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Canine Good Citizen (AKC Program) – What Is It & Why You Should Care

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Sunday 9 May 2021
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
canine good citizen
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As a responsible dog owner, you may have heard about the AKC Canine Good Citizen program. Or, as a newer owner, you may not be familiar with the program yet. This exciting AKC kennel club program is open to all levels of experience, whether you are a new owner or a long-time owner. But how do you enter your furry friend into the CGC program? And what exactly does it involve?

The CGC program brings out the canine good citizen in dogs. By evaluating ten essential skills, your CGC evaluator may award your pooch with a highly respected Canine Good Citizen title and certificate. After the program you may enter the AKC’s other CGC programs, further earning more titles and certificates to show off your dog’s excellent manners.

What is the Canine Good Citizen Program?

The Canine Good Citizen™ (CGC) program is a two-part program that promotes responsible dog ownership. Since 1989, dogs have participated in this evaluation to earn a certificate and special tag that shows their good behavior. In the CGC program, the dog and its handler must undertake a behavioral evaluation that lasts less than half an hour. The test evaluates ten objectives, and all must be met to pass. Your dog must accept a friendly stranger, sit politely for petting, walk on a loose lead, allow basic grooming, walk through a crowd, come when called, sit and lay in place, react appropriately to distractions, react appropriately to other dogs, and be calm when separated from the owner. Dogs do not need to register with the AKC to pass the test, nor do they need to be purebred.

What Does The Canine Good Citizen Test Evaluate?

The Canine Good Citizen test requires your dog to show ten basic skills. Your dog must pass every part of this test to qualify for the CGC certificate, so it helps to be aware of what each section will include.

Response to a Friendly Stranger

Your dog’s response to a friendly stranger is important to evaluate. In this part of the test, an evaluator will approach you and your pup in a spontaneous manner with a focus on interacting with you. During this interaction, the evaluator will make a short conversation with you, and perhaps shake your hand. To pass this test, your pooch must stay calm and at ease whilst you interact with the stranger. This means that your dog cannot be nervous or shy during the interaction.

Sitting for Petting

If your dog reacts well to strangers, the next stage is to evaluate how they react to petting. In this stage, an evaluator will assess your dog’s politeness when approached and petted. Ideally, your dog will sit and allow the petting to take place without showing signs of anxiety or stress.

Appearance and Grooming Behavior

To pass this test, your dog must allow another person to inspect and groom them. This portion of the test also assesses the appearance of your dog. The evaluator will check your pup’s ears and feet as a groomer might do. They will also check that your dog is clean, a healthy weight, and well-groomed. Throughout this portion of the test, your dog does not need to remain in the exact same position, but they must stay calm and pleasant.

appearance and grooming behavior
This portion of the test also assesses the appearance of your dog.

Loose-Leash Walking

To pass this next stage, your dog must walk on a loose lead while your evaluator provides directions. Your dog may walk on either side of you on your walk, as long as their position shows that they are paying attention to you. Throughout the walk, there will be a left turn, a right turn, an about-turn, and at least one stop in the middle of your route.

Walking Through Crowd

Some dogs struggle with staying calm in groups of people. It is important that your dog moves politely in pedestrian traffic and can be controlled in busy public spaces. As such, this part of the test assesses how your dog reacts to being in contact with at least three different people. Your dog must walk around and come close to these people. They may show signs of interest in strangers, but cannot be over-enthusiastic, aggressive, or intensely shy during this test.

Staying in Place and Response to Sit and Down Commands

For this test, your dog must know basic obedience skills. Your pooch first must be able to sit and lie down on your command. Then, in whichever position you prefer, your dog must stay in position at a distance. To achieve the sit or down position, you can touch your dog for guidance but cannot force them to move. Your pup may be kept on a 20ft long leash for this part of the evaluation, as they must remain sitting or lying down from a distance as well.

Response When Called

Perhaps one of the most vital skills for your dog is a basic recall. There are many situations where your dog must come back to you quickly, such as in dangerous situations or when playing with other dogs. So, basic recall skills are an essential part of the CGC test. In this test, your dog must be able to return to you from a distance of 10ft or more. You may give a stay command before summoning your dog back to you. If your dog passes this test, they are one step closer to becoming a Canine Good Citizen!

Reaction to Other Dogs

Your dog must be polite around other dogs to pass the CGC test. Another dog handler will approach you and your pup from a distance of around 20ft. Once they are close, you will stop, shake hands, and exchange quick pleasantries. At most, your pooch should display casual interest in the handler and their dog. Your dog should behave pleasantly and politely in the presence of these strangers.

Response to a Distraction

Some dogs are easily distracted or easily frightened by something unexpected. This can be dangerous for you and your dog. For example, a dog may be startled by a noise and run into traffic or may react in self-defense to a perceived threat. As such, this part of the CGC test is essential. Your evaluator will present two distractions. These might include dropping an object or having someone run out in front of your dog. Your dog may express interest, but should not be aggressive or anxious, or bark at the stimulus.

