Citizen canine coursework

We teach obedience skills in a specific sequence because it aids the dog's understanding of concepts and makes sure that we do not place undue pressure on them. Stick to this process, don't skip steps and you will find success. We will teach exercises in class, you will practice them at home, and then we will apply them to CGC test exercises in the following class. More importantly, we will focus on assuring that you are willing and readily able to fulfill the tenets of the CGC Responsible Dog Owner's Pledge.

Lesson 1: Building our Tools

Goals

This week we're building the tools we'll need in our toolbox throughout the class. The work this week consists of three main objectives:

  1. Condition our dog to the reward marker, OK
  2. Condition our dog to the aversive marker, OUT
  3. Condition our dog to restore and maintain comfort by paying attention to us

Book

Read chapters (lessons) I, II, and III.

Days 1 & 2

Each day, bring your dog into your training area with the long line attached to their training collar. Mark off three landmarks (set out your own if there aren't any) at least 50 feet apart from each other. Label them A, B, and C in your mind.

Without saying anything to (or looking at) your dog, and holding only the thumb loop of the long line, walk briskly to point A. Stop and step on the long line close to your dog so there is 5 feet or less of the long line between your foot and their neck. 

Wait for a moment when your dog is preoccupied by something else (sniffing the ground perhaps) and then move briskly to point B. Stop and step on the long line. 

Wait again for your dog to be distracted, and move briskly to point C. Repeat this pattern around your triangle six times.

Upon completion of the 6 tours around your triangle, look around to make sure there aren't any overly compelling distractions, say OK, reward your dog (with whatever you'd like) and then drop the handle of the long line. Follow your dog closely but allow them to do whatever they want so long as they are not being a nuisance. Watch your dog. If at any point you see them staring at something, step on the long line so that if they try to run, you're already ready to stop them. Tie two long lines together for this part if you are really concerned about your dog taking off. Allow 5-10 minutes of this cool down period.

Go home and tether your dog inside the house on the opposite side of a room where you can supervise them, for 30 minutes. You may eat, watch tv, fold laundry, etc. during this time. Completely ignore your dog during this time, unless the following is taking place. Your dog gets nothing (no toys, food, water) except perhaps a soft item to lay on during this time.

If your dog is excessively barking, whining, or lunging, or if they are trying to chew the tether, say OUT (sternly but not loudly) and throw the bonker at them.

Days 3 & 4

Perform the same long line exercise as days 1 & 2, except if your dog is more than 5 feet in front of you on your way to your next point, turn around and run back to your previous point. And if they lag more than 5 feet behind you, run to your next point. You need to get 6 complete walks around your triangle without having to turn and run before you stop your sessions on days 3 and 4, but they do not need to be consecutive. Use different training areas if possible. 

Do the 5 - 10 minute cool down.

Go home and tether your dog for 30 minutes.

Days 5 & 6

Perform the same long line exercise as days 3 & 4, except you should place distractions along the paths to your landmarks (A, B, and C). These could be a familiar person who stands calmly and doesn't interact with the dog (no touch, no talk, no look), a bowl of food, a calm tethered dog, or a favorite toy. If your dog moves toward the distraction, more than 5 feet away from you, turn and run the exact opposite direction. Then return to your previous landmark and try that leg of your triangle again. You need 6 complete walks around your distraction-peppered triangle without having to turn and run, but again, they do not need to be consecutive.

Do the 5 - 10 minute cool down.

Go home and tether your dog for 30 minutes.

Relevant Videos

*the above video uses the word "no" as the punishment marker. We've changed this to "out" because we find "no" is used too frequently and casually in most peoples' everyday lives.

