own name (little stinker). That, coupled with our move and crazy schedules making it tricky to practice for the past several weeks made the practice test last weekend especially...challenging.

Maybe she just didn't want to wear this hat again?
I don't think that we'll be trying for the official certification anytime soon (tests are $10, and you can try twice for that fee before having to pay again). But we did have a blast working on these new challenges, and I found that they really helped with some of the issues Holly and I had in the past. One notable example was her fear of toddlers: on the day we were working on loud noises/distractions, a little boy shopping with his parents wanted to join in on the fun, and stood by while our trainer threw a large metal bowl onto the tile floor. I was sure Holly would panic, but using the skills our trainer mentioned (ok, and treats), she kept all eyes on me and walked calmly past the noise. During our practice exam, a toddler ran full tilt past her, a stroller closely following, and she didn't bat an eye! Even though we may not have passed with flying colors, that moment made me a very proud dog mom!

Until Next Time, Darlings!

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