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Canine Good Citizen: Does Your Dog Have What It Takes?

By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President

Is there anything more wonderful than a well-behaved dog? Whether it’s taking a worry-free walk in the park or greeting guests politely in your home, having a mannerly canine simply makes life easier and more enjoyable.

These skills can also be lifesavers. Bad behavior – including barking, chewing, hyperactivity and aggression – is among the most common reasons dogs are surrendered to shelters.

Luckily, many of these unwanted behaviors can be reduced or eliminated with proper training. To encourage owners to work with their dogs on basic skills, the AKC (American Kennel Club) formed the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program in 1989. The program “stresses responsible pet ownership…and basic good manners for dogs.” Upon successful completion of the program, dogs can receive an official certificate from the AKC.

Although not a requirement, some owners opt to pursue the CGC certification as a springboard into other activities such as therapy work, search and rescue and agility. Most, however, are simply looking for a way to bond with their dogs and reinforce good behavior.

Any breed or mix of breeds can take the CGC test at any age, as long as they have the required vaccinations. Even puppies as young as six months old are allowed to participate, although the AKC encourages owners to re-test them as adults.

The test is non-competitive and consists of 10 parts:

  1. Accepts a friendly stranger
  2. Sits politely for petting
  3. Allows himself to be handled for grooming, including ears and feet
  4. Walks on a loose leash
  5. Walks politely through a crowd
  6. Sits, lies down and stays on command
  7. Comes when called
  8. Behaves politely around other dogs
  9. Reacts appropriately and confidently to distractions
  10. Can be left with a trusted person for three minutes without excessive whining, barking or agitation.

In addition, before taking the test, the pet owner is required to take and sign the Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge, in which he or she promises to take care of their dog’s health, safety and quality of life, and not allow them to infringe on the rights of others.

A slip or buckle collar and six-foot leash are required. Harnesses that don’t restrict the movements of the dog are also permitted. Treats and harsh corrections are also not allowed.

Depending on the facility administering the test, there may be a small fee to participate, regardless of whether your dog passes or fails. If your dog doesn’t pass, don’t worry. There’s no limit to the number of times you can retake the test at a later date.

If you think your pup has what it takes to be a Canine Good Citizen, getting started is easy. Even if you’re experienced in training your dog, it may be a good idea to take a class or enlist one-on-one help from a professional trainer who’s familiar with the requirements of the test. Check out the AKC website for a list of CGC classes and evaluators near you.

I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions that you’d like me to answer on the blog concerning health, wellness or behavior, drop me an email at

Source: Behavioral Reasons for Dogs and Cats Surrendered to 12 Shelters

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Posted on Jun 15, 2015 by VOYCE Behavior & Training