The AKC Canine Good Citizen Test: the details

February 2, 2008

Owning a dog has certainly become more complicated in the past twenty years. “Anti-dog legislation” prohibiting ownership of specific breeds in certain municipalities, no pets housing and the proliferation of “NO DOGS ALLOWED” signs in public places are just a few of the hurdles to be overcome by those who wish to own a canine companion.

In an effort to promote responsible dog ownership, The American Kennel Club conducts the Canine Good Citizen program to demonstrate that dogs, as companions of man, can be respected members of the community. The goals of the program are to educate dog owners about the benefits of well-behaved pets and demonstrate to the general public that dogs can be upstanding members in the community.

The Canine Good Citizen Program consists of a ten-step test which reproduces everyday situations which might be encountered by a dog and owner. The test is not competitive–each dog and owner team are individually assessed on a pass/fail basis for each of the steps. Dogs passing all ten steps receive a certificate from the AKC and are officially awarded the Canine Good Citizen title which gives the owner the right to use the letters “CGC” after his/her dog’s name.

Here is an outline of the CGC Test steps:

1. Accepting a Friendly Stranger
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to its owner in a natural, everyday situation. The evaluator and owner will shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.

2. Sitting Politely for Petting
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its owner. The evaluator pets the dog and then circles dog and owner. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

3. Appearance & Grooming
This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone other than his owner to do so. It also demonstrates the owner’s care, concern and responsibility. The evaluator inspects the dog, then combs or brushes the dog lightly, examines the ears and each front foot.

4. Out for a Walk (on a loose leash)
This test demonstrates that the owner is in control of the dog. The dog must be on the left side of the owner, but need not be in the heel position. There must be a left turn, a right turn and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end.

5. Walking Through a Crowd
This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog may show some interest in the strangers, without appearing over exuberant, shy or resentful.

6. Sit and Down on Command/Staying in Place
This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the owner’s command to sit and down and will remain in place commanded by the owner. The owner may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command.

7. Coming When Called
This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to “stay” or “wait” or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog as the evaluator provides mild distractions (e.g. petting).

8. Reaction to Another Dog
This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two owners and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about ten yards, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about five yards. The dogs should show no more than a casual interest in each other.

9. Reactions to Distractions
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The dog may express a natural interest and curiosity and may appear slightly startled, but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness or bark.

10. Supervised Separation
This test demonstrates that the dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain its training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold of the dog’s leash. The owner will go out of sight for 3 minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position, but should not continually bark, whine or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness.