by Kate Naito
Kate is a dog trainer with Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY
Canine Good Citizen (CGC)
If you have a friendly, well-mannered dog, preparing for and taking the Canine Good Citizen test is a fun way to show the world what you’ve always known: that your dog is fantastic! It also has practical benefits, such as preparing your dog for other obedience or competitive endeavors.
What Is it?
CGC is a ten-step test that evaluates a dog’s manners and behavior. It is run by the American Kennel Club, but you do not need to have a purebred or AKC-registered dog to participate. The 15-minute (or so) test simulates everyday social situations; if your dog handles all these situations politely and calmly, then you’ve got yourself a CGC-certified dog! Although some basic obedience is necessary to pass, CGC is not a strict obedience test, making it accessible to regular pet dogs.
What Is Tested?
The CGC test has ten components, all of which your dog must pass:
1. Accepting a friendly stranger
2. Sitting politely for petting from a stranger
3. Appearance and accepting grooming from a stranger
4. Loose leash walk along a course
5. Walking through a small crowd
6. Sit, down, and stay on command
7. Come when called
8. Reaction to another dog on a walk
9. Reaction to distractions like a loud noise or moving skateboard
10. Three minutes of supervised separation from owner
Is My Dog a Good Candidate?
Dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds are eligible. Note that all able-bodied dogs are held to the same standards, so a Chihuahua that jumps on a stranger would be disqualified, just as a Newfoundland would.
Your dog doesn’t need to be perfect, but rather consistently calm and under control, to pass. If your pup is sociable and has basic manners already in place, then you will likely just need to do some additional training to hone his skills. Even if you don’t pass the test, you are encouraged to take it again after doing a little more training.
How Can I (we) Prepare?
I find the best way to prepare is to take a group CGC Prep class, which is usually 4-6 sessions, culminating in the test. When I teach this course at Doggie Academy, we start with a diagnostic (mock) test, so each owner learns her dog’s strengths and weaknesses, and the remaining weeks focus on overcoming each dog’s particular challenges. For most dogs, leash walking around distractions (like another dog), and sitting politely to be pet and groomed by a stranger are the most challenging. Fortunately, simple training techniques can help. For example, when the friendly stranger in the CGC test approaches to touch the dog’s paw (#3), the owners can tell the stranger, “My dog knows ‘shake.’ Would you ask for his paw?” If the dog is giving his paw, he can’t be jumping or squirming!
After passing CGC, your dog might be eligible to participate in other programs. (Note that CGC alone is not enough to be considered a therapy dog.) There are Advanced (CGCA) and Urban (CGCU) CGC titles, requiring a higher level of doggie manners. Competitive obedience and other performance events are other options.
For more information, visit the AKC.