Therapy Dog Training (Animal Assisted Therapy)

calvin is a certified therapy dog

How to Train Your Dog to Become a Therapy Animal

Therapy dog training is lots of fun. Once your dog becomes a certified therapy animal they’ll make so many people smile. There are lot of great therapy dog programs such as PetPartners, Therapy Dogs International (TDI), Love on a Leash, ect. These programs fall under the category of “Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)”.  One of the most heart warming things is hearing that your dog has made someone’s day…or month. Some dogs are able to get patients to speak after they haven’t uttered a word in months – they are natural healers and spread love to all. Spreading joy is the goal of every therapy dog and indicative of a job well done.  Therapy dogs help those who need them most and have a lasting impact on the people they visit.  Both our dogs are Therapy Dogs through the SF SPCA so we want to share everything you need to know to turn your pup into a certified healer. The world needs more therapy dogs!

What is a Therapy Dog? Is a Therapy Dog a Service Dog? 

As per Wikipedia, the definition of a therapy dog is as follows: “A therapy dog is a dog that might be trained to provide affection, comfort and love to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with anxiety disorders or autism. [Unlike service dogs], they are NOT covered or protected under the Federal Housing Act or Americans with Disabilities act. They also do NOT have public access rights with exception to the specific places they are visiting and working.” In short, therapy dogs have very important jobs, but they are not considered service animals and only have access rights in the facilities where they are doing their job.

What are the requirements for a therapy dog? What is the therapy dog certification process?

I want to say that therapy dogs are born, not made but the truth is that a certified therapy dog will be a mix of both. There are legal requirements and testing for dogs to start volunteering as Therapy Dogs. First of all, dogs are required to be at least 1 year old before their first visit.  Dogs will be dealing with a variety of people – the elderly, mentally ill, incarcerated, young children, terminally ill, immune compromised, so the therapy dog organization has very high liability for the dogs they accept into their programs. Dogs need to be able to handle any new sights and sounds. Organizations conduct a series of evaluations to ensure that your dog will be a good fit.

Temperament: Your dog’s natural temperament will be most important – therapy dogs can have absolutely no history of snapping at a human. None. Ever. End of story. Do they snap over resources like food? Do they growl at people in costumes? If a dog has ever snapped, there is no way to be sure they won’t do it again. The dogs need to be comfortable approaching new humans of every ethnicity, size, height, ect. They need to be ok with erratic movements and unpredictable human tendencies.  Additionally, they need to be comfortable being touched, hugged, and prodded without losing their cool. Your dog should LOVE human interaction no matter who reaches out to them.

Training: Temperament will be the most important evaluation factor but training is an additional component.  Most programs require passing the 10 part Canine Good Citizen Test especially if the dog is planning to visit hospitals or schools.  If your dog is able to successfully pass the CGC test, they’ll have mastered all the commands they need for therapy dog evaluations. This includes things like sit/stay, down/stay, loose leash walking, ignoring distractions, leave it ect.

therapy dog training includes testing such as the canine good citizen test

What was your Therapy Dog Evaluation Process?

Every organization will have a different process so below you will find how our organization handles evaluations.  Our dogs were certified through the SF SPCA but some organizations such as Therapy Dogs International do the entire process in one day.  Both our dogs passed the CGC test series before starting the program but our program only required the CGC test for specialized facilities and the children’s reading program. We knew we wanted to be able to volunteer at any facility so we passed the tests before starting the program.

We started by attending an orientation to learn more about the program, evaluation process, and testing.

Preliminary Evaluation for Therapy Dogs
Next, we went through a preliminary canine evaluation.  This included a few parts:

1. Reaction to holding of paws, ears, tail, restraining hugs, looming stares. Does your dog have any “sensitive spots”? (they should not).
2. Sit/stay, down/stay (in a later evaluation this will be testing as a 20ft stay)
3. Touch command
4. Leave it – dog is off leash and a high value treat is thrown at the dog. Dog must leave the treat via voice command without any contact from the handler.
5. Ensure the dog will voluntarily go up to the evaluators for petting without jumping up (evaluators try to rile up the dog so make sure your dog can handle that without losing his cool).

