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How to Train Your Dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test

What Is the Canine Good Citizen Test? The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test, introduced by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1989, aims to promote responsible pet ownership and help dogs become well-mannered members of their communities. It's a prestigious certification that serves as a foundation for therapy work, dog sports, and overcoming behavior challenges. Additionally, some insurance companies and landlords recognize the CGC certificate, offering benefits for homeowners and renters.

Eligibility and Test Structure The CGC test is open to all dogs, regardless of age. If your dog is under 12 months old, consider the STAR Puppy program. The test evaluates your dog's behavior in various scenarios, and dogs displaying aggression are not allowed to participate.

You can train your dog for the CGC test through professional classes or on your own, and find a certified evaluator via the AKC. The evaluator administers and scores the test objectively, with certain sections requiring an unfamiliar person to interact with your dog.

Training Requirements

  • Dogs must not ignore their owner, pull, jump, lunge, bark, growl, snarl, snap, or bite.

  • The evaluator can halt the test if they feel uncomfortable for safety reasons.

  • Training collars and head halters are prohibited during the test.

Training Tips for the Canine Good Citizen Test

Interacting with Strangers A CGC dog should be calm and friendly around strangers. If your dog is overly excited, practice calm approaches and ensure they keep all four paws on the ground. Subtle signs of avoidance, like turning their head or avoiding eye contact, indicate discomfort that needs addressing.

Interacting with Other Dogs The test requires your dog to remain calm around other dogs without direct contact. Practice leash skills, sitting, and staying in the presence of other dogs. Public settings like pet stores or fields near dog parks are ideal for practice.

Separation from You Your dog must stay calm when separated from you for three minutes. Gradually increase the time your dog spends with another person to build up to the required duration. Aim for a five-minute separation to ensure readiness.

Handling and Grooming Your dog should be comfortable with being handled by others. Regular grooming and vet visits help. Use desensitization and counterconditioning techniques if your dog is anxious about handling. A certified trainer or behavior consultant can assist if needed.

Basic Obedience Skills Skills like sit, down, stay, and come are crucial. Practice these commands at home and in increasingly distracting environments until your dog responds reliably.

Walking Skills Loose-leash walking is essential for the CGC test. Practice walking through crowds, greeting strangers, and navigating courses in pet-friendly areas. Use high-value treats to reinforce good behavior.


Can you use treats during the Canine Good Citizen test? No, treats are only allowed during training, not the actual test. A good CGC prep class will teach you how to phase out treats while maintaining your dog’s performance.

Is the Canine Good Citizen test worth it for my dog? Absolutely! The CGC certification helps elevate your dog’s training, builds a strong bond, and prepares them for therapy work, dog sports, and other activities. The skills learned are beneficial for everyday life and public outings.

By following these training tips and understanding the requirements, you can help your dog become a proud Canine Good Citizen. For more detailed guidance and training resources, visit

Train Your Dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test
Train Your Dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test


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