 

Lesson 2: Out for a Walk, Friendly stranger approaching, reaction to another dog

Goals

Now that we've built our training tools, we'll begin using them to teach skills that are helpful in your everyday life. We're going to start by teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash and to sit politely while you give them praise. By the end of the week, we want to see that our dogs can:

  1. Begin walking with us on a loose leash on the command HEEL + LEFT FOOT movement.
  2. Will heel, reasonably, at our side for 15 steps at a time.
  3. Will stop and sit on command of SIT when we stop, with only minor pressure (if any) on their collar.

Book

Read lessons IV and V.

Days 1 & 2

Enter one of your training locations with your dog on the training collar and leash. You should ideally have 200 feet where you can walk in a straight line without obstruction. 

Hold your leash correctly:

  1. Right hand thumb through the loop
  2. Gather slack in right hand
  3. Leash should drape, loosely, just below your left knee

With your dog on your left side, say HEEL as you step off with your LEFT FOOT and begin walking at a brisk pace. As long as your dog's head is in line with your left leg +/- 2 feet, continue walking straight. If your dog is crowding, or out of position (dog's nose is more than 2 foot away from your left leg) use the appropriate turn:

  • Right turn if your dog is wide left
  • Speed up if your dog is lagging behind
  • Right about turn if your dog is forging ahead
  • Left turn if your dog is crowding/bumping you

Once your dog catches up or returns back to proper position, go back to your normal pace and keep walking. Utilize opposing turns to return to your center line, heading in the direction you originally intended. When you've gotten 15 steps in a straight line, slow your pace by half for a few steps and then stop walking.

If your dog stops with you, place them in a sit:

  1. Slide your left hand down the leash to the stitching/braiding
  2. Replace your left hand with your right hand
  3. Pull up on the leash with your right hand while you push down on the backside with your left hand
  4. Give verbal praise, physical praise, and food (if you want to), in that order

Repeat this series a minimum of 25x per day, using turns as needed to correct for improper positioning.

  1. 15 steps in a straight line
  2. Slow your pace by half
  3. Place your dog in a sit
  4. Give verbal praise, physical praise, and food (if you want to), in that order

Your dog should be beating you to the sit before you can complete the placement by the end of day 2. If not, increase repetitions. Do not allow your dog to sit crooked, in front of you, or behind you. Physically place them in the correct position every time. It's ok if they pop back up out of the sit, as long as you held physical pressure on them long enough to feel their muscles relax if there was any resistance.

When you are finished, hook the long line to your dog's collar, unhook the 6ft leash, say OK, and complete the cool down.

Tether your dog for 30 minutes. At this point you should be fading out your use of both punishments and rewards during tethering.

Days 3 & 4

Repeat the same exercise from days 1 & 2, except say SIT right as the dog's butt touches the ground each time, still going through the process of placing the dog in the sit. Now, if they get up at any point during your praise sequence, put them back into a sit.

Get your minimum of 25 reps. 

Connect the long line, say OK, and do the cool down.

Tether your dog for 30 minutes.

Days 5 & 6

We'll have a significant change in handling at the end of the week. Heel 15 steps in a straight line. As you approach your last few steps slow your pace by half. By the time you stop your left hand should be down by the stitching/braiding on the leash and your right hand should be right next to it. Try hard not to put any pressure on the collar. Tell your dog to SIT. Give them two seconds to make a decision. If they sit, verbal praise, physical praise, then food (if you want to). If they do not sit, jerk straight up firmly with both hands so your dog's head goes up and their butt hits the ground. Then verbal praise, physical praise, and food (if you want to). You'll notice that sitting gets rewarded, whether we had to administer a correction or not.

Get your minimum of 25 reps.

Connect the long line, say OK, and do the cool down.

Tether your dog for 30 minutes.

Relevant Videos

 

Lesson 3: Sitting politely for petting, appearance and grooming

Goals

This week we will utilize a higher distraction location in our training area for some exercises, and a lower distraction area for others. We'll continue to refine heeling and use it to move us from our high distraction location to our low distraction location. We'll use two exercises to teach physical and mental control: the sit/stay, stand, and physical handling/examination/grooming.

