Time Together Important For Pets

FOCUS ON PETS

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Training is the key to successful pet ownership. People who spend time with their dogs, training, walking and playing, have a much closer relationship with them and the dog is part of the family.

Last week I mentioned the Canine Good Citizen program as a beginning step for dog obedience. Twenty state legislatures have endorsed the CGC standard. According to an article in the "Dog Nose News," animal control officers throughout the country use this standard to determine if a dog is a problem dog. Therapy dog programs use the CGC as a minimum qualification for accepting dogs into their programs and build the special needs of therapy dogs on top of these standards. Veterinarians find dogs with CGC or other basic obedience training are not only easier to work on but they are less likely to be involved in accidents and fights.

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One important lesson in the Canine Good Citizen program is for the dogs to learn to wait quietly while the handlers are visiting. From left are Dara Barth with Oliver, Dale Klausner with Gus and Denise Dingle with Sophie.

The CGC test consists of 10 elements designed to determine if your dog is under leash control and is not aggressive toward people or other dogs. The test is given by a certified evaluator. Attending classes is not required but passing scores are earned much more readily by dogs and owners who have had some training. Any dog, any age, can take the test so long as

he has received all basic immunizations. If a dog fails the test, he can retake the test as often as necessary, but not on the same day.

The 10 elements of the test are outlined here:

1. Accepting a friendly stranger. A stranger approaches and speaks to the handler, paying no attention to the dog. The dog must remain calm, show no resentment or shyness and maintain his position.

2. Sitting politely for petting. The dog sits at the handler's side and a stranger approaches and pets the dog on the head and body. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

3. Appearance and grooming. This test shows the dog's willingness to be handled and groomed. The evaluator inspects the dog to see that he is in good health, alert, clean and of good weight. The evaluator then brushes the dog, gently examines the ears and picks up each foot.

4. Out for a walk on a loose lead. This test proves that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog should be paying attention to the handler and responding to his movements and changes in direction.

5. Walking through a crowd. Showing that the dog is under control in a crowd, the dog should walk quietly at the handler's side despite a variety of distractions. The dog can show interest in people, but not jump on them or pull on the leash.

6. Sit and down on command and stay in place. The handler demonstrates that the dog will sit and lie down on command. Then the dog is told to stay in either of these positions and remain in place until released.

7. Coming when called. The handler walks 10 feet away from the dog, turns to face the dog and then calls him. The dog is on a long tether but the handler does not hold it.

8. Reacting to another dog. Two dogs and handlers approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet and then stop, shake hands and visit. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other and should not approach each other.

9. Reaction to distraction. In this test, two distractions are presented to the dog. This might be a child on a bike, a jogger, someone dropping something that makes a noise or tipping over a chair. The dog can show natural interest and be slightly startled, but may not panic, show aggression or bark.

10. Supervised separation. This shows that the dog can be left with a stranger and maintain good manners. The evaluator takes the dog's leash and the owner goes out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position, but he must remain calm and not bark or whine.

How would you and your dog fare in this test? Would you pass? If you feel that you and your pet could use a little help in attaining this basic level of obedience, an obedience class might be in order.

Training classes and obedience trainers come in many varieties. Make sure that the class you choose feels comfortable. And remember that any class will require daily practice sessions -- 15 minutes a day is minimum. You and your dog will enjoy it.

A couple of thoughts. Rattlesnakes are out early this year and there may be lots of them. There now is a vaccine available for rattlesnake bite. Check with your vet.

I have been hearing from many people who are having significant problems with their dogs and want help. We are working to put together a training program. In the meantime, if you are having a problem, contact me at cpwrather@earthlink.net and I will connect you with someone who can help. Annoying behavior problems are the main reason that dogs end up at the humane society. Get help now to eliminate that annoying behavior and allow your dog the opportunity to be a welcome member of your family and your community.

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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