Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gilda Excels on her 'Big Test'!

{The newest member of the
Doggie Brigade!!!!!}

Gilda passed her Delta Society Pet Partner's Test with flying colors today!!! In fact, the only slight mistake she had was because I wasn't paying attention. I am so proud of how far this little dog has come and I think she will really enjoy volunteering to visit hospitalized kids as much as they will enjoy her visits.

I used a few tricks like scenting my hands and the sides of my jeans with dog treats and wearing my favorite training hoodie (what I didn't know was that there would be ID photos taken... so there I am in all my glory with my hair  pulled back and a hoodie on!) I have no doubt that her Agility Training has helped immensely with her confidence and her ability to concentrate and perform.

The thing that helped me the most today was the tiny book on  Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas. I just recently received the book so the information is new to me. Apparently, just as the author writes, these are signals that all dogs, Gilda included, understand innately.

While we were waiting for our turn to be tested, I had Gilda lay down in front of me (not an easy task for her to hold in a new building with lots of people and dogs around). I then turned my head to the side (a calming signal) and yawned (a calming signal) while I performed long calming strokes from the back of her head to her tail. She responded by yawning and by relaxing which isn't something she's prone to do in public! It's well worth the read for all of you reactive dog owners out there! Apparently it's pretty easy to reinforce this 'language' in your dog which helps them to use more calming signals and thus communicate more effectively. Sounds odd I know but check it out.

Early in the morning,  Mike took her on a 4 mile walk and bathed her so she'd be a bit tired and smelling fresh for her big day. I did some short obedience exercises with her once I got her to the testing site but tried to keep it brief and cheerful. I also told her a few times that she would be tested and I'm pretty sure she understood!

The test itself is about 20 minutes long and is quite rigorous for the dogs. I led Gilda into a room that she had never seen before and inside were about 10 people and 1 dog.
The test is led by the Evaluator and the helpers act as patients and the crowd during the test. The test begins with a Skills Exercise Test which is very similar to (maybe exactly like) the Canine Good Citizen Test. Part I consists of 11 exercises:

Accepting a Friendly Stranger
Accepting Petting by a Stranger
Appearance and Grooming by a Stranger
Out for a Walk (loose leash)
Walk Through a Crowd (loose leash)
Reaction to Distractions (IV pole, wheelchair, people)
Sit on Command
Down on Command
Stay in Place
Come When Called (with stranger petting ears)
Reaction to a Neutral Dog (owners shake hands)
Next is the Aptitude  Test which is similar to a Temperament Test. This consisted of 9 exercises:

Overall Examination by a Stranger (paws, ears, tail)
Clumsy Petting (by stranger)
Restraining Hug (by stranger)
Staggering, Gesturing Stranger coming Toward Dog
Angry Yelling near Dog
Bumped from Behind
Crowded and Petted by Several People
Leave It (toy on floor)
Offer Treat (take treat from stranger)
Gilda dealt well with all that was happening around her and actually seemed to really enjoy this part of the test with all of the petting and attention! She has really come so far I'm amazed. I'm not sure how old the average entrant is but I think 2 is pretty respectable. When we got home, Gilda was rewarded with a rare treat of canned dogfood and she is now sitting in her favorite spot watching for deer and squirrels!

We now begin a 6 month mentorship before our actual solo hospital visits begin. Have I mentioned how proud I am?!

Here is a nice article about the Doggie Brigade program.

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