Canine Good Citizen – Your Dog Can Do It Too!

Many people take their dog through basic training and stop.  Why bother going further?  Once your dog knows how to sit, down and come when called (mostly), isn’t that enough?  While it might be, if you have already put the time, money and thought into training your dog at all, why not take it a little further and use those lessons as building blocks to allow your dog to be all that he can be?

Enter the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test.  Formulated in the late 1980’s to promote responsible pet ownership and good manners for dogs in all situation, it has recently become a title for dogs registered with the AKC (whether purebred or mixed breed).  The CGC test includes several parts that are geared towards ensuring that a dog can behave and have manners in different situations.  The test includes the following:

  • Accepting a Friendly Stranger – This section helps to make certain that the dog will politely allow a friendly stranger to approach his owner while he is on lead.  Dog must show “no resentment or shyness” or try to get away from the situation.  The stranger ignores the dog completely.
  • Sitting Politely For Petting – In this portion, the friendly stranger pets the dog on the head and body while the dog accepts the attention.
  • Appearance and Grooming – The dog in question must appear well taken care of (weight, coat etc.) and must accept basic handling and grooming from the evaluator.  This shows that the dog would be willing to be handled by a veterinarian, groomer or similar person.
  • Out For A Walk (walking on a loose lead) – This shows that the owner has control of their dog while walking and making a right turn, left turn and an about turn.  Dog must be attentive to the owner though not in a formal heel position.
  • Walking Through A Crowd – Demonstrates that the dog can politely walk through public, that the owner has control of the dog and there is no shyness, over-exuberance or resentment.  The pair must pass by or walk close to at least three people.
  • Sit And Down On Command; Stay In Place – In this exercise, the dog demonstrates that it has basic training and can listen to commands.  The dog is told to sit and to down (it is not expected that the dog have an immediate response to the command, just within a reasonable time).  The handler than chooses which position to use for a stay and once the command is given, walks approximately 2o feet from the dog and back again while the dog holds the chosen position.
  • Coming When Called – The handler walks 10 feet away from the dog and calls the dog to them.
  • Reactions To Another Dog – This part of the test is to show that the dog can behave politely in the presence of other dogs.  Two handlers with two dogs meet, shake hands and greet each other while the dog shows no more than a casual interest in the other dog.
  • Reaction To Distraction – This exercise exhibits that the dog is confident and recovers quickly from common distractions like a jogger running past, a cart being pushed by, a cane or a crutch falling on the ground etc.  It is perfectly acceptable for the dog to be interested and slightly startled, but the dog should recover relatively quickly and should not attempt to run away, bark or growl.
  • Supervised Separation – This shows that the dog can be left behind with a trusted person and can maintain poise and confidence while his handler is away and out of sight.  The handler must stay out of sight for 3 minutes.  The dog may change position but cannot continually bark, whine or pace continually and must only show mild agitation or nervousness.

Most dogs with basic obedience training are more than capable of passing all parts of the CGC test.  Knowing the substance of the test ahead of time, gives dog owners the opportunity to practice difficult exercises prior to scheduling a testing session.  Behaviors that the dog may be weak on can be shored up and proofed.  Practice makes perfect!  Throughout the years, certain dog breeds have regularly been discriminated against by apartment complexes, rental companies and insurance companies.  Now, many of these groups, recognize and accept dogs of all breeds so long as they have passed the CGC test.  This can mean the difference between being able to find a place to live with your dog and having to re-home them.  This alone can make the CGC test invaluable.

Today the CGC designation has become a title offered by the AKC.  So long as your dog is registered with the AKC either as a purebred or as a PAL or Canine Partner, you are allowed to apply for and use the CGC acronym as a title at the end of your dog’s name.  Dogs who have already passed the CGC test prior to the time that it became recognized as a title, are grandfathered in and also receive said title.

Training with our dogs is not only a necessity, but a good way to bond with and have fun with your dog.  It strengthens the relationship between dog and owner and makes your dog a welcome addition to the world.  Having a well mannered and polite pooch is a perfect way to ensure that your dog will be able to accompany you wherever dogs are welcomed.  Take the time to train, teach and learn with your dog – it can make all the difference in both of your lives.