By the end of the week, we're looking to see that our dogs can:

  1. LEFT FOOT means "move with me", RIGHT FOOT means "stay put".
  2. Heel with us and stop when we stop with no leash/collar pressure at all around reasonable levels of distraction.
  3. Hold a sit stay for up to 1 minute around reasonable distraction.
  4. Hold a stand for 10 seconds while being petted.
  5. Maintain their composure while being physically handled by their owner

Before we get started

Two minor changes to the work that you've already been doing:

  1. We'll change the sit at stops during heeling from a "sit on command" to an "auto sit" by simply refraining from using the sit command. Simply correct your dog if they fail to sit. But... make sure you are still slowing down and setting up your hands correctly every time before stopping.
  2. We'll only allow 1 foot of latitude, and also use turns when our dog has been distracted by something during heeling. But... remember that your dog is still really new to learning this behavior. So if they are making an honest effort, you should be praising instead of correcting.

Book

Read lessons VI, VII, and X.

Days 1 - 3

Bring your dog into your training area on their training collar and six foot leash. Heel them around until they are mentally with you, as shown by their attentiveness in heeling. Once you've got them settled into a nice heel, heel them over to the higher distraction location in your training area. This is where we will begin teaching the sit/stay.

We'll use a non-verbal signal for the sit stay, and make it clear that the sit stay has a very clearly definition: stay means do not move, no matter what, until I get back to your side and either give you another command, or an OK.

  1. From an auto sit after heeling, adjust your dog's collar so that it is just a little tight and the leash is coming up from the top of their head. Hold the leash with your right hand.
  2. Step off with your RIGHT FOOT, and pivot out in front to face your dog.
  3. Stand still 1 foot in front of your dog and maintain pressure on the leash to keep them in place for 10 seconds.
    1. On day 2, this is 2 feet for 20 seconds
    2. On day 3, this is 3 feet for 30 seconds
  4. Return to the dog's side in heel position. Relax the leash.
  5. Heel off with your LEFT FOOT one step forward into another auto sit.
  6. Praise. Verbal, then physical, then food (if you want).

Repeat this five times.

Heel your dog over to the low distraction area.

  1. From an auto sit after heeling, adjust your dog's collar so that it's just a little tight and the leash is coming down from under their chin. Hold the leash with your right hand at the stitching by the clasp.
  2. Slide your left foot between their front and back legs.
  3. Reach over your dog's back with your left hand.
  4. Pull down and forward on the leash while you pull up on their belly.
  5. Once the dog is standing, pet them in between their front shoulders for 10 seconds, replacing them in the stand as needed
  6. Heel off with your LEFT FOOT one step forward into another auto sit.
  7. Praise. Verbal, then physical, then food (if you want)

Repeat this five times.

Do the entire sequence 5 times per day:

  1. Straight line heeling to your high distraction area
  2. Five sit/stays with one step of heeling and an auto sit in between each rep
  3. Straight line heeling to your low distraction area
  4. Five stands with one step of heeling and an auto sit in between each rep

Cool down.

Tether.

Days 4 - 6

Same work as above, except we are going to continue gradually increase the distance and duration of our sit/stays.

  • Day 4: 4 feet away for 40 seconds, per rep
  • Day 5: 5 feet away for 50 seconds, per rep
  • Day 6: 6 feet away for 60 seconds, per rep

There are two major changes to handling for the sit/stay beginning on day 4:

  1. We will no longer maintain upward pressure on the leash and collar to help the dog stay.
  2. We will use the sit/stay correction (just like the sit correction, except you move so you are standing directly in front of your dog) for failure to remain in a stay. Failure to stay includes
    1. Dropping the head below the shoulders
    2. Any movement of the feet

Stands remain the same throughout the week.

Do the entire sequence 3 times per day:

  1. Straight line heeling to high distraction area
  2. Five sit/stays with one step of heeling and an auto sit in between each rep
  3. Straight line heeling to your low distraction area
  4. Five stands with one step of heeling and an auto sit between each rep

Cool down.

