Canine Good Citizen Testing

Canine Good Citizen® Test and Training-Details

The Canine Good Citizen Test is a certification program that tests dogs in simulated everyday situations in a relaxed atmosphere.  It identifies and rewards dogs that have the training and demeanor to be reliable family members as well as community members in good standing.

The CGC Program welcomes both purebred and mixed-breed dogs.  There is NO AGE LIMIT for dogs taking the CGC Test.  The test is non-competitive.  All dogs who pass all 10 items of the test can receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club.  This test of your dog’s manners and training is not a competition and does not require that you and your dog perform with precision. Handlers may talk to their dogs throughout the test and the atmosphere should be relaxed. Praise, smiles, hugs and pats should be given to dogs throughout the test.  Handlers are not permitted to give their dogs food during CGC testing.  Food is considered a training aid, and while it is appropriate as a positive reinforcer during training, the purpose of the CGC Test is to determine if the dog’s behavior can be controlled by the handler if no special incentives are provided.

All tests are performed on leash.  Dogs should wear well-fitted buckle collars or a head halter, and 4’ or 6’ nylon or leather leash.  Special training collars such as pinch collars are not permitted. Owners should bring a brush to the test for the grooming exercise.

Every dog should respond to at least four basic behavior cues to function acceptably in public: “heel,” “sit,” “down” and  “stay.”  Response to these cues gives dogs the social skills that defuse anti-canine feelings and foster good citizenship.  Other helpful behaviors are:  “watch me”, “loose leash walking”, “leave it”, and “come”.  However, your dog is not capable of training himself.

Training stimulates your dog’s intelligence and teaches your dog the social skills necessary for him to adapt to the human world.  As you train your dog, you create a relationship based on trust and understanding.  Positive reinforcement training opens the door to your dog’s mind.  You will be amazed at by your dog’s unlimited learning potential.

1.  Accepting a Friendly Stranger

This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation.

The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog.

The evaluator and handler 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.

Training for test #1
Your dog needs to be shown how to behave when you meet friends on the street or welcome them into your home.  No one enjoys a lunging, jumping dog, and some people are afraid of such an animal.

Initially work with one adult ‘helper’.  Have your dog on leash sitting next to you and have the ‘helper’ approach silently.  If the dog remains sitting, he/she immediately gets a great treat (you or the ‘helper’ can deliver the treat).  If the dog jumps up, or even gets up, the ‘helper’ keeps walking past.  Be sure to keep the leash loose so the dog has the opportunity to make a choice.

The theory is that dogs love greetings and they love treats.  If we get the behavior we want the dog gets the good stuff too.  If the dog chooses a “bad” behavior, all possibility for social exchange (and treats) is removed!

We have started with the easiest situation possible; The dog is sitting (the ‘default’ position) and the person approaches silently.  Once the dog understands what is expected, raise your expectations a little.  The person approaching says a calm (flat tone) greeting “Hi, how are you”.  Once the dog has had a few successes begin to make the verbal greeting more excited, “HI, HOW ARE YOU?” .  When that’s successful make the greeting as wild and excited as possible.

Remember, with each successful greeting the dog gets a great treat and with every failed response nothing happens at all, the greeter just clams up and keeps on walking!

Sometimes you may see the dog really work to ‘do the right thing’ ( he/she almost jumps up but shows restraint at the last instant).  This is a JACKPOT moment (a handful of treats – given to the dog one at a time), it’s a big reward for extra effort.

Arrange numerous social encounters by inviting friends to your home or by taking walks in your neighborhood.  Keep your leash handy when you are home so you can snap it on your dog as soon as the doorbell rings.  Before your dog shows excitement at someone’s approach, have him sit and stay as you pause to shake hands.  (NOTE:  Also see training for Test 6.)  The “stay” helps to keep excitable dogs under control.  Praise your dog when he obeys.

Now it’s time to practice with the dog in motion, since this is even harder.

Approach each other (silently) and stop at a comfortable conversational distance.  Ask the dog to “sit” the first few times as you stop.  Use the same criteria as explained above.  When that’s successful do not cue the sit, expect the dog to sit automatically.  Remember, treats for a successful response and nothing for a goof!

Raise your expectations as the dog’s skills improve.  Approach each other with a calm greeting, more excited greeting, and finally with wild greetings.

