Supervised Separation – Canine Good Citizen

Supervised Separation

“This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold of the dog’s leash” — AKC website.

Try to assess your dogs  feelings about being without you.  Hand her to a stranger and walk a few feet away.  Does she pant? Freeze? Will she take a treat from the stranger?  Some dogs are fine left alone with a stranger.  Many, however, become at least a little nervous.  You will be able to tell your dog’s state of mind if you are good at  reading his or her body language.

How to Train It

The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness.

Start training this in small steps to successfully help an uncomfortable dog become comfortable being without you. Arm the person who is handling the dog with the best treats possible.  Remember that practicing in a familiar environment will be easier than in a new busy environment.

Disappear just a few steps away (behind a tree perhaps) as a start, for a few brief moments.    When you are leaving and out of sight, the handler starts giving treats.  When you return to sight and walk back to the dog, treats stop.  (The same counter conditioning and desensitization protocol we always use.)  If the dogs will not take treats that is a sign you have made the drill too hard.  Of course, if out have any reservations about safety do not jump into this drill without good training advice and preparation.

Gradually build up to three minutes.

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“Find it” training game

Find It

This is a game that has all kinds of uses.  Lets say you and your dog are approaching something that will get him excited on leash and you want to avoid it.    You can use this to redirect your dog.  Because your dog is working, he can also focus on something besides the exciting thing that is approaching (if its far enough) and develop a new habit for how to react in that kind of situation.

Its also great for practicing recall.  You send your dog away to get something rewarding and then he comes back!!

Here’s how to play:

Get some treats in your pouch or pocket. Say “find it,” then toss a yummy treat past the dog’s head a few inches where he can find it. Start by tossing close to the dog. Its good to skip the treat along the floor like a mouse running away.  This also creates a scent trail.  But don’t toss it too far. As the dog gets used to the game, you can toss further away. Remember the sequence is important. Say “find it” THEN toss the treat.

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Zen Bowl — “Party”

After you have conditioned your dog to love and recognize the “party” bowl and the “party” cue, you can build enthusiasm for that reward by playing “push back and jam.”  Hold your dog’s collar in your left-hand and push with the right hand gently against the chest.  Then say “party” and run together to the bowl.

This drill is part of teaching your dog that rewards do not need to be on your body. It provides a motivational option for giving rewards that involves food as well as movement and excitement.

This reward strategy builds duration of behavior and chaining multiple behaviors together.  It is great to have in your pocket if you want to compete with your dog.

Here are a couple of examples.  You can see the dog’s  enthusiasm. Good job Ziva!

In this video the dog is rewarded for a hand touch by being send to “Party.”  Good job Penny!


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Release Cue

The Release Cue

Dogs need to know when they are finished with the behavior that you’ve ask them to do. If you tell your dog to “stay” but don’t tell them when the stay is done you train the dog that the stay is done whenever they choose.  In order for the dog to properly learn stay (and lots of other behaviors) they need to know when they’re finished.   The is why we call “stay” a paired cue. We always use it with a release cue.

To teach your dog a release,  choose a word that you will not use a lot of other contexts. I like to use the word “finished.”  “All done” and “break” are also good.  If you pick words like “okay” you will find yourself inadvertently releasing your dog a lot because we say that word so often!  And your dog will hear it so much out of context it will not mean anything to him.

When training the release start by using your body energy and motion to get the dog out of a sit or stand so that they move toward you.  I suggest you throw your hands up in the air and bounce backwards as you say the release word.

Click/yes for the dog’s motion toward you and reward immediately in front of you.  (Remember we reward in position.  Its nice if a dog finishes an exercise and comes to you.)


and another one

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Walking Skills: Reward Zone for Heeling

Train a Reward Zone for Heeling

Develop a reward history for your dog at your left side.  This starts teaching your dog heeling.  Combine it with the visual picture of your hand at your belly button and your dog will learn to hang out at your left side especially when your hand is position.

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Walking Skills: Leash Pressure Silky Leash

Walking Skills: Leash Pressure or “Silky Leash”

Keeping the leash nice and loose is key makes for a nice walk, so teaching  leash pressure or “silky leash” to your dog can be helps.