Training Series/Additional Evaluations for therapy dogs
After passing the preliminary evaluation, we started the training series, which included two more evaluations in a class setting with other dogs.  The evaluators wanted to see the dogs a few times to make sure that their good behavior was consistent. They retested the preliminary evaluation, made sure the dogs could work around other dogs, tested reactions to loud sounds (blow horn), and reaction to mobility equipment. The mobility equipment section included waving around canes, tapping crutches, and acting erratic. Additionally, they dropped the equipment to see the pup’s reactions and whether the dog would be able to recover quickly and still greet the patient after being caught off guard.

Mentored Visits
Before being officially certified, we practiced out into the field with our dog and a mentor. Our mentor watched us at a 2 different visits to ensure that the dog was ok with all types of environments.

Shadowed Visits
We shadowed others dogs in the program to see how other volunteers handle visits.

Therapy Dog Graduation!
Our graduation/final evaluation was a group visit at the nursing home with all the other dogs in the program.
therapy dog graduation

How do I Start Therapy Dog Training? Where Can I Find a Program Near Me?

Legally, Therapy Dogs are tested and evaluated through an organization. The organizations handle testing, evaluations, and insurances costs. Click here to find a list of the recognized Therapy Dog Organizations near you.

How can I prepare my dog to become a therapy dog?

Loud noises, unfamiliar sights, a variety of surfaces
A therapy dog should be desensitized to any unfamiliar things they may see or hear.  Luckily, you can prepare for this by making sure your pup is desensitized from an early age.  You can prepare them by exposing them to costumes, hats, glasses, grates, tile, gravel, carpet ect so they will be familiar with things they may encounter on their visits.  Desensitization will take time if your pup is wary, but can be successfully completed with patience. Repetition and positive reinforcement will help to desensitize.

Mobility Equipment
Therapy dogs MUST be comfortable around mobility equipment and will be tested on this. This includes walkers, canes, wheelchairs, crutches as well as the movement that these will have.  If an elderly man waves his cane in your dog’s face, how will the pup react? During testing, evaluators want to make sure the dog will happily come up to the evaluator even if they are using the equipment in a weird or crazy way. Borrow equipment from family and friends to practice familiarity with mobility equipment.

Leave It
Your pup will need a strong leave it command to pass these evaluations.  This is because food, pills, medical solutions will be all over the facilities you visit.  Sometimes patients may try to feed things to your dog that could make them sick. Your pup needs to be able to reliably respond to your command to stay safe.  Our organization tested leave it by walking towards Calvin (while he was off leash) and throwing a very high value treat towards him.  He was required to ignore the treat via voice command and stay in control (i.e still focused on the human). Practice makes perfect – practice in a variety of contexts until your dog gets it.  Can you recall your dog back to you without him snatching that treat?

No Jumping
A pup who cannot keep all 4 on the floor during exciting times will not pass the evaluation. If your pup is still young, help him out by tiring him before socializing with strangers. Jumping up can be a tough behavior to crack, especially since most of the times the dogs are just jumping because they are super friendly and would otherwise be the perfect therapy dogs!  We have some info here about how we taught Calvin to stop jumping up on strangers.

No Teeth
Pups love to mouth – chances are that if you play rough with your dog they’ll bring out their teeth even when they are older.  Even though this is generally harmless, if can be frightening to people who are not used to your dog.  It’s important to make sure your dog learns that it is not socially acceptable to mouth while they are being pet or riled up.  You can practice by riling your dog up and correcting them if they mouth at you to teach that teeth never belong on human skin even in a loving way.

