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Home DOG GROOMING How to Train Your Dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test

How to Train Your Dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test

by Bella Woof

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test was introduced by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1989 to promote responsible pet ownership and help dogs become respectable members of their communities. It is widely accepted as a badge of honor and a basis for other dog-related activities. In 2019, the millionth dog passed the CGC test.

The certificate serves as a prerequisite for therapeutic work, a foundation for dog sports, and a way to overcome behavioral problems. Insurance companies recommend it for homeowners policy coverage and landlords may request it for rentals.

Although the Canine Good Citizen test does not guarantee the right of access to public spaces where dogs are not allowed, it has become a program known for helping to develop strong bonds between people and animals and building the confidence necessary for public outings.

What is the Good Citizen Canine Test?

The Canine Good Ctizen test is open to all dogs of any age. If your dog is under 12 months old, consider the STAR Puppy program. Neither has formal qualifications, but all participants must be free of aggression. Snarling, snapping, snarling or biting will result in dismissal.

The training can be extensive, depending on your experience. Many training programs offer preparation classes and administer the exam after the class is completed. You can train yourself and find a certified evaluator through the AKC.

The role of the rater is to objectively administer and score the items according to the guidelines. Professionals who train dogs for the test can grade them, except for the part where your dog has to greet a friendly stranger. Someone unknown to the dog volunteers for this key role.

Some requirements apply to all test items:

  • The dog cannot ignore the owner; This could be a sign of insufficient training or stress.

  • They may not pull, jump, lunge, bark, growl, snarl, bite or bite at any time.

  • If the tester feels uncomfortable, he or she will consider everyone's safety and stop the test.

  • Training collars and halters are prohibited.

Training Your Puppy for the Good Citizen Dog Test

A certified trainer can help train the necessary skills with positive reinforcement. No form of abuse, punishment or harsh correction is allowed.

The CGC program is known for helping develop strong bonds between people and animals and building the trust needed for public outings.

There are 10 basic skills and you must pass all of them. If the dog fails but does not show any aggressive behavior, he can retake the test. Below are general behaviors that, if reliable, will help your dog pass his good canine citizenship test.

Practice interacting with strangers

Good canine citizens should not show signs of fear, anxiety, stress, or reactivity when in public. If your dog is friendly (he approaches strangers, asks to be petted, and doesn't jump), he's already a rock star.

If he is too excited, you will have to work on approaching him calmly and keeping all four paws on the ground. This will also affect the leash skills needed for passing.

Avoidance behaviors—those signs of fear, stress, and anxiety—can be subtle. If your dog turns his head when approached, avoids eye contact, turns his body, or simply doesn't walk forward, he is saying “No, thank you” to the greeting.

Practice interacting with other dogs

The Canine Good Citizen test for dogs does not allow contact between dogs, but insists on calm, relaxed behavior in which the dog responds to the handler. They should not be afraid of the other dog, show reactivity or approach him to greet him.

The best way to train this is to work on leash skills, sitting, and staying in the presence of other dogs. A well-designed CGC grooming class will focus on teaching the fundamentals and learning to work with the other dogs in the class.

Once your dog has these skills, it's time to practice in public. A large pet store or a field next to a dog park should work.

Practice separating your puppy

This requires the dog to be separated from its pet for three minutes, and this can be challenging. The human should be out of sight and the dog can stay with the evaluator.

If your dog does not suffer from separation anxiety or isolation distress at home, practice leaving him for a few moments and increasing the time. You can leave them with someone new and work for up to three minutes. To ensure your dog can handle a three-minute separation, train him to handle five.

Practice patience when getting it fixed and examined

Your dog should feel comfortable being handled by others. If your dog is regularly groomed and relaxed at the vet, there may not be much to train.

To pass the canine good citizen test, your dog must remain close to the examiner without attempting to avoid the interaction. And, of course, they must be free of unsafe reactions.

If your dog tolerates grooming but is stressed, using a process called desensitization and counterconditioning may help him feel differently about the experience. A certified trainer or behavior consultant can help.

Behavior tip: If your dog is anxious about handling, he may not be a candidate at this time. They may have a history of handling or other sensitivities that would make this difficult. Contacting a certified dog behavior consultant may help.

Practice basic obedience skills

The basic obedience skills required for the canine good citizen certificate for dogs are sit, stay, stay, and come. These are covered in most obedience classes. What may not be covered is teaching your dog how to handle higher levels of distraction.

Many therapy dog ​​organizations will require a CGC certificate as a dog qualifier.

Practice these skills at home until your dog can do three sets of 10 repetitions with 90 to 100 percent accuracy. Then change your environment to include a few more distractions and practice the skills. If your dog can sit, lie down, stay, and enter a pet-friendly store or a field outside a dog park, he's probably ready to do it.

Pro Tip: When working on any distance skills in public, use a long training line to keep your dog safe.

Practice your puppy's walking skills

Loose leash walking skills involve greeting a stranger, approaching a person with a dog, walking a course, and walking through a crowd.

If you are new to this skill, you can start with some leash training basics. Then it's time to advance the skill. Yes, those pet-friendly stores are perfect once you're ready. Use better treats when the challenge increases.

Frequent questions

Can treats be used during the canine good citizen test?

Eating is only allowed during training. It is prohibited during the actual test. A good CGC grooming class should teach you how to gradually eliminate treats without harming your dog's performance.

Is the canine good citizen test worth it for my dog?

Yeah! It helps take your basic training to the next level and build a trusting relationship with your dog. Many therapy dog ​​organizations will require a CGC certificate as a qualifier, and the skills learned could be very useful if you plan to get them into any dog ​​sports.

Featured Image: Drazen Zigic/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images


Erika Lessa, CBST, CDBT, CDBC, CPDT-KA, Fearless Certified

Professional trainer

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