Once the dog has learned how to approach one person we must teach him to generalize the behavior to all people.  Start the process over with a new person.  It will go much faster with the second person.  When the dog is always successful start over with a third person.  You will know your dog has generalized the learning when you can approach anybody and your dog chooses to sit automatically every time.

It may take many repetitions for your dog to realize that social encounters at home and in public must be met in a civilized way.  If you are consistent in showing your dog how you expect it to behave when you meet friends and strangers AND reward the behavior you want, he will soon respond with poise.

This process will take time but the results are well worth it!  It’s really impressive to people when your dog automatically sits in greeting situations and it makes it a lot easier and more fun for you too!

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 handler.  With the dog sitting at the handler’s side (either side is permissible) to begin the exercise, the evaluator approaches and asks, “May I pet your dog?”  The evaluator then pets the dog on the head and body only.  The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise.  The dog may stand in place once petting begins.  The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

Training for Test #2
In public, strangers will want to meet your budding Canine Good Citizen.  You have already accomplished a large part of this exercise by teaching you dog to pay attention to you and ignore pedestrians in public and to react calmly to visitors at home.

Getting your dog accustomed to being touched all over his body will be helpful for this exercise.  For five minutes every day, pet and massage your dog’s face, ears, down his spine and legs while giving him treats.  Handling exercises will be more successful if you take advantage of quiet times when your dog is already relaxed.  Continue massaging down his back and gently give a tug to his fur and tail, all the while giving him treats.  This will make touching a positive experience.

When your dog is comfortable with handling, have him remain sitting while you and family members approach and pet him.  Then practice with people the dog knows and likes.  Start with simple touching and reward your dog.  Approach from all angles, (side, back, front). Gradually escalate to more vigorous petting without getting the dog overly excited.  Reward successful responses.  If he becomes too excited, (jumping, barking, or wiggling), remove your attention and wait for calmness.  Reward calm behavior.

As soon as your dog learns to remain calm while being petted by those it knows, you can allow strangers to do the same.  Remember that many individuals, especially children, do not know how to approach animals and may need some guidance.

3.  Appearance and Grooming

This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so.  It also demonstrates the owner’s care, concern and sense of responsibility.

The evaluator inspects the dog to determine if it is clean and groomed.  The dog must appear to be in healthy condition (i.e., proper weight, clean, healthy and alert).  The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog.  The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog and, in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot.

It is not necessary for the dog to hold a specific position during the examination, and the handler may talk to the dog, praise it and give it encouragement throughout.

Training for test #3
Gentle combing and brushing are a natural extension of petting and stroking.  Your dog should receive gradual, positive conditioning to being groomed and examined from puppyhood on.  Introduce your dog to brushing sessions by allowing the dog to sniff the brush and then give 2-3 strokes down his back, give him a special treat and end the session.  Handle his front paws and other parts of his body, (head, ears, lips) in a similar way. Gradually increase the amount of time that you spend touching your dog all over.  Begin right away if you acquire an adult dog.  If your dog fears this type of handling or becomes uncertain when its ears or feet are touched, spend time allowing him to associate grooming and human touch with a happy experience (such as vocal praise or training treats) when he gives the slightest positive response.  Pleasant daily handling and grooming will help you recognize physical problems early on, and your dog will learn that being examined and groomed are a welcome part of everyday life.  Once your dog is comfortable being groomed and examined by you, ask someone else to do the same using the “sit,” “down” or “stand” cue, if you wish.  Your dog will then be ready for visits to pet-care professionals and for Canine Good Citizen Tests 1-3.

4. Out for a Walk (Walking on a Loose Leash)

This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog.  The dog may be on either side of the handler, whichever the handler prefers.  (NOTE: The left-side position is required in all AKC competitive obedience events.)

The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or cues.  In either case, there must be a left turn, right turn and an about turn, with at least one stop in between and another at the end.

The dog’s position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler’s movements and changes of direction.  The handler may talk to the dog throughout the “walk” to encourage him and may give praise.  The handler may also give the dog a cue to sit at the stop, if desired.  The dog need not be perfectly aligned in the “heel” position with the handler and need not sit at the stops.  The dog should not be constantly straining at the leash so that the leash is pulled tight.

Training for test #4
As with all training exercises you will want to start in an area with the least distractions, build on success and gradually take your dog out where there are people and other dogs.