Ignore/work around other dogs
Your dog should be able to coexist with other dogs – you’ll be with other dogs during training and potentially on some visits.  If your dog isn’t able to ignore the other dogs, they will not be able to help the humans!

Touch/go say hi command
We don’t let Calvin randomly go up to people on the street and say hi since some people don’t want dogs all up in their business. This will also be the care on visits – not all patients in the room want the dog to get too close to them. Because of this, we have taught him the “touch” and “go say hi / go get em” command.  This is essentially his release command letting him know that he can go and say hi to the person who is comfortable with dogs.

How can I make the therapy dog process better for my dog?

You know your dog better than anyone and will be your dog’s biggest advocate. You are entirely in control of the situation and can let people know if your dog has had enough.  You should be familiar with your dog’s signs – excessive yawning, lip licking, hair raising, ect.  If you are familiar with how your dog behaves when they have had enough, you need to end your visit before anything gets out of hand.  This is totally ok! Everyone has an off day from time to time but it is up to you to make sure that your dog’s off day does not escalate into a career ending situation. End your visit if you sense your dog is getting uncomfortable.

What was the hardest part of becoming a therapy dog?

Calvin: Every dog is different and has different challenges.  For Calvin, we weren’t worried about any of the obedience parts of the evaluations as he had already aced the CGC test months earlier – this will be different for EVERYONE so try not to compare your pup to others (this is hard, I know!).  Calvin’s biggest challenge is harnessing his extra energy – he was 1.5 yrs old…so we were most concerned that he wouldn’t be able to settle quickly enough.  We think that his really strong obedience plus making sure to exercise him was the best way to set him up for success. He was able to immediately relax for all his evaluations and blew us away!

Samson: With Samson, the biggest question mark during evaluations was that we weren’t sure if he would be interested in getting attention from other humans. We knew that his mellowness & obedience would be great for any type of facility, but we weren’t sure if he would actually enjoy the job of giving other people attention. Samson is generally focused only on me, so we worked on teaching a “go say hi” command as a release word to go and greet people around him. Turns out, Samson is a natural healer and was more than happy to lend a paw. Samson was fully trained and evaluated as a Therapy Dog just 2 weeks after his 1st birthday and his first official visit went perfectly. Again, you know your dog best so you will be able to set them up for success in whatever way works best for them.


Free hugs for all!
-Your Pal Cal
calvin the therapy dog after his training

Impulse Control Dog Training: Teach your dog to “Wait” and “Leave it”

Impulse Control Dog Training

Leave it and wait dog training is very important for a well trained dog with impulse control. Impulse dog training is important for safety and harmony. Teaching impulse control to a puppy is challenging!

One of Calvin’s most reliable commands is “Wait” – wait at doors, wait before entering the elevator, wait before eating, wait before taking a treat.  Building up the wait command takes a very long time.  It wasn’t until about a year that Calvin could reliably hold 10 slices of bacon on his face without moving a muscle.  We can now leave his food bowl in front of him, leave the room for 5 minutes and he will still be waiting patiently (ok…impatiently) when we get back.  This command is great for impulse control, and one of our most used commands.

Training your dog to Leave It vs Wait

Teaching a dog to leave it similar to teaching a dog to wait, but not exactly the same. There is a small but important distinction between the way we taught the “wait” and “leave it” commands. “Wait” means don’t touch it or move until told.  “Leave it” means don’t touch it or look at it. Ever. With “leave it” the dog learns that the command is final and they should just forget about whatever it is they are focused on.  With “wait” they will eventually be released and given an ok.  This is an important distinction to make because if your pup thinks that “leave it” means they will eventually be allowed to grab….a chicken bone off the ground….they will remain fixated on it and will be more likely to grab it when you turn around.