Tether.

Physical Handling

The physical handling exercise should be done daily, but separately from the rest of the work this week. That means either do it at a totally separate time from the work above, or do it after the tethering.

Some of you will have dogs that will fight a lot. This will be a test of wills and you must show your dog that you will not give up. This is an important component of trust for your dog because it shows that you are mentally strong leader. You may need two people to begin this exercise. It is important to keep your cool no matter what. There is no punishment in this exercise, simply teaching the dog that the fastest way to get something (that they may not like) to stop, is to keep their cool.

  1. Tether your dog
  2. Place the dog in a stand
  3. Hold their collar (and optionally their cheek ball)
  4. Either push or pull their face in the opposite direction of the body part you will be handling
  5. Hold on if you feel any fight or resistance
  6. Move on when you feel them relax.
  7. Do the above for
    1. eyes
    2. ears
    3. each foot
    4. tail
    5. a short bit of brushing
  8. Tell your dog OK and release them
  9. Give them a moment to shake it off or stretch
  10. Give them verbal praise, physical praise, and food (if you want to)

If you can't get through the dog's whole body to start with, move forward until you start to get resistance, persist through that resistance until you feel them relax, and then end the exercise. Regroup and pick it back up again where you left off. Repeat this cycle until you get through the whole thing.

Relevant videos

 

Lesson 4: Walking through a crowd, Reaction to distraction, Down, Recall

Goals

This week we continue to refine heeling, extend our sit stays and stand, and add two new exercises: recall and down. Additionally, we'll use some new set ups to present our dogs with new problems to solve using some behaviors that we've already taught. We'll also use two exercises to teach recall. One to show the dog what a recall is, and another to show them where to come to when they do a recall. What is not listed, but you should continue to do, are the physical handling exercises, each day.

By the end of the week our dogs should:

  1. Be able to calm faster when entering a new place.
  2. DOWN on command.
  3. Be able to complete a 1 minute sit stay generally without issue.
  4. Come when called HERE, on leash, without needing to use leash pressure.

Book

Read lessons VIII, X, and XI.

Days 1 - 2

Bring your dog to the training area on their training collar and 6 foot leash. Start your session with a one minute sit stay at 6 feet away. Do not move on to other exercises until your dog completes a full minute sit stay without correction.

Heel your dog to a low distraction area and stand your dog. Maintain collar pressure down and forward while you circle them three times, petting them on the withers. Then do an exercise finish.

Repeat this 3 times. 

Heel to a high distraction area and complete a one minute sit stay at 6 feet away. Exercise finish. Then put your dog in a 20 second sit stay, then call them HERE, while reeling in the leash to get them to SIT in front of you. Move to their side and do an exercise finish. Alternate these exercises so that your dog is never sure if you will make them complete the stay or will recall them from it. 

Repeat this 3 times.

Heel your dog to another low distraction area and place your dog in a down:

  1. Adjust the collar so it is high on the neck with the chain coming up between the ears. 
  2. Hold the chain in your left hand with the heel of your hand against the dog's neck.
  3. Kneel down next to your dog.
  4. Rest your left forearm along the dog's back, holding them in place.
  5. Slide your right hand behind both front legs, grabbing the far leg just below the elbow, palm up.
  6. Lean your weight on top of your dog to place them in the down position.
  7. Wait until you feel their muscles relax. 
  8. Remove your right hand, and wait to see if they tense up again. If so, keep your left arm along their back until they relax.
  9. Remove your left arm from their back and let go of the collar. 
  10. Do an exercise finish
  11. Verbal praise, physical praise, food (if you want).

