I’m writing this quickly because I want to re-cap my weekend. This weekend I was scheduled to take the CGC with Captain, and we failed. I’m going to be talking about failing the CGC and our plan moving forward.
For those of you who may not know, the CGC stands for Canine Good Citizen. It is a 10-step higher obedience test that is administered by the AKC. Any dog can take it, but it’s a good baseline for therapy and service dogs. One of the most difficult parts about training a dog is that you can give them all the training in the world, but you never know how they will react on a given day.
And for Captain, that day was Saturday. We had planned for 6 weeks to take it and he was doing amazing with every benchmark we had to hit. We ran through the practice test several times and I felt prepared to take it. Of course I was nervous, but I had to remind myself that the test doesn’t really mean anything. It’s not required, nothing happens if you don’t pass, it’s just a test. And many dogs don’t pass on their first try because if they get one item wrong they fail. AKC actually recommends that you take the test twice, no matter the outcome, because a dog will change as they mature.
During the test you’re not allowed to use treats. Per advice of my trainer, we had been practicing with treats all the way up until the day of the test. She said that it was fine and that the dogs typically don’t know any different when you’re in the test, because it is relatively short. I didn’t know any different because it is the first time I’m ever training a dog, so I was just going off everything she said. And boy was she wrong. I think Captain wasn’t getting rewarded, so he lost focus and interest quickly.
He failed the 3-minute separation, where we leave him in a room of people and I walk away from him for 3 minutes. He started barking and seemed very stressed that I was gone, so I had to come back early which meant he failed. Remember, if you fail one section, you fail them all. It’s funny because this is common for Service Dogs. It’s called “service dog syndrome”, when they know they should be with you at all times so they get worried when they aren’t with you. And this is something we will work on and correct.
He works without treats (for the most part) when he is in his Service vest, but I didn’t take the test with him in his vest. He knows that he’s working and only supposed to focus on me when he has his vest on. Perhaps we would have had a different outcome if I took the test with his vest on, but who knows.
This is my first time training a dog. I am/was working with a trainer who was supposed to guide me through everything that I’m supposed I know. Unfortunately, I do not think she prepared me well enough to succeed. I know it’s easy to blame someone else when things go wrong, but after talking to other trainers, they feel the same way. I was following all the steps she told me, practicing for hours on end at home, and coming to class. Captain was excelling in class and at home.
This isn’t to say that Captain is a bad dog. He is a great dog! He is incredibly smart and knows everything he is supposed to know at this age. He just had a training hiccup/off day and wasn’t able to pass the CGC. He will not wash, there is no need to penalize him, and he is still my Service Dog in Training. But, we will be moving on to a new trainer.
After looking back (hindsight is 20/20), I don’t feel like my trainer prepared us well enough. I felt that she should have recommended I take the test when he was more older. I felt like she should have helped us work better without treats. At the end of the test, she turned to me and bad-mouthed my dog and me to my face. I’d never seen her exhibit that behavior before; in fact I thought she was the sweetest lady! And it wasn’t like we did anything wrong, Captain just failed one part of his test.
So, why am I telling you all of this? My blog is my outlet; it’s a way for me to share more of my life with you all, whether it’s the good or the bad. And I want to tell you all that it is okay to fail, as long as you gave it your all. I hate failing, it’s the worst feeling in the world, but I feel like this weekend it was actually great for us to fail. I feel like us failing was a sign that we needed to move on and switch to a different trainer. Captain is finished with his basic obedience, and it is time that he starts his task training (service commands). Sometimes, failing can just motivate you to work harder. And that’s exactly what we’re doing with Captain’s training. It’s the perfect time for us to transition to someone who is more advance and has a better Service Dog Program. So, we met with our new trainer on Sunday, and we put together a training plan for Captain.
Captain’s next step is going to be attending a 3-week board and train program with our new trainer. He will be leaving this Friday and he will be gone for 3 weeks. While I know it’s for the best, I am still sad. He’s become such a huge part of my life and he makes me smile and laugh every day. It makes me sad to know that for 3 weeks he won’t be there to wake me up in the morning, make me laugh by chasing his tail, or make me smile by cuddling. I’m having a difficult week and struggling with the concept of him leaving, so I’m really dreading dropping him off this weekend! He’s been in my life for so long now, it will be weird for him to be gone for a bit! I’ve been crying/a mess all week.
I know it’s not the end of the world, but it’s something that I’m upset about. I know everything will be fine too and this is for the best. He will come back to me perfect on his obedience, able to work without treats, and capable of passing the CGC. They will also begin to train him some of his service commands. After his board and train, I will work with the trainers to advance his commands and teach him new ones. Since I’m owner training, they will teach me how to train and give me a list of things I should do and focus on. I’m excited for the next step of our journey, and I feel empowered knowing that I have a great new team.
For the next 3 weeks without Captain, I’m going to be trying to keep myself as busy as possible! I would love to get some more blog posts schedule and some YouTube videos up. Please help me stay busy by requesting what you all would love to see! Feel free to drop me a DM via Instagram or leave a comment on this blog post!
As always, let me know if you have any questions about Captain’s training. You can follow him on Instagram @captain.the.service.dog. We appreciate your well wishes for us both on this next chapter!