What is does it mean for your dog to be a Canine Good Citizen?

As we become smarter with ways to raise our pets, foods to feed them, and how to communicate with them, many of us may find our pets becoming these model citizens in the community. Some of us may even end up working with our pets to become therapy pets. While the rest of us may opt to not have our pets certified for pet therapy, we could work on getting our dogs certified to be Canine Good Citizens.

What is Canine Good Citizen?

Canine Good Citizen is one of the first steps owners will take when training their dogs to be therapy dogs. You don’t have to have that as your final goal, though, so don’t worry. The program has been in existence since 1989, and is part of the American Kennel Club. It is designed to award dogs who have good manners in the home and out and about.

Many people will certify their dogs as CGC because they may want to have their dog become a agility dog, show dog, therapy dog, etc. While others may simply want to train their dogs to be the best little canine they can be. Training dogs can be a great way to bond with your pet, help you become a better owner, and create a level of communication that paves a path for many years of great companionship.

Training and Testing

Before taking the test to receive a CGC certificate, you’ll be asked to sign a Responsible Dog Owners Pledge. The pledge is an agreement that you will take care of your dog’s health needs, safety, and overall quality of life. You also agree to show responsibility in your community by doing small things like cleaning up after your pet and never letting your dog create a nuisance or infringe upon the rights of others.

After signing this contractual agreement, you are then ready to take the test!

Canine Good Citizen Test

The CGC tests the following:

  1. Accepting a friendly stranger – your dog is not afraid nor shows any sign of aggression as a stranger talks to you. Your dog must show no signs of resentment or shyness.
  2. Sitting politely for attention – imagine a vet, friend, or stranger coming up to your dog to pet him/her. Your dog must not only tolerate being pet but may also be brushed and handled a little. It’s not necessary for the dog to remain seated for the whole process but must be patient and tolerant.
  3. Walking on a loose leash – this can be tough for some dogs. The excitement of going for walks, exploring, and just being outside means a lot of dogs tug on the leash. This can be the most challenging for owners.
  4. Walking through a crowd – there are many variables that you may encounter with your dog, crowded streets being one of them. Your dog needs to display calmness and be desensitized to the pedestrian traffic. The dog can’t jump up on people, put on the brakes and refuse to walk, or pull you through the crowd.
  5. Sit, Down, and Stay – your dog has to know these commands and stay in a sit or down without a leash but a long lead just in case. Your dog must stay and you be able to walk a few feet away (maybe up to 20 feet) without your dog following you or leaving.
  6. Coming when called – your dog’s recall is incredibly important. Your dog must be attentive enough to come to you when you call his/her name. It is important to have this command down especially as the test goes on.
  7. Reaction to another dog and distractions – this part tests if your dog can politely behave around other dogs. Can your dog walk by another dog and show interest but not go nuts? What about distractions like a jogger?
  8. Supervised separation – this test is to see if your dog can be left with a trusted person and will maintain manners and training when you are not the one asking your dog to sit, stay, or come. For about 3 minutes, the owner leaves the room and evaluations are done to see how your dog acts.

It sounds intimidating but when you think about it – these are nothing more than a formalized way of compiling the things you’d love your dog to know and do.

Anyone have a CGC dog? If so, let us know and tell us your experiences!

Image from Aislinge Labradors

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.