Start Small

We started teaching wait the day we brought Calvin home – he has always been expected to wait before eating his food.  This is a very common command, but needs to be generalized if you want your pup to be able to hold treats on their nose.  You’ll have to start with one second..and then build up to more time.  With the food bowl, we covered the bowl with our hands until he moved away from it.  If we released our hand and he would go for the food, we would cover the bowl again and say “wait”. It is common for the dog to paw your hands here and we had many scratches to prove it. We repeated this until he could wait a few seconds before digging in.

fullsizeoutput_263 (1)

Build Up

After a few weeks of waiting to dig into food, we started introducing “wait” with treats and waiting longer before starting to eat meals (Calvin was about 3 months old).  We started with just one treat on the ground in front of him (not on his paws yet!). We covered the treat with our hands and said “wait.”  Again, It is common for the dog to paw your hands here but don’t let them think that they can paw their way to what they want. Once the dog is done pawing and has calmed down, you can lift your hands and let them have the treat.  Once they learn to stop pawing at your hand as a first instinct, you can slowly lift your hands up a little bit off the ground and say “wait.” They will be able to see the treats but won’t be allowed to have them yet.  Let them have the treat with an “ok” and repeat the process – as the dog gets more comfortable you can lift your hand up higher above the treats.  Eventually you will be able to use the word “wait” and “ok” as the command and release while the treats aren’t covered by your hands.  For the first few months, you will have to be ready to cover up the food or treats to reinforce that “wait” means no yummies until told.  Another tip is to wait until the dog looks at you to release them – that way you know your dog is looking to you for direction instead of just focusing on the treat.  Once the dog understands the general concept, don’t let them have the treat until they check in with you and make eye contact.

Next up: when you dog has mastered waiting while the treat is in front of them, you can try putting the treat on their paws.  Be prepared to swoop in and cover the treat if they try to go for it.  Repeat the process on their nose or any other place you want to have them hold a treat.  If the treat drops on the ground, grab it before they can so they do not think that they can break the “wait.”  Eventually, you will be able to command your dog to wait no matter how close the food is to their face.  This process takes time to master so be patient.


dog sitting with a pile of cheeseburgers from inn and out

Have a release word for your dog

We use the word “ok” as the release word.  Other words we’ve heard used are “release”, “free”, “go.” To make sure your dog understands the release word and isn’t just responding to random words, you can test out words and make sure your pup only digs in when they hear the “ok.” We like to say a string of words that are similar to “ok” so that Calvin knows that the only word that releases him is “ok,” no matter how similar other words may sound.

Reward your dog during training sessions

Luckily, “wait” is easy to reward.  The reward is being released! For “leave it”, we personally do not use rewards.  We consider “leave it” to be a non-negotiable command (our other non-negotiables are loose leash walking and “stay”).  Our decision not to use treats for “leave it” is a personal choice that works best for Calvin.  Sometimes, Calvin is too clever for his own good – “leave it” for a treat is cool most of the time, but when there’s a yummy bird, or something more exciting than a treat, he prefers the distraction to the treat. When we realized this, we turned “leave it” into a non-negotiable command and used the gentle leader to pull his head away from the distraction (and towards us) when he was too fixated on something.  Over time, “leave it” came to mean, “look at me. No ifs or buts.” This took time but we have found him to be a lot more consistent in the long run than when we used treats.

Patience is a virtue,
-Your Pal Cal

Heel Training: Training Your Dog to Walk Nicely on a Leash


dog sitting in front of a letter board sign while wearing glasses

labrador dog sitting in front of a letter board sign


Walking your dog on leash at a heel does not have to be a constant battle.  In fact, with a few simple steps you can teach your dog to stop pulling on the leash and walk nicely at a heel.  Teaching your dog to heel while on the leash will help eliminate the tension of them walking ahead of you. We have found some pointers effective for teaching our dogs to walk on leash without pulling and would like to share them!

Are you walking the dog, or is the dog walking you? For many, this is the hardest nut to crack.  Luckily, there are many training tools that can help you master the walk. The process is very long, and may even take up to a year! With consistency & persistence, even the most distracted pups can learn to move with you. Please note, we are not professionals in any way and we highly recommend that you work with a professional about your particular issues.  We are sharing our experience but this may not work for everyone. 

