Countdown to CGN testing August 9, 2014

So at nosework they have offered the chance to take the Canadian Good Neighbour test in August. I’m always looking for things to do with Ranger and figured it would give us something to work on at home in the obedience category (as opposed to nose work and agility training). Ranger’s day-to-day manners are passable and people comment on how ‘well trained’ he is, but looking through the list of requirements I know we have a lot of fine tuning to do. We have almost two months before the testing so hopefully we can get it worked out. The full test can be seen HERE

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

1.As the evaluator approaches, the handler may tell the dog to sit and quietly reassure the dog.
2. The handler may not hold the collar tightly or in any other way restrain the dog.
3. While it is not necessary for the dog to be sitting, it is important that the dog does not break position, move toward or interfere with the evaluator.

This I think we can do. He tends to want to move toward people to greet them, but if he’s put in a sit-stay he will hold the position. Not saying he won’t lean toward them, but we’ve had enough experience in classes and such that he’s used to people coming up to us…as long as they aren’t holding a treat bag. Will need to brush up on holding his sit when people are close enough.

Test 2: Politely accepts petting

1. The dog is to be sitting beside the handler (either left or right side is acceptable).
2. The handler may talk to his/her dog throughout the exercise.
3. The dog does not have to maintain the sitting position but must remain in place.
4. If the handler commands the dog to sit and the dog does not respond, the handler may lightly touch the dog on the hindquarters but may not physically force the dog into a sitting position.
5. The handler may not physically restrain the dog either by use of the collar or any other method.

We’ve been working on this a lot now that the summer is here and neighbourhood children want nothing more than to “pet the doggy”. Luckily, most listen that they need to wait until he’s sitting down before coming up to him and he’s been generally good about holding his position as long as they don’t dither too much. Will need to work on this more with a completely loose leash (and some willing volunteers).

Test 3: Appearance and grooming

1. The handler will provide the evaluator with the grooming tool before the test begins.
2. The dog is not required to maintain a sitting position.
3. The handler may encourage the dog during the test.
4. The handler may use light collar pressure in positioning the dog, but no physical restraint.

I’m not too worried about this part. Ranger likes being groomed and I (and others can handle his feet, tail, mouth, and ears without issue. I could see him moving his head a bit for the teeth check, but otherwise no issues here.

Test 4: Out for a walk 

1. The dog may be on either side of the handler.
2. The handler may speak quietly to the dog throughout the test.
3. The dog is required to walk near the handler without pulling or straining.
4. The leash should be loose in order to demonstrate that the dog is under control and is not being steered by the handler.
5. The handler and dog are required to walk a straight line, make at least one right and one left turn as well as a 180-
degree turn.
6. The dog is not required to sit when the handler stops walking.

Ok…so now it gets a little trickier. Ranger is pretty good about walking, but I mainly use his Easy Walk to prevent pulling. In his collar he wants to walk up ahead of me using with slack. Speaking of slack, I’ve been slacking on his LLW skills with a heel. This will need work and tonnes of reward until we get it down.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd

1. The dog may be on either side of the handler.
2. The handler may speak quietly to the dog throughout the test.
3. The dog is required to walk near the handler without pulling or straining.
4. The leash should be loose in order to demonstrate that the dog is under control and is not being steered by the handler.
5. The handler and dog are required to walk a straight line, make at least one right and one left turn as well as a 180-degree turn.
6. The dog is not required to sit when the handler stops walking.

So this is my second most worrisome part of the testing. Walking in heel on a loose leash. With BIG distractions. And no treats allowed in the testing. If we went in to do this today I think he’d spend his time bouncing from slightly ahead to slightly back depending on whether I’ve just talked to him or we’re coming to a new person. I am going to be working hard on this one and we might spend some time in downtown Halifax to work on people distractions.