You can begin teaching this exercise by showing your dog a treat to entice it to move with you as you begin to walk.  Treats motivate the dog to stay in the proper place, and praise reinforces him.  Eventually, your dog will develop a habit of moving happily in the desired position, and the treats can gradually be eliminated.  Always continue to use praise.

Here are three methods for training the loose leash walk.  You can practice any or all.  For all of them the starting positions are the same.  Neatly fold the leash accordion-style into your right hand, with the part going to the dog coming out the bottom of your hand, and hold your hand against your belt buckle.  Deliver treats with left hand.  Position the dog on your left side in a sit position.

“Be a Tree”
Begin walking in a straight line.  Praise and reward every few steps as your dog is walking without pulling.  If your dog begins to pull ahead, just stop and wait, (Be a Tree).  When your dog sits and/or looks at you, praise and treat.  He should now be back near your leg, have him sit on your left side and take 2-3 steps.  Repeat “Be a Tree” as often as needed.  It may take several repetitions.  Your dog will learn when the leash tightens, forward progress stops.  Do not take any steps forward as long as the leash is tight.  Every time your dog pulls and is successful he is learning that pulling works.

“Penalty Yards”
Another good way to practice is when your dog pulls, stop and take a few steps backwards. You can pat your leg and encourage him to come to your left side, praise and reward.  Put him in a sit and take a few more steps forward.  Remember to praise and reward when he is walking on a loose leash.  Repeat “Penalty Yards” as needed.

“Turn and Go”
When your dog pulls, stop, make a right about turn and walk a few steps in the opposite direction.  When your dog is near your left side, and is moving without pulling, praise and treat.  You should never jerk on the leash.  You do not have to guide, steer or drag your dog on the leash.  Whenever your dog chooses to stop paying attention to you and pulls the leash tight you should simply stop.  The dog has caused the tight leash, not you.  Wait for him to give attention to you, praise and reward and reposition him.

For dedicated pullers, this will require lots of practice, but after a few successful reinforcements, your dog will start to get the idea.  You will begin to see him reposition himself as soon as the leash tightens or when you stop.  As he begins to pay more attention to you, add right turns, left turns, about turns and sits at your side when you stop.

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 and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three).  Some of the members of the crowd may be standing still; however, some crowd members should be moving about.  This test simulates settings such as busy sidewalks or walking through a crowd at a dog show or public event.  The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over exuberance, shyness or resentment.  The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test.  The dog should not be straining at the leash.

If the CGC is being given for therapy dog certification (which is not an AKC activity), most national therapy dog groups require that at least one person in the crowd use some healthcare equipment, such as walkers, canes, wheelchairs, etc.

Training for Test #5
Because you have already practiced loose-leash walking in your neighborhood, your dog is probably used to encountering people.  If however there is no one around, go to a grocery store, pet supermarket, downtown or to the local playground.  With an excitable dog, try to work up to close encounters gradually until your dog is comfortable and controllable.  For example, choose a quiet weekday evening for a walk in town before you choose a busy weekend.

For this exercise, you will want to have your dog in a “heel” position, rather than the more lenient “loose leash”.  “Heel” is typically used when you need your dog to walk in a controlled fashion by your side (in crowds, when crossing streets, or when passing people on the path who may be afraid of dogs).  Practice heeling in an area with no distractions.  Use a handful of food lures and position your dog at your left side, his head should be lined up with your left leg.

Begin by placing your dog in a sit on your left.  Hold the lure in your left hand two inches above your dog’s nose level and parallel to your left leg.  Your hand should be as close to your left leg as possible.  Say your dog’s name, “heel” and step out with your left foot, use the lure to keep him in heel position.  Take no more than a few steps, praise and reward frequently, giving out the treats one at a time.  His eyes should be on you at all times.  When you stop, have him sit.  Eventually, he will learn to sit automatically when you stop.  Repeat taking just a few steps at a time.  If he breaks heel position, you are probably taking too many steps or there may be too many distractions.

As your dog becomes more proficient, you can begin to fade the food and bring your hand in front of you at your waist.  This may take several weeks of practice.  Go back to using food if you see regression.

6. Sit and Down on command/ Staying in Place

This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler’s commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers).

Prior to this test, the dog’s leash is replaced with a 20-foot line.  The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to make the dog sit and then down.  The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler’s commands. The handler may not force the dog into either position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance.

When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of the line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace (the 20-foot line is not removed or dropped).  The dog must remain in the place it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog.  The dog may be released from the front or the side.