How do you know if your dog is walking nicely on leash?

Dogs are curious creatures – they love to sniff, they love to look at birds, and they love distractions.  Each time they get sidetracked, they are signaling that you no longer have their attention.  While on walks, you ought to be seen as the your dog’s role model.  Your dog can do their business, sniff a thing or two, but they don’t need to stop and sniff every few minutes.  You (the human) have places to go! Places to be! On the ideal walk, your pup remains focused on you as much as possible.  They walk by your side (on a flat!), and look to you for guidance whenever they hear a loud noise, see a distraction ect. A great goal to work towards is to be able to achieve this all with a handsfree leash!

Choose your training tool for leash training your dog

We tried a few training tools before we found the best one for our needs.  Our tool of choice ended up being the gentle leader which has now transitioned into the martingale collar.  This allowed Calvin to know when he had walked too far without putting any strain on his neck or hurting him.  Please investigate pain free training tools available to decide which you think would be best for your needs.  It is important to note that training tools are just TOOLS, they must be used with some sort of positive reinforcement to ensure that your dog understands what behavior you want from them.  With the gentle leader, the first “correction” we used was just stopping in our tracks every time Calvin got ahead.  Sometimes, we would pull the leash just one quick time (be gentle, don’t hurt!). Now, we use the word “nu uh” to let Calvin know when he has walked too far and he corrects himself.  Be sure to praise your pup when they do the right thing – treats can work great, but for us, Calvin responds a lot better to praise and “yes” to know when he has done something great. Treats actually make him more excited and likely to pull ahead after he has popped one in his mouth.  Lucky for us that keeps the weight off since praise is enough for him.

Practice, practice, practice

There’s no trick – new behaviors take a LONG time to learn especially if your dog has been wired to behave a certain way.  It’ll take a lot of practice to rewire them to walk the way you’d like.  This means endless hours, maybe some tears, and potentially a lot of frustration.  If you are aiming for the ideal walk, you may be looking into almost a year of practice.  Even though Calvin now knows what we expect of him during walks, there are times where we need to remind him that he has gone “too far.” We expect this process to continue for at least a year before he is near-perfect in all situations.

Don’t allow failure

This is the hardest part because it can take FOREVER to get places.  When we committed to fixing Calvin’s walking on leash we began with very short walks to ensure that he didn’t fail.  It once took us a whole hour to walk a few blocks.  Every time that you allow your dog to step in front of you, you are reinforcing that they are allowed to do so.

Don’t let your dog pull on the leash: Walking is non-negotiable

We followed the non-negotiable mentality on the walk.  It was all or nothing and Calvin could not make the decisions on his walks.  To go on a walk, he was expected to walk by our side and check in with us.  After TWO MONTHS of our non-negotiable attitude towards walk and support from our trainers, we have a dog that walks on our side on a flat collar and self corrects if he walks too far ahead.

Start transitioning away from the training tool

Once your dog understands how to walk using the training tool, start transitioning to a martingale collar.  This collar will tighten itself as the dog gets ahead letting him know he has gone too far.  If your dog is having a bad day, stick to the gentle leader so they can have a successful walk.

Pre-empt exciting situations and set your dog up for success

We have transitioned 85% of the time to the martingale/flat collar and the other 15% we use the gentle leader.  The gentle leader is kept for exciting situations such as the beach, waterfront walks, the airport, or if Calvin is having an off day.  As a rule, he has stopped pulling but will sometimes forget if he is in a very stimulating environment.  To not undo any training, if we pre-empt an exciting walk, we use the gentle leader.  Even though we will start with the gentle leader, if he is being calm in the exciting situation, we finish the walk on the flat collar.

