Tackling Doodle Enthusiasm for Meeting People

Two of the most difficult tasks for our Canine Good Citizen test will be Accepting a Friendly Stranger and Sitting Politely for Petting. Bernie's enthusiasm for greeting everyone really has no limits.

And he's deceptive in how innocent and well-behaved he looks. Over the past year, we have spent a great deal of time practicing sitting whenever people pass by or dogs approach. He knows not to react except to calmly sit down. And he rocks his sit! 

Bernie and I have been out walking and we'll pause for him to sniff. I'll be looking in one direction, and Bernie will see someone approaching from another direction. The reason I know someone is there? Bernie will sit. He looks perfectly calm and composed, so poor impressed stranger walks closer. That's when Doodle Enthusiasm unleashes and Bernie jumps up or lunges toward the person. He's not being aggressive. He just really really really wants to meet that stranger, but I'm standing there apologizing and explaining how he's in training.

 Bernie McSquare shares a moment with one of the party hosts who moved around with a motorized scooter. Bernie ignored the food on the coffee table and completely focused on listening.

Practicing at Home for CGC

Matthew and I have been practicing Accepting a Friendly Stranger and Sitting Politely for Petting almost every day with Bernie.

I'll put Bernie on the leash while Matthew decides on a persona. I walk through the house until I find a new place to put Bernie into a sit-stay. Matthew approaches channeling some off-beat person. My favorite is his uncomfortable close-talker.

With the practice around the house, Bernie has improved. At our second CGC Class, Bernie still tried jumping at our trainer Crystal because he loves her so much. Doodle Enthusiasm got the better of him, but only temporarily. He settled much more quickly during that second class. Crystal was able to approach a second time and Bernie stayed in his sit and let her pet him without totally spazzing. 

And that's when I knew that Bernie needed some real world experience to test his abilities.

Sunday Evening Casual Dinner Party

One of my retired teacher friends was having a few folks over for a casual dinner party. I asked if we could bring Bernie so he could practice meeting people. 

Our little man was pretty well-behaved. He tried jumping up to the counter to taste some of the yummy food twice. We'd tell him "uh-uh" and he'd readjust his behavior. He sniffed around the coffee table, but the only food he got close to licking was Matthew's so that's pretty par for the course. He spent time with every person at the party meeting them and getting pets.

 Bernie McSquare keeps his nose out of the food on the coffee table at the casual dinner party we attended.

Accepting a Friendly Stranger & Sitting Politely for Petting

My friend Mary Margaret and our host's dog Chewie helped me and Bernie practice meeting people. Chewie is an exceptionally good dog who mostly observed what we were doing. He didn't need any directions.

The first time Mary Margaret approached me, Bernie moved toward her. I corrected him with an "uh-uh," redirected him, and Mary Margaret turned away from Bernie, which was the perfect response. Once I got Bernie settled into a sit-stay, we tried meeting again. Bernie remained still and received a great deal of praise and a treat.

 Bernie McSquare sits still while my friend and I pretend to meet while another dog watches this practice task for the Canine Good Citizen test.

We practiced meeting about six times. Each time Mary Margaret would also pet Bernie. We started with under his chin and then we worked up to petting him on top of his head. He stood up once, which is acceptable for the test, but I would prefer he just remain in a sit-stay so I don't have a heart attack while we take the real test.

As we lost the evening light, we stopped taking pictures, but another friend practiced meeting and petting Bernie as well. Both of these friends have met Bernie before, but they haven't spent an excessive amount of time with him. He still gets excited at the idea of interacting with them, so his success Sunday night was the result of consistent practice. During our home practices this week, I'll start delaying the treats, but laying the verbal praise on even thicker.

 Bernie McSquare finds the other dog's proximity to him a bit distracting while my friend and I try practicing our meeting for the Canine Good Citizen test.
 With a little effort, I re-engage Bernie McSquare who is laser-focused on me while the other dogs relaxes into a sit and my friend is ready for our meeting so we can continue to practice for the Canine Good Citizen test.

Time for Some Upside-Down Time

 All the Canine Good Citizen practice wore Bernie McSquare out. We came home from the dinner party and he sprawled out on the couch and promptly fell asleep.

Once we got home, Lizzie greeted everyone enthusiastically. We had been gone for just over four hours.

After a bit of playtime between Bernie and Lizzie, I sat down to watch a little John Oliver. Bernie crashed out on the couch next to me.

Practicing his CGC skills, sniffing a whole new environment, and meeting new people and a new pup tuckered our guy out.

 Bernie McSquare's high level of engagement with me enabled him to ignore another dog as we practiced "Accepting a Friendly Stranger" for the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test.

How did you know when you needed to move training
from a familiar environment to a more challenging one?
Tell me in the comments.