Therapy Dogs International Testing Part 5

TEST 5: WALKING THROUGH A CROWD

In this test the dog is evaluated on how well he walks through/amongst a crowd of people (at least 3).

Once your dog is comfortably meeting & greeting strangers calmly (Exercises 1 & 2) and walking on a loose leash (#4) they have the skills to start working on walking through a crowd successfully.

You probably already walk your dog on leash through your neighborhood. If your dog just casually notices other walkers and continues to be calm in their presence, you are off to a great start — reward your dog for his good behavior!  If however, you have one of the social butterflies who believes all strangers are for greeting then you will have some work to do.

If your dog gets excited upon seeing people on the street you may want to do one or both of the following:

• Take your dog a little further off the street, or sidewalk, so they will not even have a chance to interact with the approaching person/people.

• Initially you may also want to ask your dog to sit, as it’s harder to get up and lunge if your dog is already sitting.

While you’re dog’s sitting feed him tasty treats while the person/people pass by. As soon as the person/people are out of reach stop feeding your dog and continue on your way. After a few trials of this your dog should be able to sit still without constant feeding. If your dog holds his sit on his own as the person/people walk by mark the behavior as the people get out of reach and give your dog a jackpot (5 or 6 tasty treats) for doing the behavior so well on his own.

Once the sit calmly is mastered you can try to continue walking as a person/people approach, but you may still want to be a couple of feet off the street, away from them. If necessary you can hold some tasty treats at your dog’s nose as you walk by. Praise a lot if your dog doesn’t give the people any attention! You will gradually increase the difficulty (allowing your dog to be closer to the oncoming person/people) until your dog can pass by others with hardly a care.

You will want to be proactive. When you see a person/people approaching start talking to your dog and getting his attention on you. Praise him a lot for choosing to give you attention instead of giving it to others.

Once you are having success you may want to take your dog into town or to a local park where you can expect to really meet up with some crowds. You must remember that you want to set your dog up for success, not failure. So don’t over expose him to too much stimuli (too many people) too quickly or early on in his training.

Also, in preparation for testing you will want to make sure your dog is comfortable with folks who might be jogging or even on a skateboard or rollerblades. You would train for these stimuli using the same methods as above.

Good luck 🙂

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