Persistence & Patience,
Your Pal Cal

calvin the dog sitting in front of a felt letter board sign

How to Pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test

How do you prepare your dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test?

Passing the Canine Good Citizen Test – Preparing Your Dog

Preparing your dog to pass the CGC Canine Good Citizen Test doesn’t have to break the bank or run your patience.  Review all the Canine Good Citizen test items to be best prepared. The unique challenge of the CGC test is that it is taken on a flat collar with absolutely no treats. It consists of ten steps and successful completion of each one is required. Completion of the test is considered the gold standard of pet ownership. Successful completion indicates that your pet is under your control and recognizes you are the authority figure of your pack. Luckily, with a little bit of practice you can get your pet ready to pass. Training for this test can be frustrating and may be a long process depending on how much your pup needs to learn – you can do it! Don’t worry if your dog is having a bad day – you can retake the test as many times as you want! Note: you do not have to be AKC registered to be an AKC Canine Good Citizen – any dog of any breed can succeed and get CGC certified.

What are the requirements for the Canine Good Citizen test? CGC Test Items:

Why test basic obedience with the CGC test?

The AKC considers this test an indicator of a well behaved dog (see their page here). Everyone thinks they have the best dog, and they are right – all dogs are great but that does not mean they are able to adapt to new situations & consistently follow directions. This test is a very honest and objective evaluation of your dog’s behavior and is a great indication of what skills you can continue to work on. CGC certification is required for therapy dog programs but we strongly believe that it should be a requirement for all service and ESA work as well – does an ill behaved dog really provide a service to help its handler? (some may disagree but that is our take on the matter).

Can you retake the Canine Good Citizen Test?

Absolutely – in fact many dogs don’t pass the first time. Try not to be nervous since your dog can sense that and may not perform if it does.

How much does it cost to take the Canine Good Citizen Test?

This will depend on where you live.  Our K9 Good Citizen Test cost $20 to take at the local SPCA.

How old does a dog have to be to take the CGC test?

A dog can be any age to get their CGC title.

How do you prepare your dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test?

We can’t take credit for most of the preparation. We called in professionals to help us get Calvin on the right track and he learned how to “dog” over months of work with certified trainers. Additionally, we completed a CGC prep class to familiarize ourselves with the process. Good citizen training can be done with trainers or at home. Look up “Canine Good Citizen Class” or “Canine Good Citizen Tests Near Me” or “CGC Dog Training” to find more information in your area. These resources are also great for therapy dog training.

What are the requirements for the Canine Good Citizen test? (CGC Test Items):

1. Accepting a friendly stranger
You will be approached by a stranger – the dog is expected to stay at your heel and not lunge towards them as you exchange pleasantries. This can be especially challenging for those extra friendly puppers.

2. Sitting politely for petting
Although it is preferred for the dog to remain seated for this, it is ok for the dog to stand up for petting as long as it doesn’t jump on the person or get into their personal space.

Practice: We practiced 1 & 2 together. If strangers on the street wanted to pet Calvin, we asked them to walk away from us and approach us. We explained that he was in training which led to chatting about what we were training him for. Then, I would tell the stranger that they could pet him. If he tried to get into their personal space, we walked away and tried again. Strangers were very willing to help us with this!

3. Appearance and Grooming
You will bring your own grooming tools and the evaluator will brush your dog. They will also look into his ears and lift up its paws. The goal of this section is to ensure that your dog does not have any sensitivities on this body that make it reactive or uncomfortable.

Practice: You are likely already brushing your dog a few times per week so they should be familiar with the brush. If not, introduce the brush with treats. For paws, it’s a good idea to teach your dog to shake so that the evaluator can easily touch their paws with a shake.

4. Out for a Walk Loose Leash
You will be evaluated as you walk with your dog on a flat collar and loose leash. Tension is ok at times but it must be clear that your dog is focusing on you and listening to commands. You will be asked to stop, speed up, slow down, u turn, turn left, and turn right. Your dog will be expected to stay focused on you.  The evaluator will give you the directions as you are out for a walk and you must be quick to react to them.