As with all drills, even walking nicely on a leash should start at home.  One of the first things your dog needs to know is that releasing pressure on a leash is rewarding.  We teach that with this drill:

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Dog Training Foundation: Slow Treat Zen

Dog Training Foundation – Slow Treat Zen

Slow Treat Zen (taking a treat gently) teaches your dog that doing nothing is generates rewards.  In this case, NOT jumping or mouthing for a treat earns rewards.  This is also a foundation because it helps you with luring and other training techniques.

Taking a Treat Gently

Dogs take treats roughly when they are excited and when people move their hands away quickly in the process.  Unfortunately, then the

dog learns to move in quickly to take treats.   This drill teaches the opposite behavior — holding back for the treat.

Slow Treat Zen Steps

#1.  Notice that when I move the treat in, I move it back as as soon as the dog moves her head ever so slightly to get the treat on her own.

#2 Change pace. Move the treat in slowly and the pace of the treat delivery increases.  The treat moves directly all the way to the dog’s mouth.  Imagine delivering the treat a half-inch into the dog’s mouth.

#3 Change the angle and direction.   Dogs and owners who have already mastered eye contact can move to this level.

Start at an easy level so that you are successful.  In this drill that means the slow part of the treat delivery should be brief,  just moving an inch or two  and lasting one or two seconds before you pick up pace.    It gets harder for your dog when the slow part is longer, so extend the slow part only after you have had success with a brief slow delivery.

Your dog should have many more successes than failures!  If you find that you move your hand back often because the dog moves,  go back to an easier level.

Your only criterion for delivering the treat is that your dog does not go for it himself.   That means your dog may be sitting or standing — it doesn’t matter.  Don’t ask your dog for sits or call the dog’s name to get attention.  This drill teaches your dog a “zen” approach — good things happen when the dog is not told what to do.

When you are successful in your kitchen and with the dog located in front of you, try it with your dog at your side in heel position.

This drill is good for young dogs and any dogs who need to work on impulse control.  It teaches your dog to work without immediate reward.

If your dog shows aggression when things are taken away, or if the dog guards food you are not ready for this this drill.

*Thanks to Deb Jacobs, Hannah Branigan and trainers for this exercise.

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Walking Skills: Lure to heel position

Luring to Heel Position

To be successful Luring to Heel, you want to have practiced luring and use of a marker (yes or click).

Put your baited hand to your dog’s nose.  Step your left foot back and slowly bring your dog back a little bit behind you.  Step  your left foot forward,  and when your dog gets into heel position by your left leg mark it (yes or click) and  give the treat.

This is luring so we will use “Say it, Show it, Pay it.”

When your dog is moving with you successfully, add “With Me” or “Heel” or “Walking,”whichever cue you choose, at the start of the exercise.  After your dog is moving into position successfully begin to add a few steps.



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Dog Training Foundation Skills: Paying Attention

Dog Paying Attention: Eye Contact

Your dog paying attention to you is a foundation skill at the root of all good behavior.  The dog can’t do what you ask if he isn’t paying attention to you.  For calling your dog, it is important that your dog develop a habit of checking in by looking at you.  This drill can help establish that behavior.

After you have taught your dog to make eye contact with you, you can make the game a bit harder with a little distraction.  That distraction is holding your hands out with treats.  (Remember the 3 D’s? Duration Distance Distraction)

Mark your dog (yes or click) by putting the treat on the floor.  This gives your dog a chance to look away while eating and then look back at you.  A Continue reading

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Teach Come With Find it and Hand Target

Come: Calling your dog

Teaching your dog to come to you requires lots of successful repetition.  Its hard to get this because a lot of people call their dog for things they don’t like, such as coming in from the yard or to leave the dog park.

A hand target and “find it” can get you lots of good practice calling your dog. This drill is great because you build a strong reinforcement history.  You also develop a positive association with the dog’s name.  Plus, it makes recall fun.

The benefit of the hand target is that it brings the dog all the way to you.   That way you avoid drive by returns, when the dog comes to you but runs right past you.


I like to say “(dog’s name), Come!” at times when I don’t seriously need the dog to come to me immediately.  I use a hand target (dog’s name Continue reading

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