Test 6: Sit/down on command and stay in place

1. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and may you more than one command to sit and down the dog.
2.  The handler may gently touch the dog in an effort to assist the dog in assuming either the sit or down position.
3. The handler may not physically place or force the dog into position. The handler may repeat a command and use signals and gestures to assist the dog as well as a light touch.
4. Once prone the dog must stay in place.
5. Once the dog is in either a sit or down position, the handler is to command it to stay, then walk away from the dog to the end of the long line.
6. Once reaching the end of the long line, the handler will turn to face the dog and without pausing return to the dog.
7. The handler is not required to walk behind the dog in returning to heel position.
8. The handler is not required to walk behind the dog in returning to heel position.

This one we have no problem; we actually do a lot of this in our training at home and while waiting for classes to start.

Test 7: Come when called (long line)

1. The dog may change position, but must remain in place when waiting for the command to come.
2. When called, the dog must come at a reasonable speed without stopping to sniff or wandering off.
3. The dog may drop its head to sniff, but must continue towards the handler.
4. The dog must come close enough for the handler to touch it but is not required to sit.
5. The dog must come close enough for the handler to touch it but is not required to sit.

This is done at a distance of 8-10 feet. My only concern is him not being able to stop haha.

Test 8: Praise/Interaction

1. The handler may use any combination of verbal praise, and playful postures, gestures or actions to engage the dog in play or in the performance of tricks.
2. When calming the dog, the handler’s voice may be firm but must not be loud or angry.
3. The handler may use more than one command to calm the dog but the dog must display an attitude of controlled behaviour following calming efforts on the part of the handler.

Rile him up and settle him down. This we can do. They say you can play, ask them for fun tricks, etc. and then you need to return to a calmer state. I figure a few spins, a back up, a couple bows is enough to get him barking and excited before a settle command. This will either be our best part of the test, or a disaster. We’ve already been practicing settle in different places so should be good.

Test 9: Reaction to passing dog

1. The handler should command the dog to hell before beginning to walk toward the other handler and dog.
2. Upon reaching the other team, the handler should command the dog to sit, thereafter greeting the other handler and chatting briefly.
3. The dog may not be restrained.
4. The dog may show mild interest in the other handler and dog but may not move toward the other dog, or exhibit shy or aggressive behaviour.
5. The handler may use additional commands to ensure a response from the dog but may not jerk or grab it.

Soooooo, yeah. This is what we need to work on so I need to enlist people with dogs to help me out. He’s not aggressive in the slightest, but is definitely going to want to say hello to the other dog and possibly the person. It would be better if I could put him in a settle (since laying down provides less options for leaning) but we’ll be working on this often in the coming two months.

Test 10: Reaction to distractions

1. The handler may command the dog to walk at heel while the individuals walk by.
2. The handler may speak encouragingly to the dog, but may not steer the dog with the leash nor attempt to restrain the dog.
3. The dog may startle but should recover quickly.
4. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity.
5.  The dog may bark once or twice.

Ladders, strollers, canes/crutches, and bears oh my! This shouldn’t be a problem for us as Ranger is pretty level about most things and has experience with people on crutches (me) and baby strollers (definitely not mine). Once again the only issue would be LLW.

Test 11: Supervised isolation

1. The dog does not have to maintain position or place with the assistant evaluator.
2.  The dog may not show signs of excessive stress.
3. Mild stress or nervousness is acceptable behaviour.

3 minutes with me in a different room leaving him with a stranger (or hopefully someone he’s met before). I am going to practice this a few times at home and in different areas, but I don’t think it should be a problem. Haven’t decided if putting him in a down would be better or if he would do better unstructured.

Test 12: Walking through a door/gate

1. The handler may talk quietly to the dog as they approach the opening.
2. If walking through the opening simultaneously, the dog should maintain a loose leash throughout and should not lunge forward in an attempt to pass through ahead of the handler.
3. In the event the opening is too small, the handler may quietly command the dog to wait (or sit and wait) while the handler goes through.

We’ll brush up on this, but Ranger is pretty good about not being pushy (we do this with the doors at home all the time). Once again, the LLW part is what we need to work on.

dog running to camera

practicing recall

In all, I think this is something that we should be able to manage so long as I take the time to practice. We might run into some hiccups along the way, but two months is a lot of time to work on 12 specific criteria (even if some of them are difficult for him). We’ve been invited to hop onto the last fifteen minutes of the obedience class directly before nose work so that will help with the people/dog portions that are more worrisome.


