27 February 2010

Canine Good Citizen -- Is Your Dog Ready?

I am a certified Canine Good Citizen Evaluator and am often asked if I think dogs are ready for the test. To help you determine if your dog is ready, here are some guidelines to help you decide if  you and your dog are ready.

Be Prepared.
Your dog should have proper vaccinations recommended by your veterinarian. You dog must not growl or show aggression near or in the testing area. You dog should be comfortable in a well-fitted buckle collar, or a limited slip collar made of  leather, fabric or chain.

As a handler, you should know that you may praise, pet and talk to your dog during the test. Things to avoid are food, toys and bait bags. During the test you may use your voice and hand signals, but you will not be able to use your leash as a restraint.

AKC’s Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Program
Training/Testing: CGC Test Items
Before taking the Canine Good Citizen test, owners will sign the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge. We believe that responsible dog ownership is a key part of the CGC concept and by signing the pledge, owners agree to take care of their dog's health needs, safety, exercise, training and quality of life. Owners also agree to show responsibility by doing things such as cleaning up after their dogs in public places and never letting dogs infringe on the rights of others.

After signing the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge, owners and their dogs are ready to take the CGC Test. Items on the Canine Good Citizen Test include:

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

[AKC] 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.

[RTC] Will your dog sit calmly while you greet and shake hands with another person? Your dog should be able to maintain a position -- keeping all four feet on the floor -- and not show shyness. The other critical element is doing this without any restraint of the leash or collar.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting

[AKC] 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, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

[RTC] Will your dog sit calmly while a stranger touches it on the head and body? Your dog should be able to maintain a position -- keeping all four feet on the floor -- and not show shyness. The other critical element is doing this without any restraint of the leash or collar. Your dog is allowed to wiggle, but not pull away from petting. Ideally your dog will look happy. The dog may roll over, but not jump, lunge or rush forward.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming

[AKC] 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 encouragement throughout.

[RTC] Is your dog confident enough to welcome grooming and examination? Your dog should be able to maintain a position -- keeping all four feet on the floor -- and not show shyness and not pull back from the examiner. The other critical element is doing this without any restraint of the leash or collar, and no jumping, lunging or rushing toward the examiner. The dog needs to appear under control, but is allowed to wiggle some -- not so much wiggling that the tester can't get the dog brushed. If the tester instructs you to, you are allowed to hold the head steady for the ear exam and to lift a foot for the toenail exam.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)

[AKC] This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. 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 dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops. The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. In either case, there should be a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The handler may talk to the dog along the way, praise the dog, or give commands in a normal tone of voice. The handler may sit the dog at the halts if desired.

[RTC] Does your dog walk on a loose lead? Your pattern will include a left turn, a right turn, an about turn and two stops where the dog is sitting at your side. Is your dog able to perform those on a loose lead? Your dog should walk with you without tightness in the leash. Constantly tight leads are not going to get you a passing test. You are allowed to pat your leg and talk to your dog, and your dog should be paying attention to you when you do these things. Your dog should not be sniffing the floor excessively or ignoring you, those also will keep you from passing.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd

[AKC] 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). 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 jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.

[RTC] Does your dog walk politely through people and stay under control in public situations? Your dog is allowed to show interest in strangers as long as there is not too much excitement, shyness or resentment. When you are ready to move forward, the dog should go promptly along with you. No jumping on people, hiding behind the handler or pulling/straining at the leash.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place

[AKC] 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). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. Prior to this test, the dog's leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to 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 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 dog must remain in the place in which 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.

[RTC] Is your dog able to sit or down on a voice command or hand signal? Will your dog stay put while you walk twenty-feet away and then return? Have you practiced attaching the 20-foot leash to your dog, unclipping your own leash? You would be surprised at how many dogs do everything but this exercise. You will be able to give multiple commands for SIT and DOWN, but you are not able to physically put your dog in position. You will leave the dog for the STAY and walk 20-feet away and then return immediately. You will walk 10-feet away and call the dog. You will attach your leash to the collar when the twenty-foot leash comes off. Your dog should be reliable in both SIT and DOWN for a reasonable amount of time. I train for slightly longer than obedience sits and downs so the dog thinks it is always longer than what would be expected. In CGC, if your dog stands up during the stay, you are still okay. If the dog stands up during the stay and moves toward you, that all she wrote for the test.

Test 7: Coming when called

[AKC] 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.

[RTC] When you call your dog, will your dog come close enough to you that you could touch the collar? For my own dogs, I add the parameter that I could touch the collar without dropping a dime being held between my elbow and my side. Might as well get them as close as possible! You are allowed to tell your dog to wait or stay, and you are allowed to bend down to call your dog. Your dog may change positions during the wait/stay, but the dog should not follow you as you walk away. You will need the dog to come to you in 1-2 commands.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog

[AKC] 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 than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

[RTC] Will your dog sit, stand or down while you greet another person with a dog? You are allowed to position your dog in either a stand, sit or down. You are allowed to remind your dog to STAY before shaking hands with the other person. You will exchange pleasantries with the other dog's handler while your dog stays next to you. Your dog can show an interest in the other dog and handler but should not jump on either. You will want your dog to stay in the same position as when you exchanged pleasantries, the dog should not cross over to see the other team. Your dog should not pull toward the other handler and dog as they leave.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction

[AKC] This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may 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.

[RTC] Does your dog act confidently when seeing / hearing common distractions? Usually these will be about 5-feet from you and your dog. You may also want to proof your dog for crutches, wheelchairs and walkers. (You will see these in Therapy Dog testing.) I often bring old pots and pans and big books to toss around for distractions. Other good options are quickly opening or closing doors or dropping a folding chair. Depending on where you test, you may also encounter someone running in front of the dog, someone pushing a cart, wagon, dolly, someone riding a bicycle. It is acceptable for your dog to show some interest and to even appear slightly startled as long as they get over the startled moment quickly. You dog can move forward a little bit to investigate but should never growl or lunge. If your dog barks a little, that is okay but it shouldn't continue barking. Remember in CGC you are allowed to give instructions to your dog like sit, watch me, or other encouragement and praise.

Test 10: Supervised separation

[AKC] This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain 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 three 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. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, "there, there, it's alright").

[RTC] When you leave your dog with someone you trust and move out of sight, will your dog behave well? You dog doesn't have to stay in position, and can walk back and forth, but should not show signs of extreme stress like breathing hard, panting, whining and general agitation. Don't expect to pass if your dog is barking, whining, howling or constantly pulling on the leash.Your dog will be with the handler while you are out of sight for three-minutes.


All tests must be performed on leash. Dogs should wear well-fitting buckle or slip collars made of leather, fabric, or chain. Special training collars such as pinch collars, head halters, etc. are not permitted in the CGC test. We recognize that special training collars may be very useful tools for beginning dog trainers, however, we feel that dogs are ready to take the CGC test at the point at which they are transitioned to regular collars.

The evaluator supplies a 20-foot lead for the test. The owner/handler should bring the dog's brush or comb to the test.


Owners/handlers may use praise and encouragement throughout the test. The owner may pet the dog between exercises. Food and treats are not permitted during testing, nor is the use of toys, squeaky toys, etc. to get the dog to do something. We recognize that food and toys may provide valuable reinforcement or encouragement during the training process but these items should not be used during the test.
Failures – Dismissals

Any dog that eliminates during testing must be marked failed. The only exception to this rule is that elimination is allowable in test Item 10, but only when test Item 10 is held outdoors.

Any dog that growls, snaps, bites, attacks, or attempts to attack a person or another dog is not a good citizen and must be dismissed from the test.

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