Canine Good Citizen: Making You and Your Dog Good Citizens

Does your dog have a great personality? Does she play with other dogs without ever getting angry? Does she come when called? Does she allow small kids to tug her ears and pull her tail? Does she approach strangers and your friends with a wagging tail and happy disposition? Your dog could qualify to be a Canine Good Citizen (CGC).

The CGC was started in 1989 by the AKC and is a certification program designed to reward dogs who have good manners in their community and at home. For some dogs it’s a stepping stone towards becoming a therapy dog or an agility dog. For others it helps with lowering their home insurance, especially if the dog is a breed that is considered “dangerous” like a German Shepard or Doberman. For most of us it’s a way to bond with our dogs and great way to show that our dogs are well-behaved, social, and obedient.

The CGC has served as a model for other programs that have been developed around the world to ensure that our canine companions are welcomed in their communities and it helps make us better pet owners. It is also a starting point for more advanced dog training and has served as an alternate option for some communities who have considered adopting breed specific legislation.


The CGC has 10 steps that your dog must pass. Before taking the test, owners sign a pledge to be responsible dog owners that states that they will take care of their dog’s health, safety, and give their dog a good quality of life.

Ten Steps of the CGC:

1: Accept a friendly stranger – the dog must be ok with a stranger approaching and talking to its owner. The dog cannot show signs of shyness, aggression, or overly excited greeting behavior such as jumping up on the stranger.

2: Sitting or standing politely for affection – The dog must be ok and sit for petting from a stranger while its owner is there. The dog must not show any signs of shyness or resentment.

3: Appearance and grooming – this test is to see if the dog is ok with being brushed and examined as if they went to a groomer or vet. The dog also must be within its ideal weight, have alert eyes, and clean teeth.

4: Walking on a loose leash – the dog must walk well on a leash and the owner must have good control. The dog should be attentative to the owner and turn when the owner turns, stop, and not pull or fight the leash.

5: Walking with pedestrian traffic – the dog and owner must walk around and pass close to several people

6: Sit and down in place – the dog demonstrates that it has training and can sit, and lay down while the owner walks several feet away.

7: Come when called – the owner walks about 10 feet away and demonstrates that the dog knows “come.”

8: Reaction to other dogs – the dog must politely behave around other dogs. The dogs can show casual interest but cannot pull or bound towards the other dogs.

9: Distractions – this demonstrates that the dog is confident and does not panic or anger at something such as a jogger running by or a chair falling. The dog can show that it is startled but cannot try to run away, show aggression, or bark.

10: Supervised separation – this demonstrates that the dog can left with another person and will be ok. The owner hands the leash over to someone else and walks out of sight for a few minutes. The dog should not whine, bark, or pace in a stressed manner.

Most owners teach their dogs to know these 10 steps but not every dog can be as patient and confident as those that pass the CGC test. If your dog panics or gets nervous in certain situations, keep reinforcing the training that you’ve done so far. It’s a great way to bond with your dog and keep their minds stimulated. It also keeps them safe, keeps you sane, and makes your dog a better canine citizen.

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One thought on “Canine Good Citizen: Making You and Your Dog Good Citizens

  1. I wish this was an option for “agressive” breeds in apt complexes. It’s so frustrating to not be able to adopt a perfectly good dog from a rescue just because some corporate rule-maker has decided the breed is “aggressive” and therefore not welcome, aargh.