Training for Test #6
Sit and Down
If you are like most dog owners, you have already taught your dog to sit on command.  Maybe you have also taught your dog to down and, if so, you can skip this part and go right to the section on staying in place.

To teach your dog to sit, hold a piece of food in front of his nose, and lift the treat up over his nose and forehead.  Keep the treat very close to your dog’s body as you say “sit.”  As your dog looks up at the reward, his rear will settle into a sit.  Praise and reward instantly.

To teach the down, put the food in front of your sitting dog’s nose and slowly lower it to the ground slightly ahead of its feet while saying “down.”  As your dog reaches down for the reward, it will lower the front end of its body.  As soon as his chest is on the floor praise your dog and instantly give it the treat.

Practice these exercises several times in a row over a period of several days.  Gradually bring in distractions until your dog responds reliably to either cue in public places.

Staying in Place
With your dog at your side, ask him to sit or down.  Once he is in position, you are ready to teach a “stay” cue.

Lower your hand, palm towards the dog’s face, as a signal to stay as you say the word stay. Then stand right in front of your dog’s nose.  Remain there for a few seconds.  If he starts to break position, use “uh,oh” or “oops” and reposition him.  When your dog remains in place, go back to his side, praise, reward and release  him.  Practice this several times over a period of several days.

As soon as your dog understands what stay means, start adding time (about 10 seconds per day), then bring in distractions.  Only when your dog is reliable under distractions for a period of 1-2 minutes on a sit and 2-3 minutes on a down should you gradually begin to move farther away from your dog.  Move in closer and reduce the time if you experience difficulty, and be sure to practice the cues on-leash.  Before you know it, you will wonder how you and your dog ever managed to live together without the “sit,” and “down” and “stay” behavior cues.

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 body language and encouragement to get the dog to come.  Handlers may choose to tell dogs to “stay” or “wait,” (or another similar cue) or they may simply walk away.  The dog may be left in the sit, down, or standing position.  If a dog attempts to follow the handler, the evaluator may distract the dog (e.g., petting) until the handler is 10 feet away.  This exercise does not test “stay”; this exercise tests whether or not the dog will come when called.

The test is complete when the dog comes to the handler and the handler attaches the dog’s own leash.

Training for Test #7
To begin teaching your dog to come, put your dog on leash.  Allow him to go to the end of the leash and call his name enthusiastically.  Take a few quick steps backwards, patting your leg and saying “come”.  When he comes when called, give him lots of praise and treats. Bring the treat in close to your body, so that he will come close to you.  When he reaches you, prolong your reward and praise so your dog will want to stay with you.  Also at this point, it is a good idea to gently take hold of his collar with one hand and treat with the other hand. Then release him.

Increase the distance gradually using a long line or retractable leash.  Avoid using the leash to drag him to you.  Practice calling your dog to you at least 5 times a day.  This cue should always be associated with good things.  Don’t call your dog to you to do something unpleasant (scolding, nail clipping, end of play) or he will not want to come next time.

If your dog does not come when called, go get him and go back to practicing the “come” on leash.  You should not let your dog off leash until you have a reliable recall on leash, with distractions, in many different locations.

8.  Reaction to Another Dog

This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs.  Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet.

The dogs should show no more that a casual interest in each other.  Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

Training for Test #8
If you are working alone and there are few people in your neighborhood who walk their dogs, you will need to go where dogs are, such as a boarding kennel, grooming salon, veterinarian’s office or pet supermarket.  These places offer opportunities to practice good canine-to-canine manners and are also locations where you need your dog and the other dog to be under control.

If you have already accomplished the stay exercise with distractions, you can consider this exercise as just one more example of a distraction.  Start from a safe distance, moving as far away as need be so that both dogs in the encounter feel secure.  When your dog becomes confident, you can move closer to approaching dogs and handlers.  To begin, every time you see a dog and handler walking, ask your dog to “stay” in either a sit or down position as they pass by.  Use encouragement and “jolly talk” and lots of praise and rewards.  Be aware of the leash in your hands.  Do not tighten up on it in anticipation of what you fear might happen.  This will send a clear message to your dog that something “scary” is about to happen.

