A.J. is a Canine Good Citizen

August 23, 2014

This has been quite the week for A.J. I’m so proud of my boy.

A.J. spent last weekend with Phyllis at Doodle Dogs while Greg and I went to visit Greg’s brother and sister-in-law. It was really good that we didn’t bring him with us because they had thunderstorms just before we got there. The house was brand new and the yard wasn’t in yet, so their yard was all mud; A.J. would have completely muddied their new house. We did, however take him with us to the doughnut shop before dropping him off, and he behaved perfectly.

I picked him up Monday morning, then Monday afternoon we went to our final agility class. He behaved really well, and he did the all the agility exercises beautifully. Well, he did manage to run headfirst into a pole. I was telling him to go over a jump, but he was looking at me while running at the jump, and he wound up smashing into the jump pole. He was a little leery of jumps from that point on. But he shot through the tunnel with no problem.

At one point Mary, our agility trainer, was explaining to me how we were going to start training for the A-frame and asked if she could take A.J. to demonstrate. I told her yes, but A.J. had other ideas. He sat down and stared and me and refused to move. So I took the leash back and he and I managed to figure it out.

Thursday I took A.J. for his first trip to Home Depot. They must tell the employees there to pay attention to the dogs that come in, because almost all of them made a fuss over him. He loved it. And again he behaved beautifully, I couldn’t have asked for better. I was looking for spray paint and wall hangers. I didn’t know what colors of paint I wanted, or what types of hangers, so I spent quite a bit of time standing at each one. A.J. stood or sat right next to me and was perfect. He greeted people who paid attention to him, ignored people who ignored him. At one point we walked down an aisle that was really crowded with people and equipment, and we had no problem weaving our way through. When there was only room for one he hung back and followed me through. The trip was a great success.

Friday, Greg and I took A.J. to PetCo. Again, he did great. We even worked on separation from me. I told A.J. to sit and wait, handed the leash the Greg, and walked away for three minutes. A.J. stayed where I put him and didn’t make any fuss. I corrected him a few times as we wandered the aisles when he became too interested in treats or toys, but overall he once again was wonderful.

All of this was leading up to today, when A.J. was scheduled to take his Canine Good Citizen test at PetCo. Greg, A.J. and I arrived early so I could walk A.J. around with the flat collar on, give him some corrections, and get him paying attention to me before the test. Our test was scheduled for noon, so a few minutes before noon we walked into PetCo.

The store was packed, and there were dogs everywhere. There was a big line at the checkout, and Cherice, the person giving the test, was working the checkout counter. Fortunately she was very busy when we walked in and didn’t see us right away, because the test would have been over immediately.

I was walking A.J. into the store to work our way in behind Cherice and let her know we were there. As we did this, a dog lunges at A.J. and A.J. goes up on his hind legs and lunges right back. I gave him a moderate correction, then walked down an empty isle and the minute he strayed even a tiny bit he got a major correction.

At that point I’m pretty worried. I walked over and told Cherice we were there. She finished up at the checkout and had gone to get some paperwork when Jerry (Northwest K9) and his wife Martha came in.

“He already failed!”


“Well, he hasn’t started the test, but he already failed.”

I explained about the lunging. But then Cherice showed up, and we went to work.

A few weeks ago we went to a training facility where they were giving this test, and it was discouragingly easy. I was amazed at the dogs they were passing. Well, Cherice wasn’t like that, she actually made the test harder than described in the booklet. But A.J. went flying through wonderfully.

A.J. sat nicely while Cherice came up and shook my hand. Pass.

He sat nicely, then stood up the get petted when Cherice came over to greet him. Pass.

I gave her A.J.’s comb (actually, Greg gave it to her, since he had the all-important task of holding the comb) and she used it to comb his hair, then she checked his feet. He had no problem with the front feet, but he was pretty unhappy when she grabbed his back feet. She pointed out how sensitive and skittish he was, but eventually said it wasn’t a problem. Pass.

She recruited another customer with a dog to walk by and meet A.J. She chose an old dog saying “old dogs are much easier because they’re laid back and don’t really care.” After she left Jerry said “old dogs are actually much worse because they’re grumpy and don’t want to be messed with.” But either way, the dog came by, they sniffed noses, and A.J. was fine. The dog came back up and sniffed A.J. from behind, and A.J. was perfectly calm. Pass.

Next came walking nicely. A.J. had to keep a loose leash down the aisle. We had to stop at the door and he had to sit. It’s a double door, so we had to stop at the next door and sit again. Then we could turn around and come back. No problems at all. This one surprised Cherice with how easily A.J. did this, she said the dogs are always anxious to get out to the other side of the door. Pass.

