Is Your Dog a Good Citizen?

September 7, 2020 | We Learn | Tips from Diane Driscoll

You’re a responsible pet owner and your dog rocks, of courseWith some training, you can get the AKC to back you up on that . . . and you get a title to brag about!

The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers a program that is open for all adult dogs, whether purebred or mixed breed. The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test evaluates a dog’s manners while he or she is out in the community. The CGC is an official AKC title; once a dog passes the test, the owner can use the suffix “CGC” after the dog’s name.  Dogs don’t care about that, but it’s fun for owners!

The CGC test includes: accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely for petting, accepting handling of ears and feet, loose-leash walking, walking through a crowd, knowledge of the “sit,” “down,” and “stay” commands, coming when called, maintaining good manners around another dog, managing distractions such as an umbrella opening or something falling to the ground, and waiting calmly when left with a stranger for a few minutes.

Some obedience trainers offer the CGC test to their graduating classes while others have training programs geared to passing the test.  You can also train for the test by yourself by following the training guidelines at test may also be offered at events such as pet expos.


“The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is an official AKC title; once a dog passes the test, the owner can use the suffix “CGC” after the dog’s name.  Dogs don’t care about that, but it’s fun for owners!”

In my experience, some parts of the test are easy, but there are always a few elements that I have to work on, and the challenges are different for every dog.  A friend’s accomplished agility dog sailed through most of the test, but found loose-leash walking very difficult, while my bully mix heeled perfectly but needed training to learn how to handle the distraction part of the test.  As you work on the exercises included in the test, you will identify behavioral areas that need strengthening in your dog. The practical skills your dog will acquire to pass the CGC test will help him navigate his world with more confidence, and will give you both an excellent foundation for obedience or dog sports.

When you train for the test, be sure to practice in many locations so your dog gets used to a variety of environments.  And choose your test site wisely!  The first time I took the test, it was in an unfamiliar building with barking dogs and slick floors.  My dog performed nine out of the ten skills, but the atmosphere was too chaotic for him and we didn’t pass the first time.  The second time we took the test, it was outdoors at a park with a more relaxed atmosphere, and he passed easily.

If you’re interested in training your dog to do therapy work, the CGC is an excellent first step toward therapy dog certification.  Obtaining a CGC distinction can be useful if you’re searching for pet-friendly housing or shopping for homeowners insurance. The CGC is a great way to discover the joys and benefits of training, and of course, there’s that title and the bragging rights that come with it!

Picture: Courtesy of Diane Driscoll

If you enjoyed this post, you should read Thinking About Becoming a Pet Owner? Here's Three Reasons Why You Should Rescue here.

Do you think YOUR dog could pass the CGC test?

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