Mini Lessons of the Day

Today for the first time in ages I have nothing to do. No classes. No doctor’s appointments. No picking up the lil’ man from school, or visiting dogs to wrangle. I might head out later to see if I can catch a glimpse of the snowy owl that has been hanging around one of our local beaches, but days like today give the perfect opportunity to hold multiple mini training sessions with Ranger. 

Lesson 1: 

After a short warm up, we worked on non-verbal CCW TWIRL. I would say that 95% of the time he is working well turning in that direction, but occasionally he is still getting himself too excited and offering a bunch of different behaviours. Today it was going to his mat and then trying to climb the rubbermaid container in the living room. We had some solid twirls before we moved on. 

The next task was having him stand between my legs (entering from behind) and hold the position. I started by putting myself in a door way which really cut down on his ability to bypass me. After a few tries from both directions we moved slightly into the room and had some success, but I think it was pushing him too fast as he got too excitable. Move back into the doorway to end on success.

Finished with a quick game of It’s Yer Choice until we ran out of treats and he figured dog food wasn’t worth working for.  

Lesson 2: 

We started with some more work on twirl. He’s willing to complete the behaviour with hand signal, but perhaps will look at only asking for three repetitions before moving onto something else. 

Also worked on him standing between my legs and the command will be BETWEEN.  We started in the doorway again, but moved out to the middle of the room halfway through. He continued to find the mark, but started to almost overshoot the behaviour (too much dog in front of me). Started feeding the treat lower and it made it better. Even started walking with him keeping position around the living room.

Brushed up a bit on our ‘back in heel’. He remembered it quick with four really solid backs without swinging his bum around.


Ranger also got a run out with Poppy to burn some energy. About an hour with lots of zooming through the slushy snow and fighting over a chuck-it ball. He still tends to bark a lot, but worked on interrupting the barking fits and taking him out of play.  

Back to it

Despite the snow it was been a pretty good winter so far. We’ve been having our weekly Wednesday snow storms which close down most of the city (and the transit system), but the rest of the days have been filled with either bright sun with brisk temps or grey skies and spring warmth. So with our obedience course over I’ve been giving Ranger a break and using what energy and strength I have to get Ranger out to run, play, and be a dog. 



Ranger having fun while Poppy keeps her eye on the prize. 

Tonight I decided to pull out the bait bag and work on something for a few minutes while we waited for the BF to get back home. Ranger has a good concept now of backing away from me (hand and voice command) and I saw this neat video by Kikopup explaining how to teach your dog to back up beside you which you can watch HERE

After a few repetitions of backing away from me (while facing me) I put him between myself and a table to create a sort of chute. I figured out quick that it was easier to use my body leaning back to have him copy me rather than trying to lure as he was a little too interested in the treat. 

By the end of the 5 minutes, we had a pretty decent back in heel position. He tends to want to curl around behind me so I will either need to take a bigger leg step backwards to block him (which is difficult since my hip doesn’t want to really rotate on that side) or we’ll work on it slower and hope he figures it out. 

Also did some work on touch. Instead of leaving my hand where it was at the request, I moved it around me/the room so he had to actually chase it for contact. He didn’t seem frustrated or distracted by it and really followed it around. 

I’ve started creating at excel spreadsheet of each behaviour we have trained (and which we would like to in the future) so that I can keep a record of what commands I have already chosen. I don’t want a command to be too close to another one and mess us all up. The columns read:

Behaviour – Command – Started – P. In House – In House – P. Outside – Outside – Proofed

The P stands for Private meaning that we can meet our criteria without distractions being added. The difference between P. In House and In House can be as simple as having the BF in the room on the computer eating. Hopefully once the weather warms up and I am (hopefully) feeling better we can work on the Proofed column which means busy parks, outside stores, etc. For now, we’re in the livingroom. 




Skills Level 2 – Class #6 (final)

Well here we are; another obedience course finished and I am so proud of my black dog! Reading back through the previous classes has really given me and opportunity to see how far we’ve come. While I am sad that it is over, I am very excited for our next course to start up which will hopefully be within the next month. 

