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Training for Canine Good Citizen Certification: A Comprehensive Overview | Pupford

February 26th, 2024

Filed under Training

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According to the American Kennel Club, “... All dogs can be good dogs, and all owners can be great owners, all it takes is a little bit of training, lots of love, and of course, plenty of praise along the way.”

And we couldn’t agree more! 🥰

Dog training is more than just teaching basic obedience cues; it's about nurturing good behavior and fostering a strong bond between a dog and their guardian - and the Canine Good Citizen certification does just that!

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification, established by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1989, serves as a testament to a dog's good behavior and training, showcasing their ability to be well-mannered members of society.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the significance of CGC certification, the training and testing process, and provide detailed tips for success.

Table of Contents:

  1. Understanding Canine Good Citizen Certification
  2. Benefits Of A CGC Certification
  3. The Training Process
  4. Tips for Success
  5. Testing Requirements and Guidelines

Understanding Canine Good Citizen Certification

The Canine Good Citizen program aims to promote responsible dog ownership and well-mannered dogs in the community. CGC certification serves as a benchmark for assessing a dog's behavior in various real-life situations. It evaluates their obedience, temperament, and socialization skills, ensuring they can navigate everyday scenarios with confidence and composure.

The CGC certification test consists of ten components designed to assess a dog's demeanor in various contexts:

  1. Accepting a Friendly Stranger: This component evaluates the dog's reaction to unfamiliar people, ensuring they remain calm and approachable in social situations. The dog must remain neutral and friendly while being ignored as their guardian is greeted.
  2. Sitting Politely for Petting: Dogs are tested on their ability to sit calmly while being petted on the head and body by a friendly stranger, demonstrating good manners and self-control, while not displaying any signs of shyness or resentment.
  3. Appearance and Grooming: This component assesses the dog's tolerance to handling and grooming, ensuring they are comfortable with basic grooming procedures such as brushing and nail trimming being completed by someone such as a groomer or veterinarian. The dog must also be in healthy body condition - proper weight, clean, and alert.
  4. Out for a Walk (Loose Leash Walking): Dogs are evaluated on their ability to walk politely on a loose leash, demonstrating good leash manners and responsiveness to their guardian's cues. While they do not need to walk in a heel position, they do need to demonstrate a right turn, a left turn, and an about turn.
  5. Walking Through a Crowd: This component assesses the dog's ability to navigate through a crowd of people in a public space calmly and confidently, without displaying overexuberance, fear, or resentment. The dog may show interest in people in the crowd, but they cannot greet or jump on them.
  6. Sit and Down on Command and Staying in Place: Dogs are tested on their ability to respond to basic obedience cues and must demonstrate a sit and down cue. They must then remain in that position while the guardian walks away 20 feet and then returns.
  7. Coming When Called: This component evaluates the dog's recall ability, ensuring they respond promptly and reliably when called by their guardian from 10 feet away.
  8. Reaction to Another Dog: Dogs are tested on their ability to remain calm and non-reactive when encountering another dog, demonstrating good social skills and impulse control. The dogs must remain approximately 20 feet away from each other and walk for about 10 feet without going over to the other dog or their handler.
  9. Reaction to Distractions: This component assesses the dog's ability to remain neutral in the presence of various distractions, such as loud noises or sudden movements. Examples of distractions that may be used 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 can show natural curiosity but should not attempt to run away, bark, or show aggressive behavior.
  10. Supervised Separation: Dogs are tested on their ability to remain calm and relaxed when left with a trusted person, demonstrating confidence and independence. During the test, the guardian will be out of sight of the dog for 3 minutes. The dog does not need to remain in one position but they should not bark, whine, or pace while their guardian is out of sight.

All dogs of any breed, size, or age are eligible to complete the CGC certification!

a photo of a happy dog walking outside in a park around joggers and strollers

Benefits Of A CGC Certification

There are several reasons why dog guardians pursue CGC certification:

Proof of Good Behavior

CGC certification serves as tangible proof of a dog's good behavior and training. It demonstrates to others, including landlords, neighbors, and service providers (such as groomers, daycares, or veterinarians), that the dog is well-mannered and obedient.

Public Access

CGC-certified dogs may have access to certain public places where dogs are typically not allowed, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Many therapy dog programs require CGC certification as a prerequisite for participation.

Easier Travel

Some airlines and public transportation systems may waive certain restrictions or fees for CGC-certified dogs traveling with their owners. This certification can make traveling with a dog more convenient and hassle-free.

Rental Properties

Many landlords and property managers view CGC certification favorably when considering tenants with pets. CGC certification can help alleviate concerns about potential damage or disturbances caused by dogs in rental properties.

Volunteer Opportunities

CGC-certified dogs and their owners may volunteer in various community service activities, such as visiting hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and disaster relief efforts. CGC certification opens doors to meaningful volunteer opportunities where well-behaved dogs can make a positive impact on people's lives.

Personal Satisfaction

For many pup parents, achieving CGC certification is a source of personal satisfaction and pride. It represents a significant accomplishment and validates their commitment to responsible dog ownership and training.

In addition to these benefits, CGC certification can also serve as a stepping stone to other advanced training programs and activities, such as therapy dog certification, agility competitions, and obedience trials. The skills and behaviors learned during CGC training provide a solid foundation for further training and participation in various canine-related activities.

a photo of an Australian Shepherd sitting in a classroom with children

The Training Process

Training a dog for CGC certification requires dedication, patience, and a structured approach. While the specific training plan may vary, the following steps outline a general training process:

Basic Obedience Training

Before diving into CGC-specific exercises, ensure your dog has experience with basic obedience cues such as sit, stay, come, and down. These cues serve as the foundation for more advanced training and are essential for completing the CGC test successfully.

