CGC test item # 5 is “walks through a crowd.’
This item is important for dogs who live in busy cities and are walked in real life crowds on sidewalks (think New York City). This skill is also important for the increasing number of dogs who are therapy dogs. When volunteering in a school or nursing home, therapy dogs must not jump on residents or students who are walking down the hall. Unless invited, well-mannered dogs should also not pull on a leash to go to someone who is walking nearby.
To teach your dog to walk through a crowd, use the behavioral principle called shaping and gradually change (1) the dog’s proximity to the people in the crowd, (2) the number of people in the crowd, or (3) the unfamiliar characteristics (raincoats, wheelchairs) of the people in the crowd.
1. Start by having your dog walk, on a leash, by one person who is 10 feet away. When the dog can do this with no problems, get closer.
2. Have the dog walk by a person who is 5 feet away. The dog should not be pulling to go to the person. If necessary, remind your dog with “Watch me” or “Heel.” Praise the dog for walking along with you.
3. Have the dog walk by a person who is very close, such as 1 foot away. Have the dog circle this person.
4. Add a second person to your “crowd.” You can have your dog walk by 2 people who are milling around from 5 feet away, then 3 feet away, and so on.
5. Add the third person to your crowd.
6. Now have your crowd help you by moving toward your dog as they would if they were walking down a sidewalk on a busy street. Go several feet, turn around, and repeat.
7. After your dog has mastered walking around a small number of people in training sessions and in the real world, you can begin to add experiences that involve a greater number of people, such as walking on a busy sidewalk, taking your dog to a dog show, or attending a community event.
Do you have any favorite tips for keeping your friendly dog under control as you walk in crowded settings?