It’s Like Cramming for Finals

We have now attended the first few sessions of an Advanced Life Skills class in preparation for the Canine Good Neighbour test. I admit to thinking it would be a breeze.  We have already completed two obedience courses and with all our training in agility, I expected this class to be a little dull. Useful, of course, but I didn’t anticipate learning anything all that new.

Shiva is by far the oldest dog in the class. At three years of age, she is practically a senior citizen. It would be kind of sad if certain things didn’t come easily for us. So far she has done really well. Sit-stays, going through gates, ignoring distractions, loose-leash walking, all of those skills are about where they should be. However, she is by no means a perfect example. The holes in our training are now glaringly obvious. I was surprised to learn how lazy I have gotten with upholding certain standards of behaviour.

It has come to my attention that perhaps my laissez-faire walking style where I let her sniff as she pleases, has not set us up for a lot of success in the classroom. Embarrassingly, she seems to pull towards interesting things on the floor – like another dog’s blanket and bag – a lot more than the adolescent dogs. It’s not a big deal and we can fix it, but it surprised me. Hopefully it won’t screw us over in the test.

Another thing I learned that might be a problem, is that I have been rewarding her far too much for her skill level. Especially in the classroom setting. I am still giving her just as many treats as I was two years ago. It will be an issue during a test in which I won’t be able to reward her at all until it’s over. Shiva has come to expect these too-frequent rewards. Rewards she shouldn’t need at this point. I worry she’ll have a meltdown or forget herself if they don’t come as quickly as she expects.

All this is proof that it doesn’t matter how good you think you are, when it comes to dog training, there is always so much left to learn. Shiva keeps me humble, that’s for sure!

There is only a week and a half until the big day. I am going to try to spend the time going over the basics and not-rewarding my dog. I know so much is going to come down to how Shiva is feeling in that moment. If she is focused and having a good day, we should do well. But if she is over-excited or anxious, there could be trouble. We will try to get there ahead of time to get her used to the tense environment and the other dogs. Maybe a trip to the dog park in the morning. She should be exercised, but not over exercised as that tends to pump her up a little too much.

It’s all we can do.

The rest will be up to her.

The whole thing probably makes me a lot more anxious than it should. Pass or fail, she’s still a great dog. As much as I want it for myself, I have to remember that it changes nothing for Shiva. It’s so weird that the only activity I have ever felt competitive about is one in which my partner doesn’t even realize exists.

I wonder what that says about me?

23 thoughts on “It’s Like Cramming for Finals

  1. Are you required by law to pass the good citizenship test? Is the good citizenship test if Shiva is to be a therapy dog?

    I treat my dogs a lot, but I am not enrolling them in anything at this point, although I really would like to get Delilah into some kind of competition.

    Try treating her every other treat and then every third then go rogue! LOL Yesterday we went walking and I forgot treats! So when the dogs returned to me, I gave them rubbies.

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    • Hahahahahaha!

      Sorry, I was just trying to imagine Shiva as a therapy dog. It would either be hilarious or really, really awful.

      Anyway, no, the only reason we are taking the test is because I want to brag about my formerly-reactive rescue dog’s progress. I just think it would be an awesome way to prove how far she has come along with promoting dog rescue.

      I have forgotten treats when walking before as well and luckily had very little issue. Perhaps it’s only me that uses them like a security blanket and not my dog!

      Good for you on handling your dogs so well!

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  2. I won’t be surprised when Shiva surprises you with her stellar test scores and passes with flying colors. You’ve both worked so hard! I’m looking forward to saying, “I told you so!”

    Happy, Waggin’ Tails, FUREVER!
    Stumpy and me

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    • I really hope you are right. But my only expectation is to have a good time. If Shiva makes me laugh, the day is a success, right? 🙂

      Thanks for the encouragement. I really do appreciate it!

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  3. A word to the wise… do not drop the treats too quickly or all at once. If you suddenly stop paying out, you will see a drop in behavior. You can do it pretty quickly but you want to start small.. reward 8 out of 10 sits (er whatever)… You can probably quickly drop to 5 out of 10 and work your way down. When you become a slot-machine (not rewarding all the time and sometimes paying big) you will actually see an improvement in behavior.

    For the actual test I work outside the facility rewarding HEAVILY right before the test so the pup can sustain during the test. Plus you can (or at lease in the US’s version) pet and reward in between sections of the test and can talk to the dog throughout the test.

    Good luck! You can do it!

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    • Thanks for the awesome ideas. I will try to remember to do that. I know we are allowed to talk to our dogs the whole time (whew!) but I am not sure about rewarding between sections. Hopefully that will be the case!

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  4. Wow, Tena has some great suggestions!

    I’ve just started rewarding Chewy with toys/tugging, because he was becoming a complete foodaholic. Don’t want that!

