Therapy Dogs International Testing Part 8

TEST 8: REACTION TO ANOTHER DOG

The test entails: “This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 10 yards, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 5 yards. The dogs should show no more than a casual interest in each other.”

Well I have an interesting story to tell about this exercise! Recently (just this week) I was teaching a class (6 dogs & handlers) and a number of the dogs had reactivity issues i.e. highly aroused in the company of new dogs. And one dog in particular was so reactive/distracted that he was often somewhat partitioned off from the rest of the class with some ring gating. So, how would I introduce this exercise???

At the club we have several not quite life size, but close, stuffed animals. I decided to bring out the Old English Sheepdog (OES) as my companion “test” dog. To give you the full picture let me describe the OES — his head is slightly  turned to the left, so I made sure his eyes were averted away from the approaching real dog, as eye contact can be seen as a challenge. He also has a slightly forward posture which could be construed as an offensive position, otherwise he has a largely white head, gray ears, and gray with white body & bobbed tail. He only stands about 18 inches tall, and remember he’s STUFFED. Well, the uproar created when I put him on the floor was truly chaotic! Three of the dogs, with some minor difficulty, were able to walk by us (one of the 3 success stories was the dog from behind the partition!). The remaining three each received multiple tries with no success. As a last resort I placed a cone at the mid point between us and one at a time asked the handlers to walk their dogs up to the cone, ask for a sit. Once successful I allowed them to release their dogs to come see the OES. Needless to say they were each very inquisitive.

I haven’t determined exactly how I’ll approach the subject next week, but we’ll see.

Let me describe how I usually start training this exercise with non-reactive dogs:

I set up 4 cones (A,B,C,D) creating a rectangle approximately 15 feet wide by 30 feet long. I then place a 5th cone (X) in the middle of the rectangle, see below. I set one handler & dog on the outer side of cone A, heading toward B, and the other handler & dog on the outer side of cone D, heading toward C.

A                                  B
………….X…………..
C                                  D

The handlers are to walk in a straight line from A to B or D to C, only stopping on that straight line at approximately the middle, indicated by X. They DO NOT come to the middle. If their dog starts to pull as they start walking forward (the other dog is also moving) I ask them to use penalty yards (dog loses forward progress) until they can get their dog’s attention back. When they stop in the middle of their straight line I ask them to cue their dog to sit and stay. While keeping a peripheral eye on their dog the handlers are to say hi to their neighbor. If their dog makes any movement to get up, they must immediately ask for the sit again. Once the “hi” has been completed I ask them to continue on to the next cone.

Only as the teams become successful do I decrease the distance between cones A&C and B&D. The decrease is done very gradually over time. Only when the dogs can do this exercise successfully with their owners within two feet do I ask the handlers to shake hands.

In the TDI test there will be a center line (leash, chalk mark or whatever) the Handler with the testing dog will be on one side and the greeter dog on the other. Neither dog should cross that line. If the testing dog crosses the line it will fail the test.

I hope this was helpful 🙂

 

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