The Canine Good Citizen program was developed by the American Kennel Club to promote responsible dog care and encourage pet parents to teach their dogs basic good manners and appropriate behavior. Nowadays, certification is a badge of honor for many dog owners, but also an excellent starting point for parents of dogs entering therapy, support, or service dog work.
Who can become a good citizen for dogs?
Any dog, breed, or mix of breeds of any age can become a certified Canine Good Citizen by successfully meeting a number of ten criteria set by the AKC.
The criteria listed below demonstrate a dog’s understanding of basic good manners in a variety of situations, such as: For example, welcoming people and other dogs appropriately, reliably following their owner’s obedience instructions, and trusting strangers such as vets and snow groomers to be treated politely, cared for or checked – all important aspects of well-behaved dogs.
To become certified, an AKC-approved assessor tests the dog’s ability to perform ten different tasks. To be certified, the dog must necessarily pass all ten. While it may seem difficult to new pet owners or owners of wild or unruly dogs, training a dog to pass the test is both fun and a reward, both for the dog and handler!
In addition to training their dog to pass the tests, pet parents must sign a pledge for responsible dog owners that promises to provide the best care for their dog’s life.
The CGC criteria:
To be labeled a Canine Good Citizen, dogs must be able to successfully, calmly, and safely perform all ten of the following:
- Stay calm while a friendly stranger approaches stop to speak to you, and shakes hands with you.
- Keep calm while a friendly stranger approaches and pats him.
- Allow a stranger to treat him like a veterinarian or groomer would, by looking at his ears, touching his paws, and brushing him.
- Walk nicely on a loose leash without pulling, falling, or trying to pull yourself back from its collar.
- Calmly walk next to you on a loose leash as you navigate through a small crowd.
- Sit down and lie down on command. Then, stay in either position as you walk 20 feet away.
- Come to you when someone calls you from 10 feet away.
- Remain calm when another dog and handler approach.
- Show confidence and little interest while presenting two separate distractions such as loud noises, wheelchairs, joggers, or skateboarders.
- Under the control of another person, after keeping them on a leash, stay relatively calm and get out of sight for 3 minutes.
In addition to passing the above ten tests, Canine Good Citizen certification requires that some additional rules and guidelines be followed when testing. They are:
Equipment: Dogs must wear a standard buckle collar, slip collar, or a customized harness during the CGC assessment. Special training collars such as head holders, prong/pinch collars, electronic collars or no-pull belts are not permitted during the exam. While many of these elements are effective training tools, a good citizen of a dog should be able to perform the required tasks without training aids. Pet parents should bring their own brush or comb for evaluation. A 20-foot leash is also used, which is normally provided by the evaluator.
Rewards for your dog: The use of treats, groceries, and toys are prohibited during the evaluation. You can talk to your dog, give praise and attention, and give pets for a job well done, but food and toy rewards are not allowed. This rule is intended to prove to the evaluator that your dog will willingly perform the required tasks when prompted, not just because a reward is coming. While training your dog for the test, please use rewards to reinforce and encourage great behavior.
Reasons for disqualification: In addition to passing all ten tests with no qualifications, there are some cases where dogs may be excluded from the assessment. Any dog that is eliminated (peeing or pooping) during the test will be automatically disqualified. Make sure your dog hasn’t eaten a large meal just before the test and make sure he has run and potty before starting. In addition, any dog that growls, nibbles, snaps, bites, falls, attacks, or attempts to attack another dog or person will be immediately disqualified from the test.
Even if pet parents pass the official certification, training your dog to complete the 10 tests above provides a great foundation of the confidence, reliability, and good manners required for a well-behaved, happy, and safe dog.
Could Your Dog Pass the Canine Good Citizen Rating?