5. Walking through a crowd
You’ll walk your dog through a “crowd” of 2 people while on a loose leash.

We practiced 4 & 5 together. Since your dog will be on a flat collar, this part is potentially difficult if you haven’t been working on walking this way. It took many weeks for Calvin to become 95% reliable on a loose leash. If your dog has difficulty on a flat collar, it will take time to re teach them out to walk on leash. Some helpful commands: heel – to keep your dog on your heel, here – if your dog falls behind you can call it back to catch up, touch – you can redirect your dog’s attention to your hand if they start getting distracted.

6. Sit, down, stay (20ft)
You’ll put your down in a sit, then down, and command him to stay. You’ll walk away with your back to him for 20ft, turn around, then release him.

Practice: If your dog has had basic obedience training it is likely already capable of these commands. The challenge is that there are no treats to get him to listen – the best way to practice is to go through these motions in multiple different scenarios – at the Park, in your hallway, on the street ect so that he is used to listening to these commands in different situations. Practice out of sight stays, and walking away with your back to him while in a stay.

7. Recall
You will put your dog on a long lead, get him into a sit-stay or down-stay and then walk 10 feet away and call him to you.

Practice: Our recall word is “here” but “come” works too. We started recall training with a long lead so that there was no chance we would fail while practicing. Always praise your dog when they come to you.

8. Reaction to distractions
The exact type of distraction will differ based on your evaluator but expect about 2 types of distractions – this could be an object falling, a loud noise, medical equipment or items with wheels. The dog can look at the object but should not panic or dart ahead. Their ability to recover is most important.

Practice: Calvin used to be skiddish around loud noises so we spent a lot of time desensitizing him. We got him used to skateboards, bikes, strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, dollies ect. The process took multiple weeks. We desensitized him by exposing him to the objects while on leash and ignoring him (dogs can tell if you are worried for them and if you comfort them you will confirm their fears). We would walk by the objects without looking down at Calvin to teach him that there is nothing to worry about. Over time, he looked to us for guidance instead of focusing on the scary object.

Our Distraction: This was the hardest part of the test for us.  In our testing room, 3 people came in and started throwing folding chairs around.  The chairs slammed onto the ground in our path and we were expected to keep our cool.  Additionally, they called for Calvin, made hooting and kissing noises at him, and put their hands out to him.  We were quite honestly shocked at his focus and successful completion of this step.  The distraction section will be different for everyone, but that was ours!

9. Approaching other dogs
You will approach a dog and handler head on and are expected to stop when you reach them, exchange pleasantries, shake hands, and then keep going. The dogs can look at each other and show mild interest but cannot greet each other or pull to say hi. This is very difficult for those extra friendly doggos, but can also be tough for those with leash reactivity.

Practice: a reliable “leave it” command is required for this section. However, if your dog is used to greeting everyone in its path, you will have trouble here. We do not let Calvin greet dogs on the street (some are claimed to be “friendly” but aren’t actually, he gets very excited, he used to jump on them, ect). We say “leave it” as we approach dogs on the street and he walks right past them. This also helps us get to where we want to be without stopping to say hi to every dog along the way.

10. Supervised separation
You will leave your dog with the evaluator for 3 minutes and walk away, out of sight. Your dog is expected to remain calm and not show signs of nervousness or panic.

Practice: We never practiced this so unfortunately do not have any tips. It definitely helped that we frequently leave Calvin with friends, with his dog walkers, and at daycare so he is used to trusting others with his care. It’s a good idea to practice leaving your dog with people outside your household so that he has a better time adjusting to new situations without you.

Next Steps: You can take the CGC Urban Test and get evaluated to become a Community Canine (CGCA)!

You can do it!
-Your Pal Cal

CGC Test Items