Dogs performing the Canine Good Citizen Test have had an introduction to this exercise, but be alert when practicing in real life.  Unfortunately, the dog you are approaching may not be trained and may have poor manners.  In fact, dog owners may comment on your dog’s good manners.  You and your dog will be helping to educate the public, and you may even find other dogs and handlers to train with!

Practice this exercise until your dog reacts reliably to canine encounters.  It should show no more that mild interest in the approaching dog and handler so you can stop, shake hands and go your own way.

9.  Reactions to Distractions

This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations.

The evaluator will select only two of the following:
(NOTE: Since some dogs are sensitive to sound and others to visual distractions, it is preferable to choose one sound and one visual distraction.)

A person using crutches, a wheelchair or a walker (5 feet away).
A sudden closing or opening of a door.
Dropping a large book, pan, folded chair, etc. no closer than 5 feet from the dog.
A jogger running in front of the dog.
A person pushing a shopping cart or crate dolly approaching from the front or rear, no closer than 5 feet away.
A person on a bicycle no closer than 10 feet away.

The dog may express a natural interest and curiosity and/or appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness or bark.  The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise.

Training for Test #9
Life is full of surprises and your dog should react calmly to most of them.  Through exposure to everyday situations, your dog has probably learned to ignore the distractions used in this test.  But if it rarely sees a bicycle or has taken to barking and fence-running when he sees a jogger, you may be in for an embarrassing surprise when you are with your dog in public.

If you dog shows fear of unusual objects, sounds or movements, you should help it by briefly exposing it to these things in a non-threatening environment, preferably at a comfortable distance.  Praise, treats, toys and playful interaction may eventually take his mind off fear and help him associate what was once frightening with positive experiences.

As your dog becomes more confident, you can gradually bring the distractions closer.  For example, a heavy book dropped right behind a dog’s back may cause an inexperienced or sound-sensitive dog to panic; but a heavy book dropped 60 feet in front of the same dog may not even be noticed.  Gradually moving the book closer, to the side of the dog and, finally, behind his back will desensitize the dog in a positive way.

If your dog shows aggressive behavior, the same technique may be applied by exposing the dog gradually, and at a distance, to the things that trigger his reaction.  Reward calm behavior.

CAUTION: AVOID CODDLING!  As tempting as it may be, do not allow yourself to coddle and comfort your dog.  You will be rewarding and reinforcing his timid, fearful behavior, not giving him confidence, like you might think.  If you act concerned, he will be even more convinced that there is something to be afraid of.  You will do better to act matter-of-fact, yawn as if your bored, or jolly him up, and let him know that there’s nothing wrong.  Try to keep him focused on a task that requires active thought.  Eye contact and heeling (or any other behavior cues) are useful in many cases because the dog stays focused on you.

10.  Supervised Separation

This test demonstrates that a dog can be left in the presence of a trusted person and will maintain his training and good manners.  Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?”  You will give the leash to the evaluator and go out of sight for 3 minutes.  You may tell your dog to stay if it is already in a down or sit/stay.  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.

Training for Test #10
As you and your dog work together, you will discover a bond developing that is based on trust.  Not only will you begin to trust your dog’s manners, but he will trust you and your judgment, even if the dog is occasionally left in a strange place, such as a friend’s home, a grooming shop or a boarding kennel.

Prepare your dog by going out of sight for a few seconds as you practice distance on your dog’s “stay” behavior.  You can walk into another room or around the corner.  If you use a long line and hold on to it, you will know if your dog moves, even if you cannot see him.  Or you can position yourself opposite a mirror, so you can see him but he doesn’t see you.  Use the correction “oops” or “uh, oh” if he breaks position or vocalizes, and repeat the exercise making it easier for him to succeed (shorter time out of sight).  If you “disappear” for only a few seconds and never go any great distance, your dog will learn that you are never far away, even when he cannot see you.

As soon as your dog feels comfortable when you go out of sight, you can stop using the “stay” cue.  You might want to introduce a new cue such as “wait here” or “I’ll be back.”  That will help your dog understand that he can remain calm and not try to run away or vocalize, but need not remain in a specific position.

Gradually increase the time you are out of sight, and add social distractions until you have worked up to three minutes.  When possible, have a helper work with you on this exercise so that your dog learns to be briefly separated from you and to stay with a person you trust.

On Your Way…
Congratulations on completing the training so your dog can become a Canine Good Citizen!

Have fun with your best friend, your AKC Canine Good Citizen, and please spread the word about dog friendly positive reinforcement training.