In our last class we worked on all the previous commands, but now we have jumps! Well, one jump. But an actual jump! Our sit-stay has improved greatly since the beginning of the course and we now worked with a 6″ jump to go over. Ranger, with his boundless enthusiasm for work, loved being off leash and trusted to do what was right. 

I must admit that I was nervous to have him off leash as I always felt that the moment we weren’t connected by something physical, he would run off to have more fun begging for playmates. I shouldn’t have worried. He likes working. He likes being near me. Our trainer loves him and even used him as the demo dog again. 



When it was our turn for the peanut station Ranger actually sat up on the ball this time for a few moments before trying to crawl onto the trainer’s lap. I really want to get him one for us to use at home. His hind leg stands have improved a lot over the course of six weeks and I feel it’s partially due to training back” and the ball. 

On the dog forum I frequent, people are talking about a weekly training competition which would give us something to work on until Agility course starts. 

This week we’re in for another snow dump (why are they always on Wednesdays) so I’m hoping to get him out tomorrow for a good hard run. Until then, it is time for us to snuggle up in bed. 


Picture can be found HERE


A man and his dog go out to a field with ball in hand. The dog excitedly waits for the ball to be thrown and burst with joy after the ball as it sails through the sky and bounces along the ground. If the dog is fast enough, it is caught before it even has a chance to bounce and the dog careens back to his owner to deposit a slimy mess at their feet. 

The sequence is followed again and again until the man’s arm is tired and the dog’s tongue hangs from his mouth with a goofy grin spread across his face. They go back home where the dog sleeps away the good exercise it just received. 

Seems simple, right? 

Ranger isn’t one of those dogs. He’s lived with us for almost 10 months now and although his interest in toys has improved greatly, fetch just isn’t his game. Sure, he’ll go after the ball and bring it back a few times…until he smells something interesting on the ground, or wants to roll, or sees a butterfly lazily making its way across the sky. And those are only the reasons that I can explain. Sometimes everything looks perfect and he runs right past it and off in the corner. 


Not talking about me, are you?

The weather here in NS seems to change every five minutes so nice weather needs to be used for as much physical exercise as possible. Lately we’ve been hitting up a nearby baseball field that has been allocated for off leash use. It’s usually empty (I’ve never turned up and there is another dog) and Ranger has the enjoyment of running full tilt through the snow, rolling around, and sniffing great things. 

Snow dolphin breaking through the surface

This week I decided to work on our fetch skills. Fetch gives a bonding experience between owner and dog while working on basic obedience. Since Ranger seems to have an idea on what fetch is all about I didn’t feel it necessary to work backwards through the chain of behaviours and instead work from where we are. 

I needed to make sure:

– dog is excited to chase the ball and is focused on me
– ball isn’t thrown too far which allows for more distractions
– make sure to encourage the dog through chasing the ball and bringing it back
– reward each ball return to me (Ranger is VERY food oriented so we used his veggie biscuit treats)
– stop before he gets bored (this is the hardest for me since I tend to push)

By allowing Ranger to move freely throughout the area as a warm up, I decreased the amount of distractions in the environment. Ranger had ten minutes (could have been longer if he needed) to check things out, wee on EVERYTHING and create some violent snow angels. 

Near the end of his free time, I started playing with the ball myself. Throwing it in the air from hand to hand while making weird noises drew him into the game. Once I was sure I had his focus I started throwing it for him following my rules outlined above. 


Ranger was interested in playing, but I found that I could keep him interested if I threw the ball a shorter distance and allowed it to bounce off the ground a few times. At the end of the first session, he got distracted and ignored the ball. I called him back to me and we went to where the ball was laying. Ranger has a solid “pick up the…” for most of his toys so once he saw it I repeated the command and he passed it to me. 

Since Ranger knows specifically what I am asking, I rewarded only with verbal praise only. The ball was thrown a very short distance and when he happily brought it back to me he received a jackpot of treats and cuddles. 

We did another short session right at the end of our time before the mini blizzard moved in and he was great. Like any command, we will slowly build up in the 3Ds (Distance, Duration, Distraction) but for now I am just happy he’s bringing it back. 

