Ask the Trainer | Master the doggy meet and greet
Special to the Sun
We have a 2-year-old Golden retriever named Oscar. He is a wonderful dog and very friendly with all people and dogs. The problem is he loves dogs so much that he can’t control himself. If he’s off leash, he rushes up to every dog he sees. When he’s on leash he barks and pulls. We’d like to do therapy work with him, but unless we can fix this problem he’ll never pass the CGC test.
Impolite dog-dog greetings can be dangerous. Many dogs become overwhelmed when a strange dog runs toward them and may start a fight in an effort to create distance. The Polite Greeting Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test item is challenging for many dogs, but a dog like Oscar will need considerable practice to pass.
He must learn several basic cues like “sit,” “down,” and “stay” for the CGC test so you should start with these.
Begin working in a quiet environment where he can focus and learn. Once he has mastered the cues in a controlled setting, gradually add distractions. When he can perform cues in the face of distractions, start working with another dog positioned several feet away. If Oscar is too distracted, the other dog will need to move farther away and then gradually close the distance.
Reward-based training utilizes everything a dog finds rewarding to train. In Oscar’s case, being allowed to say “hello” is a high-value reward. When he can perform requested behaviors with a dog positioned a few feet away, begin to make greetings/playtime a reward for doing what he is asked. This is like asking him to eat his vegetables before getting cake. If he does a perfect “down,” then unleash him and allow him to say “hi.”
A second exercise also uses the greeting as a reward.
Have a friend with a well-behaved dog come over to help. Stand with Oscar sitting next to you and have your friend and their dog start to walk towards you. If Oscar breaks his sit or barks, your friend should immediately turn and walk away. This is telling Oscar that his behavior has a consequence and makes the good thing go away.
Repeat the approach until Oscar can sit politely through the entire approach. Once he has mastered this, reverse roles. Your friend has his dog sit politely next to him while you approach. If Oscar loses it, immediately turn and lead him away from the other dog.
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at email@example.com.