The next task was walking through a crowd. We got to skip that one because the store had cleared out quite a bit, plus Cherice had seen how well A.J. had walked with me to come up behind her at the checkout counter. Again, she very fortunately missed the lunge. Pass.

Task 7: Tell A.J. to sit and wait, I go just out of sight for about 10 seconds, and come back. Then I tell A.J. to lie down, I again go out of sight for another 10 seconds, then come back. A.J. was just fine. He wasn’t happy I left, but he didn’t move. It was helpful that Jerry was there to hold the leash, since A.J. is used to having Jerry work with him. Pass.

Task 8, getting closer. We put a 20 foot leash on A.J. I told him to stay, I walked to the end of the leash, then I told him to come. He, of course, came running. Pass.

Task 9: distractions. For this we went into a small back hallway. Cherice slammed a door. She opened and closed a metal folding chair. She dropped a plastic baby gate. A.J. barely noticed. It helped that he was pretty focused on the birds in the store. Whatever works. Pass.

Now for the tough one: A.J. had to keep from panicking while I walk out of sight for three minutes. I knew we were in trouble when Cherice said she takes the dog into a small room while I walk away. I gave Jerry an “Oh no” look – I knew A.J. would have a lot of trouble with that. And, unfortunately, I was right. I took him into the room, handed over the leash, told him to Wait, then walked out and around the corner. Pretty soon I saw Jerry go in. Martha was looking concerned. Greg was looking in at A.J. and tried to put a hand up with the Wait sign. I could hear A.J. crying. Darn.

The three minutes were finally up, I came back, and Cherice described everything A.J. did. He wasn’t bad, he didn’t freak out and pull, but he cried quite a bit.

“So he didn’t pass?”

“No, I can’t pass him if he’s crying.”

So I asked, “Can we try again?”

“Oh yes, you can come back and do this one part again.”

“No, can we take it again now? Can we go out into the store? I really just think it’s the small room that’s the problem.”

“Sure, we can try again.”

Phew. Of course, now I’m worried, which isn’t helping A.J. But we walked down an empty aisle. I told A.J. “Wait,” and walked down the aisle and into the next one. Greg, Jerry, and Martha all stayed right there with A.J. Jerry was really hoping that with him right there A.J. would know he can’t get away with crying.

Well, it kind of worked. I could hear him cry, but not nearly as much. But I knew Cherice wasn’t allowing any crying, and I was starting to despair.

Jerry let me know when time was up. I came back and A.J. buried his head between my legs. Cherice talked for a while about how he’d done better, and acknowledged that he was probably still a little freaked out from the small room. So, because A.J. had done so fabulously at everything else: PASS!!!

Hurray!!! I was SO excited! We finished up the paperwork and went outside. I was just so excited. I gave everyone hugs and probably thanked Jerry at least a dozen times. I am SO happy and proud of my boy!

Greg and I had decided that if A.J. passed his test we’d celebrate by taking him out for dinner with us. We walked in and they brought A.J. a bowl of water. He was doing really well. Then we had a small problem. The restaurant has a play area for kids, and a little boy started throwing a tennis ball. A.J. lunged. I gave him what correction I could sitting there at the table, but then he started crying and pulling. I told Greg “We’ll be back in a minute.”

I got up from the table and walked A.J. out of the area, around the fence, and gave him a correction that definitely got his attention. We then walked back in. The little boy’s family told me they’d asked him to stop. I thanked them, but told them my dog needs to learn to ignore these things, and they could play with the ball if they wanted to. They didn’t, but some other kids did later and A.J. didn’t act up again.

Shortly after that someone walked in with another dog. I told A.J. to sit and he ignored me and went to the other dog. I grabbed his collar and pulled him back, which got him upset and he snarled at the other dog. After that I put him in a “Down.” We got our food, and I kept him in a down while we ate. I would occasionally give him a small piece of hamburger (Greg had immediately given him two big steak fries, which was more than enough for the whole meal), and had to put him into the down again a couple of times, but overall he had calmed down by this point and did much better while we ate.

So, not a completely successful outing, but I know now that I really need to work with him on his long down/stays.

Overall, a pretty eventful – and successful – week for my little guy.

Post Script:

To prepare A.J. for the CGC test I took him for a very long walk in the morning. We went to the park, I put the 20 foot leash on him and wandered around the park. As we had walked into the park we saw two squirrels playing in a tree. A.J. was still in a heel position at that point, and he did a great job of getting past the squirrels. On the way out I decided to leave the long leash on him and let him chase the squirrels. He climbed up the tree and went so far that I almost had to let go of the leash, so he was a good 20 feet up the tree. I was really afraid he was going to fall out, but he just turned himself around and came back down. I need to get a picture of that one of these days, it’s not often you see a dog 20 feet up a tree.