Skills Level 2 – Class 5

Last Thursday was our second to last class of the course which always makes me sad because it’s almost over, but excited that we can start a new training course soon. 

We’ve been working in a stations setting for the last couple classes. This allows for a 3 minute session on each of the equipment pieces. The teeter and wobble board are not giving him any problems and we’ve started asking for commands while on the wobble board. The ladder is still being met with absolutely no finesse (think bull in a china shop with a carrot tied from his horns) so I am thinking of making a PVC pipe ladder for use at home. The noodles just aren’t impressive enough to demand any respect. 

We had a breakthrough with the peanut and Ranger managed a sit for a few seconds before settling back into a lay down. I’m hoping that we can get one in the future to improve upon. Building up his balance, core, and hind end muscles will be beneficial for agility. 

Ranger can now be left in a sit-stay infront of two jumps (with poles on the ground) and will wait to be released once I am on the other side of them. Our break word, BACON, is sure to draw some laughs if/when we make it to competition. He is jumping onto the table, but still being lured into the down. 

While the other teams worked with the instructor for table or their sit-stays, I have started to work on Ranger’s stay proofing. I noticed in the last class that he would almost break if I tried to pass behind him. During the week we worked in several short sessions to try and desensitize him which seemed to work. In class he spun his head around to follow me, but did not break his stay. Also introduced me waving my arms (big slow circle) without him breaking. 

We ended with some Loose Leash Walking (LLW) and the tunnel. LLW really shows me the quality of his focus and the improvements we’ve made: his attention while passing other dogs remained on me and he caught be trying to change direction twice and mirrored. It also showed me our flaws and weaknesses…specifically LLW with him on the right. We managed a few good times around, but he was inclined to cross over behind me and try to hug into my left leg if we turned or he got behind at all….something to work on at home. 

The tunnel was met with Ranger enthusiasm. Our coach says that he “finds the tunnel entrance well” and “enjoys barrelling through”. Due to my back, he is held longer by her to allow me time to walk far past the exit. He doesn’t have a one sided issue with going through and will catch up on the same side as released into the tunnel. 

Next week is our last class and then we have to wait for the Agility Class 1 to start. Classes are held once they fill up, but I believe that at least three of us (from our classes of five) are going to be moving forward. 

Obedience Classes 3 and 4

My dog makes me look really good.

Like, really good. 

We’ve started putting out the stool before warm up as a distraction. Ranger thinks the minute he sees a piece of equipment that he must use it right away. Ranger’s idea of using it right away tends to be uninhibited enthusiasm which sends it flying in a whirlwind of legs tripping over each other. By working him with it just out of reach, he’s learning to leave it alone until PLACE is asked. If he plows it over or misses it completely on the first spin there is no treat. Now I’m fussier and only rewarding finesse and accuracy. 

The wobble board has been raised a little now and he has no problems moving around on it. Our mini teeter sessions have him walking from one side to the other and waiting with his hind feet on the contact (which I haven’t asked for, but is VERY welcome for a dog who likes to power through everything. 

Class 3 introduced the Peanut. While his clumsy antics had us rolling our eyes during the ladder foot awareness exercises, his “anything goes” attitude had him climb up on the ball without hesitation. The first time his legs slid over the side and had to be readjusted often, but in out Class 4 he managed a short sit before sliding into a down. Back legs were kept tucked underneath him more though. 

Unfortunately I still can’t participate in the recall games of having the dog chase you from spot to spot while you praise and reward. We did play hide-and-seek recall where I would leave him with the instructor and walk to the other room. I have to record him coming around the corner in our next class…Fast and the Furious have nothing on his drift. 

With only two more classes to go I’ve been thinking of what I should do as our next class. I want to get into agility, but realistically he’s a VERY fast dog and I can barely out-hobble a toddler. Other things I have thought might entertain us would be a rally obedience class or one of the recall perfecting class (however I may not be fast enough for that one either). 

Until then, there is snow in our future and I cannot wait to get him out to the trail days. We’ve been working on our Gee and Haw, On-By, Whoa, Hike, and Line Out. Let it snow.