You can learn these skills in our free 14-Day Essentials Training Course!


Expose your dog to various environments, people, and other animals to help them become comfortable and confident in different situations. Positive interactions during socialization contribute to a well-rounded and adaptable dog, which is essential for passing the CGC test.

CGC-Specific Training

Once your dog is proficient in basic cues and is well-socialized, incorporate CGC-specific exercises into your training regimen. Practice each component of the CGC test individually, gradually increasing distractions and difficulty levels. For example:

  • Accepting a Friendly Stranger: Practice introducing your dog to unfamiliar people in a controlled environment, rewarding neutral and friendly behavior.
  • Sitting Politely for Petting: Teach your dog to sit calmly when approached by a friendly stranger, rewarding them for maintaining the position while being petted on various parts of their body.
  • Out for a Walk (Loose Leash Walking): Practice loose leash walking in various environments, rewarding your dog for walking politely by your side without pulling.
  • Walking Through a Crowd: Gradually introduce your dog to crowded areas, rewarding them for walking calmly and confidently amidst distractions in public spaces.
  • Sit and Down on Command and Staying in Place: Practice obedience cues in different locations and with increasing durations, rewarding your dog for staying in the desired position until released.
  • Coming When Called: Practice recall exercises in various environments, rewarding your dog for coming to you promptly and reliably when called.
  • Reaction to Another Dog: Arrange controlled interactions with other dogs, rewarding your dog for remaining calm and non-reactive in their presence.
  • Reaction to Distractions: Introduce distractions gradually during training sessions, rewarding your dog for maintaining focus and remaining neutral around unexpected noises or movements.
  • Supervised Separation: Practice leaving your dog with a trusted person for short periods, gradually increasing the duration while rewarding calm behavior in your absence.

Positive Reinforcement

Use positive reinforcement techniques to reward desired behaviors during training. Positive reinforcement not only motivates the dog but also strengthens the bond between the dog and their guardian and eliminates the use of fear or pain in training.

Be sure to use high-value treats and praise generously to reinforce good behavior during CGC training. Check out our Freeze Dried Training Treats!

a Doberman Pinscher looking up at his handler during a training session

Tips for Success

Achieving CGC certification requires dedication and effort, but the rewards are well worth it. Here are some additional tips to enhance your chances of success:

Seek Professional Guidance

Consider enrolling in obedience classes or working with a professional dog trainer experienced in CGC preparation for personalized guidance and support. A qualified trainer can provide valuable feedback, address specific training challenges, and help you tailor your training approach to your dog's individual needs. Many trainers offer group classes that specifically help you prepare for the CGC Certification exam.

Consistency and Repetition

Consistency is key to successful training. Practice regularly, and repeat exercises until your dog reliably performs them in various environments. Be patient and persistent, as learning new behaviors takes time and repetition.

Patience and Understanding

Every dog learns at its own pace, so be patient and understanding throughout the training process. Celebrate small victories and remain persistent in addressing areas that need improvement. Keep training sessions fun and engaging to keep your dog motivated and eager to learn.

a photo of a German Shepherd practicing a Stay cue in a training environment

Testing Requirements and Guidelines

Testing for CGC certification involves an evaluation conducted by a CGC evaluator, who is typically a certified dog trainer or a professional affiliated with a recognized organization such as the AKC. The evaluator observes the dog's behavior and performance in each component of the CGC test and assesses whether they meet the criteria for certification.

Here are some key guidelines and requirements for CGC testing:

Evaluation Criteria

The dog must demonstrate appropriate behavior and responses in each component of the CGC test, as outlined by the AKC. This includes displaying good manners, obedience, and socialization skills in various situations.

Passing Score

To pass the CGC test and earn certification, the dog must successfully complete all ten components with no more than three minor faults. Minor faults may include minor distractions, momentary lapses in obedience, or mild displays of nervousness.

Minor Faults

While minor faults are allowed during testing, excessive or severe faults may result in failure. Examples of severe faults include aggression, excessive fear or anxiety, or the inability to perform basic cues.

Retesting Rules

If the dog does not pass the CGC test on the first attempt, they are allowed to retake the test after a designated waiting period, typically a few weeks to a few months. However, the specific rules and waiting period may vary depending on the testing organization or evaluator.

Preparation for Retesting

Before retaking the CGC test, it's important to address any areas of weakness or concern identified during the initial evaluation. Additional training and practice can help reinforce desired behaviors and improve the dog's chances of success on the retest.

Reevaluation Fee

Some testing organizations or evaluators may charge a reevaluation fee for retaking the CGC test. Be sure to inquire about any associated fees or requirements when scheduling a retest.

A dog sitting happily next to their handler after a training session

Training for Canine Good Citizen Certification Recap

Training for Canine Good Citizen certification is a rewarding journey that enhances the bond between a dog and their guardian while promoting responsible dog ownership and good behavior in the community.

With dedication and effort, you and your dog can embark on a fulfilling journey toward CGC certification and showcase your dog's exemplary behavior to the world.

Looking for other ways to train your dog and improve your bond? Check out our Academy + Courses!


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