Supervised Separation from Owner

Anywhere from 20 to 40% of dogs struggle with separation anxiety. Because of this, the CGC rewards dogs that can stay calm when apart from their owner. The evaluator will take your dog’s leash whilst you go out of sight for at least three minutes. During these three minutes, your dog must not bark, whine, pace, or show any other signs of severe anxiety. This test shows that your pooch can be left alone with a trusted person.

Tips to Pass the Canine Good Citizen Test

With proper training and research, you and your furry friend can master the Canine Good Citizen program. Firstly, just like any test, it pays to study and prepare before entering the program. Get to know each of the ten requirements for your dog, including walking through a crowd and coming back to you when called. Be sure to give your pup a refresher on their training and test each of their skills at home. This will include the sit, stay, and lie down commands, which your dog must master in order to pass. Plus, because the test evaluates your pup’s social skills, it pays to let them socialize more with other dogs and people to prepare.

canine good citizen test
Research and training will help you ace the test!

Requirements and How to Join

You can sign up for the CGC test by searching on the AKC website. To begin, you must search for an AKC approved CGC Evaluator by selecting your state from the list of states provided on their website. By doing so, you will be able to see the names of evaluators in your area. You can e-mail an evaluator to enquire about their CGC program. Also, some AKC shows offer CGC testing, as do some AKC Clubs. Be sure to check the AKC website for upcoming shows that offer the CGC program.

Once you arrange a CGC test with a suitable evaluator, you must take the CGC Responsible Dog Owner Pledge. This Pledge is an agreement that you are responsible for your dog’s health, safety, and quality of life, and that you will not allow your dog to infringe on the rights of others. Overall, the Pledge is a promise that you will be the best dog owner you can be.

You must bring your own equipment. You will need a brush or comb for the grooming requirement, a collar, and a leash. No special training collars such as pinch collars or head halters may be brought to the test. Your dog may also wear a harness, but it may not completely restrict your dog’s movement. This is so that if your dog jumps or pulls during the test, they can.

Canine Good Citizen FAQ

Have any more questions or concerns about the Canine Good Citizen program? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details. If in doubt, you can contact the AKC at [email protected] for advice.

How much does the Canine Good Citizen program cost?

The CGC test itself, along with the processing fee, costs between $10 and $20. Also, six weeks of CGC training classes may cost $100 to $150. If you wish to give your dog an AKC CGC Title, you must register them with the AKC as a requirement of this title is to have a registration number. This number may be an AKC/FSS number, a Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) or Canine Partners (CP) number. The cost of AKC registration varies from $33 to $82.99 depending on your preference for basic or platinum registration. Similarly, PAL or CP registration costs $35.

What comes after passing the Canine Good Citizen program?

After the CGC test, there are two more programs to consider. These programs are more advanced. First, you may consider the AKC Community Canine (CGCA) program. This program rewards dogs who behave well in the community. Similar to the CGC, the CGCA is a 10-step test that assesses your dog’s behavior in real-life situations. The other program is the AKC Urban Canine Good Citizen (CGCU) program. In this test, your dog must demonstrate CGC skills and more in an urban setting. The test must be done in a place with cars, streets, noises, and distractions.

What are the seven essential dog commands?

Expert dog trainer Brandon McMillan describes seven common commands. These include “sit, down, stay, come, heel, off, and no or leave it” in his book, Lucky Dog Lessons. These commands are essential for any Canine Good Citizen. This is because your pooch must walk politely, stay in position, and come when called to pass the test and earn CGC certification.

Can I train a service dog without professional training?

Service dogs do not need to be professionally trained. Any person with a physical, mental, or emotional disability has the right to own and train their own service animal, Furthermore, the community is self-regulated, and your dog does not need to hold any certifications to qualify as a service dog. However, many people seek reputable trainers to assist with training their service dog, and others adopt a fully-trained dog if they prefer to do so or cannot fully train their pet themselves.

While the US has no minimum training requirement, international service dog standards suggest around 120 hours of training over six months. As well as training for tasks, your service dog must be polite and well-mannered in public. Various organizations set minimum standards for this. These standards include not begging for food, no unruly behavior, no hyperactivity in public, and no aggressiveness towards people or animals.

How do I train my dog to come when summoned?

First, you must have a fun incentive to encourage your dog to come back to you. This might be a tasty treat or a favorite toy. Whilst holding the reward, step back a few paces, call your dog’s name, and then follow up with the “come” command. You should do this in an exciting and friendly tone, and may pair this with a lower posture to encourage them to return to you. As your dog comes to you, be sure to reward them. Then, gradually increase the distance between you and your dog when you call them. Eventually, this method should allow you to call your dog from room to room or from the end of your garden. Long training leashes are useful for practicing recall in public, as they ensure your pup’s safety while also allowing for free-range activity.

The Canine Good Citizen program not only rewards your pup for their excellent behavior but also allows a beneficial AKC title and opens up further training opportunities for you and your pooch. Passing the CGC program may not be easy in the beginning, but it is achievable, and most of all, worth the investment.

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