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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Getting a Canine Good Citizen Award with Your Blind and Deaf Dog

Here’s a link to learn more about the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen evaluation.  It explains the rules and exercises in depth.

There are a few considerations to think about when taking the CGC evaluation with your blind and deaf dog.  Take a few minutes prior to the test to speak with the evaluator about any modifications that your particular dog needs to be successful.  I mention some of them below.

1.        Accepting a friendly stranger.  This one probably doesn’t require any special modifications.  Your dog should remain by your side while a person approaches you, shakes your hand and spends a minute or two talking to you.  

2.       Sit politely for petting.  I spoke with my evaluator ahead of time as to which touch cues I would be using with Treasure.  Touching your dog is allowed during the test, but forcing the dog is not, so I wanted to be sure she recognized that my touching Treasure was actually for the purpose of giving her cues.  I gave the touch cue to sit and then I put my hand lightly on Treasure, which is her cue that someone else will be touching her so she doesn’t startle.  Then the evaluator pets her.

3.       Appearance and grooming.  I brought my own brush and again, this really didn’t require any modification for Treasure.  I touched her lightly to let her know someone else would be touching her and she stood calmly for the grooming and examination.

4.       Out for a walk.  I did discuss modifications on this exercise ahead of time.  Treasure walks with me on both a regular leash and a solid leash.  I felt the solid leash would be more suitable for a situation walking close to me and moving around through a crowd of people and distractions. It allows me to keep her closer and give her clearer signals.  I discussed both options with the evaluator and she agreed with me that the solid leash made more sense in this situation.  We had to show walking together with left, right, and about turns, and two halts.

5.       Walk through a crowd.  Well, it’s a small crowd of several people milling around.  This is when the solid leash came in handy.  Because Treasure is small, it isn’t comfortable or feasible for me to walk hunched over to keep her out of harm’s way and close to my leg.  The solid leash allowed me to give her cues quickly and easily to keep her from getting trampled or tripping anyone since she can’t see them approaching. 

6.       Sit and down on cue and staying in place.  Treasure had to show response to both a sit and down cue.  These cues are again done by touch.  I was allowed to choose the stay position, so I chose a down for this part.  After giving her the cue to stay, I walked away for 20 feet and then turned and came back.  Treasure had to stay down when I returned to her until I told her she could get up.

7.       Come when called.  I use a cue of blowing toward Treasure for her long distance recall cue.  I did discuss this with the evaluator ahead of time as well.  If it’s a breezy day and the test is held outside, it may be worth asking if you can start up close to your dog to give the recall cue and then move backwards, continuing to call your dog, until you reach the 10 foot mark. 

8.       Reaction to other dog.  You and another handler (with a dog) will approach each other.  Your dog must stay by your side and not be overly interested in the other dog while you and the other handler talk for a moment and then continue on your way.

9.       Reaction to distraction.  This is something your evaluator may wish to discuss with you ahead of time.  The crowd may need to alter their distractions a bit.  Some of the distractions used for Treasure’s test were dropping items close to her so she could feel the vibration, banging pans near her – also to produce a vibration, passing very close to and brushing up against Treasure unexpectedly, and running past her while stomping feet heavily.

10.   Supervised separation.  The evaluator will hold your dog’s leash while you leave the area for three minutes.  Your dog is not supposed to be overly upset.  I didn’t need to ask for any modifications for this part.  If your dog is likely to get upset about being left with a stranger, you may want to train in a special cue that lets your dog know that you will be returning.  You can then practice with your dog until it can wait calmly for you to return. 

 I hope this gives you an idea about what’s involved with getting the Canine Good Citizen award with your dog.  Treasure and I hope that you will consider pursuing this award with your blind-deaf dogs as well. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Treasure Earns Her CGC!!

At the NCSR sheltie reunion picnic, Treasure passed the CGC (AKC’s Canine Good Citizen) evaluation!  This had been one of my goals when I first started doing some formal training with Treasure.  I had been sloppy about teaching the stay exercise because it was difficult for Treasure and we rarely had use for it.  But when I got the announcement that CGC would be offered at the picnic, I thought, hmmm …what would be a better place for Treasure to strut her stuff than at the picnic?  So I sent in my paperwork and got to work! 
Her other skills were good because we use them frequently … walking nicely on a leash, sit, down, good behavior with other dogs and people, body  handling and grooming, coming when called, etc.  But that pesky stay … that one would be harder.  Getting the initial stay as I stepped away from her was the hardest part.  I could get her to stay with me right next to her, but that first step away was just too much and she moved to come with me every time. 

Remaining in a sit position for a long period of time is hard for Treasure.  I think this must stem from the spinal issues she had when she first came to me.  Even though she knows the cue for sit and will do it readily, I still (two years later) very rarely see her sit on her own unless she is on her way into a down position.  She will usually go directly from a stand to a down and then back to a stand.  With the CGC, I knew I could choose either a sit or a down stay, so I chose to focus on the down stay. 
With lots and lots of practice, we finally achieved the down stay while I took a few steps away from her.  Then I found the rest of the exercise to go very quickly and easily.  With my dogs that can see, adding distance can be a tough thing for them because they can see me leaving and getting farther away.  With Treasure, once I was a few steps away, I found that I could very quickly go as far away as I wanted to and she would stay in place.  She knew I was away from her, but I don’t think she could tell just how far away I was. 

We then practiced for longer periods of time and with me leaving her in different directions.  We practiced in new places and indoors and outdoors. The hardest time for Treasure to practice was right before mealtime.  She knows that it’s time to eat and she will rush to her crate and wait impatiently for her bowl to appear.  Practicing a down stay outside of her crate at mealtime really tested her knowledge of the cues and her self-control, but it also showed me that she did understand.
Finally, on the day of the picnic, I wondered how she would perform.  I knew that she understood the cues and exercises.  But I also knew that Treasure certainly has a mind of her own!  If she decides to do something, she rarely stops until she finds a way to do it.  If she decides NOT to do something, there isn’t much I can do to convince her otherwise! 

But I didn’t need to worry at all.  She was perfect!  I think she surprised the evaluators, and she delighted her friends and fans!  When we finished the evaluation, they cheered for her!  Congratulations Treasure!! 
Now, on to the next goal … what will it be?? 

Treasure and I celebrating that we passed the CGC!