Do the entire circuit 5 times per day:

  1. Heel to low distraction area, auto sit at stop
  2. 3 stands while circling with an exercise finish after each
  3. Heel to high distraction area, auto sit at stop
  4. 1 minute sit stay with an exercise finish
  5. 20 second sit stay to a recall to a sit in front, exercise finish
  6. 1 minute sit stay with an exercise finish
  7. Heel to low distraction area, auto sit at stop
  8. 5 down placements with an exercise finish after each

Complete the cool down

Tether your dog for 30 minutes

At a separate time, use really good treats and do a few paper plate recalls but be sure to stop the game before your dog tires of it. 

Days 3 - 4

You will complete the same exact process from days 1 - 2 except you will add the command DOWN as your dog's elbows and belly touch the ground on the downs. Everything else stays exactly the same throughout the week.

Days 5 - 6

Major change in handling for the down. Slide your left hand down the leash palm up, and place your right hand next to it palm down, at the stitching by the clasp. Hold this "package" at ear/eye level of your dog. Pivot so that you are at a 45 degree angle in front of your dog. Command DOWN. Give your dog 2 seconds to down.

If they down on their own, verbal praise, physical praise, and food (if you want)

If not, jerk the leash toward your right foot to correct them into the down. Then verbal praise, physical praise, and food (if you want).

Other than this, everything else stays the same throughout the week. 

Heeling Post (optional but helpful)

If available in your training area, place distractions a few feet to the left of a post in the ground and heel very closely to the right side of the post on your way to one of your points in your training circuit. Start by passing 2 feet to the right of the post. If your dog swings to the left side of the post toward the distraction, drop your leash slack and move quickly forward. Your dog will get pulled against the post. Maintain pressure until your dog finds their way back on the correct side of the post. 

When your dog is staying on the correct side, on your next pass by the post, move only 1 foot away from it.

Finally, when your dog will not move to the wrong side of the post at one foot away, walk so close to the post that your dog only has the option to fall behind you to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the post.

paper Plate/Soup Can Recall Game

We utilize this drill to begin teaching recall because it has the dog leaving us and coming back, both for a reward. Recall is one exercise where we want to condition an aroused response. We want your dog to come back to you with the same amount of energy that you'd see when they chase a ball (or a squirrel!).

Relevant videos

Lesson 5: Creating Patterns, Reading your dog

Often, if we just utilize the things our dog knows and communicate with them as we've learned how to do throughout this class, there will be little more that we have to do to maintain their good behavior.

Goals

We've basically taught all of the requirements for your dog to pass the CGC test. At this point, we are practicing the specific exercises on the test and applying the trained skills that we've taught our dogs throughout our everyday lives.

Book

Read chapters IX and XIII

Down/Stay

The only "new" behavior we need to teach this week is the down/stay. This isn't required for the AKC Canine Good Citizen test, but you already know the process so why not get it done now? Simply command DOWN, and then work the stay the same way you did when you taught the sit/stay. Step away with your RIGHT FOOT, and turn to face your dog. Increase distance and duration by 1 foot and 10 seconds per day.

Common Scenarios

There are certain things that you do with your dog everyday. Make sure that you have specified patterns of behavior, and clear expectations, during each of those events. Practice consistency. Remember that variable consequences create variable behavior. And that if you want reliable (consistent) behavior from your dog, you need to provide the same reliability for them. 

  • Going in and out of the crate
  • Getting equipment put on
  • Feeding
  • Going in and out of doorways
  • Walks
  • Greeting people
  • Playing with toys

Lesson 6: Practice Test

Order and Coupling of Test Items

Here are the CGC test exercises broken down by the skills you'll use to pass them. Overall, the evaluators are looking to see that the dog is "under control", without having to "be controlled" by the handler.

  1. Heeling
    1. Friendly stranger approaching
    2. Reaction to another dog
    3. Out for a walk
    4. Walking through a crowd
  2. Sit/Stay
    1. Sitting politely for petting
    2. Appearance and grooming
  3. Tethering
    1. Supervised separation
  4. Down
  5. Recall
  6. Reaction to distraction