    Oreo, I reward everything, because he needs it to feel safe. AT agility trials, I treat all the way up to the gate entrance. He needs that to stay connected to me and not worry about all the other stuff.

    I’m sure Shiva will do great on her test.

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    • That is very similar to what I do with Shiva. It’s not because she is fearful like Oreo, more because she has a very difficult time focusing and if I don’t keep her attention on me before we begin, she is very likely to get the zoomies.

      One of the first things I am going to do with my second dog is teach the value of the tug toy right away!

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  5. I bet you guys are going to do great! I agree with Tena’s comment about phasing out treats. When Emmett took his therapy test, we actually did sort of the opposite. I “loaded” my right pocket. Basically, for the week or so leading up to the test, I gave Emmett a constant supply of treats for the simplest behaviors (sit, watch me, whatever) until it got to the point that I could put my hand in my pocket and he would run over to the heel position and look up at me. I increased the rewards – like every 5 seconds – up until we walked into the testing room. Then, during the test, each time I thought I was losing his focus, I’d put my hand in my pocket and he’d pop back into place. After about 20 minutes he realized he wasn’t getting anything, but by then we were about finished with the test!

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  6. It’s definitely hard, not giving in to your dog’s every wish! It’s like with kids, sometimes you have to be the bad guy. But I’m sure she’ll do great, and either way you’ll know that you did the best that you could. As much as some people view dogs as completely controllable, they’re still independent beings with their own personalities and we can only do so much with who they are, not who we want them to be. 🙂

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  7. Exercisefinished.blogspot.com is doing an interesting series of threads on making yourself the reward or as she says be the SUPER COOKIE!

    That is something Sophie and I need to work on as I hope to get us into the Rally ring later this year.

    Good luck to you and Shiva!

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  8. Ditto Sue. I would love for my dogs to pass the Canine Good Citizenship Test so they could become Therapy dogs. Unfortunently, we live in the middle of nowhere so training classes are a no-go. GRRRRR.

    Whoops, I am supposed to be comenting on YOUR life. Lol. But now that you know what your problems are you should have an “easier” time fixing them.

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  9. Ack, stupid thing! When I said Post Comment I didn’t really mean it! Anyway, I meant to say Shiva seems super smart so she should pick up the training in no time! (SHe must have Schnauzer in her!)

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  10. That was my hardest problem–making Miss M perform without the treats. I doubted myself and I doubted her, so I did this crazy thing where I just rubbed salami on my hands (yes, crazy) and I thought I could just let her lick my hand as reinforcement. Though, it didn’t quite work that way. You and Shiva do so much training together; I think just knowing you guys can do it will be fine. Good luck!

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    • Oh, I’ve done this, too – rub my hands in salami or hot dogs before a test. Very helpful. Justus is also prepping for his USA test. Did well at class this past Tuesday; need to work more on stays and NOT going through his sit/down repertoire in anticipation of reward – a lot of which are chest rubs and “YES!” You will do great, Kristine.

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  11. Good luck to you both! We have thought about taking the CGN test, but I don’t know how Koly/Fe would do with the “meeting another dog” test. As far as they are concerned, the only way to meet another pup is with complete and total joy and exhuberence. I am sure Shiva will do fabulous!

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  12. You won’t need it but lots of luck anyway. I’m sure Shiva will pleasantly surprise you … and if you don’t have a go you and Shiva definitely won’t get your CGN! I use a lot of treats with Frankie and Beryl but when Beryl and I did her CGC I didn’t have any with me at all and it made no difference. It’s easy to say, but just try and relax and enjoy yourselves:) And try and make sure Shiva has a comfort stop before all the testing happens, lol!

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  13. I wish Shiva all the best!!

    Like Sara, I’m thinking of rewarding Eva with toys and tugs as she’s put on weight lately. The vet has warned us that she’ll put on weight easily after spaying so we’ve to cut down her kibbles which we do. However, I’m not sure whether it’s because she’s still hungry, she’s crazy for treats. Basically, she’s willing to do whatever she’s asked as long as treats is involved. Then, her weight is rising up too.

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  14. I was thinking about how much Shiva already knows that my dogs don’t and thinking that if we had a showdown in obedience training, Shiva would win. She obviously knows a lot. I like Jody’s suggestion to treat every other time. I have learned to mix it up with praise and treats. At the dog park, treats are a no-no, so using praise has been really important.
    I used to love to teach dogs at the shelter how to bring a ball back by lavishing praise on them every time they came back with the ball in their mouth. I never made a move to grab the ball at, but just focused on praising them and petting them as a reward, gradually we would work up to “drop it”.
    I have a feeling that Shiva will surprise you with her already acquired knowledge and pass the test. I wish you all the good luck in the world so she will. 🙂

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