Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Art of Dog Training

Those of you who have worked closely with my dogs and I know what a total wreck I am about showing them. I get terrible ring nerves and loathe testing them; however, I like having titles. It’s a terrible conundrum. In an effort to soothe my anxiety, I always over prepare. In the name of over-preparing for Rubi’s BA test, I ran the BA test with Piper Ann and Maus earlier this month, and the MA test with Piper - just because we could.

Like the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test, the APDT BA test is divided into ten-ish exercises. In each level, there’s also and extra two exercises to be completed as “extra credit” as it were. Accomplishing these allows you to pass “with honors” on the BA title. For the entertainment of my blog readers, I video taped Maus’s BA test.

1. Wait at the Door: This is the only exercise I didn’t get on video. So picture this: we approach the door. Maus sat (dogs don’t have to sit, but a sit-stay is easier for Maus just a “wait”). I opened the door. Maus gave me a bored look. I released Maus to go through the door. He was happy. Ta-da! First exercise passed.

Warm-Up Time: The goal of the APDT C.L.A.S.S. program is to recreate real life skills, as opposed to the CGC which was created as a stepping stone to competitive obedience. Since this is real life and not a dog show, you’re allowed a five minute warm-up period to use to, well, warm-up. Treats are allowed during the warm-up and between exercises. Maus and I used the warm-up time to check out the building as he had never been there before.

2. Come and Leashing Up Manners: Maus is attached to a long line to prevent him from doing fun doggie stuff (ie., zoomies, eating things, running away). I walk ten feet away and call him. Maus is thrilled to run away from the stranger and come let me put his leash on. During her MA test, Piper Ann figured out that the stranger had food and was waaaaay cooler than me. Dogs are finicky creatures. She came . . . eventually.

3. Loose Leash Walking and Attention: My dogs consistently rock at loose leash walking. I seem to be able to train “heel” pretty dang well. Part of this section of the test is that your dog has to give you two seconds of eye contact somewhere in there. This was not a issue for us. After Piper’s run through this exercise, the evaluator jokingly asked if we could do it again only with the dog looking away. Alas, “looking away” is not one of our crazy awesome skillz, man.

4. Meet and Greet: Dog must stay in position while stranger comes within five feet and asks to greet your dog. One of my favorite parts of the BA level of this test is that I can say, “no, thanks, not today” – JUST LIKE IN REAL LIFE! I am sure Maus was happy that I did not make him get fondled by the stranger.

Bonus 1: Trick: The first honors exercise is a rollover, spin, shake, fetch, or speak. I chose “shake” for Maus. Then he kissed my face because we love each other (and I taught him to do that, too . . . we do not get extra honors for doing extra awesome tricks).

5. Leave it: “Student walks with their dog by three items and student diverts dog’s attention from the items.” Nailed it.

6. Wait for the Food Bowl: Maus waits for the food bowl to be set down, and to be released, before chowing down on yummy goodness (aka, Natural Balance Dog Food Rolls). We only practice this twice a day . . . for four and a half years. With raw meat in the bowl. I would have been really sad if he hadn’t passed one.

7. Stay: Dog sits or downs for one minute while handler chats with the evaluator. My favorite part of the video is watching Maus’s ears twitch during the stay. Any moment, I expect him to speak up and tell me what he really think about my collar obsession.

8. Settle: Dog settles in a down (does not have to be on a mat, but, heck, why not?) for one minute while handler sit next to dog. I screwed up, and Maus was great anyway. I should’ve sat next to him in a chair, which is my general “make yourself comfy, I’m going to be a while” cue. Instead, I sat next to him on the floor, which is my general “come sit in my lap and pretend you’re a giant, eight pound yorkie.” Maus was confused, but settled anyway. Good dog. Bad owner.

9. Give and Take: Maus gets a high-value chewie. I let him get into it, and then I trade him for a Natural Balance cookie. Maus is confused. And sad.

Bonus 2: Trick of Student’s Choice: Maus rolls over. Yay, Maus!

And that was Maus’s BA with honors title. Piper Ann also passed the MA with honors, so it was a good day’s work. Overall, The BA was a little easier than I’d anticipated. Rubi might actually be able to pass this with just a little brushing up on the basics.

If the moon isn’t full . . .

And Venus isn’t in retrograde . . .


  1. That sounds great! Definitely better than CGC... mostly because I think Skye could pass nearly every part already. Good luck Rubi!

  2. Congrats!!! It sounds like a cool test and harder in some aspects than the CGC, just minus the other dog reaction.