by Eileen Ann Edelblute

The AKC CGC Program was started in the late 80’s.  A two-part program stressing responsible pet ownership for all dog owners as well as basic good manners for dogs, the CGC program is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home as well as in the community. 

One of the most rapidly growing programs within the AKC, the CGC test has become a stepping stone to more advanced AKC activities such as obedience, agility, rally and performance events.  In addition, the CGC is being used by many local, as well as international therapy dog programs, as a key component of their therapy dog assessments. Last, in an age where breed discrimination is being employed by many home owner Insurance companies, some of these companies are now granting waivers to specific dogs who have tested and passed their AKC CGC test. 

Who Can Participate In the CGC Program?

What kind of dogs and ages of dogs can utilize the program?
        The answer is that there is no age requirement.  However, dogs must be old enough to have received the necessary immunizations such as rabies. The owner will be required to sign the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge (RDOP) prior to testing.  The RDOP attests to the fact that the owner is currently working with a veterinarian in order to determine the appropriate vaccine schedule required for the owner’s dog. 

Are there restrictions on participation in a CGC testing event?
      If testing is done at an AKC show, age and AKC breed requirements for that show also apply to the CGC testing event.  When choosing a location to take your CGC test, make sure to check with the organization holding the event as to any additional requirements they may have. 

What Can I Expect to Gain From the CGC program? 

      As with any training, dog owners reap many rewards from having a well trained and behaved dog.  Not only does a trained dog make a better companion, training helps build a closer bond between owner and dog.   Having a well behaved dog makes the owner a better neighbor and his dog more readily accepted by his neighbors.  Furthermore, working towards obtaining a CGC with a dog gives the owner an introduction to the world of obedience training. Often times many owners choose to continue working with their dogs once they obtain their CGC and go onto more advanced AKC events such as obedience trials, rally, agility, etc.  For many it opens the door to a new fun experience that you can enjoy with your dog. 

       Owners who may have an interest in doing Therapy Dog work will find that many local as well as international therapy dog programs utilize the CGC as a key component of their therapy dog assessments.  Therapy Dogs International is one such organization.  If you are interested in further information, their website info is:  

How Do I Train For the CGC?

 Am I required to sign up for formal training in order to pass the CGC?
     Training for the skill sets required for the CGC can take place in a formal setting such as a dog training club or training class. Or the training can be accomplished in a more informal setting and done by the owner themselves.  The thing to remember is socialization and consistent training is key.  While the CGC skill sets are not difficult, they do require a well socialized dog that will consistently perform certain commands no matter what the distraction or environment.

 Is certain equipment required during CGC testing?
     The CGC test requires that the dog be leashed at all times.  A 6 foot leather or fabric leash is required.  The organization giving the CGC test will provide a 20 foot leash or line (a 15 foot leash attached to your leash) for skill set number 6, the Sit and Down on Command / Stay IN Place.

While body harnesses, head collars and pronged slip collars may be used as a training aid prior to taking a CGC test; during a CGC test dogs must wear a basic buckle or slip collar made of leather, fabric or chain.  If using a body harness, head collar, or pronged slip collar, gradually phase it out during your training process and introduce a buckle or slip collar so that your dog will be consistently working in one prior to the test.

 Can I use treats during the test or verbal praise?
    In training for the CGC, the use of food rewards is fine.  However, during the CGC test, food rewards are not allowed.  During training slowly phase out the use of treat rewards for verbal rewards.   During a CGC test an owner is encouraged to offer verbal praise and support to their dog unlike AKC Obedience trials.

 Is there any other equipment I need to bring to the test?
    Part of the skill sets a dog must have for the CGC test is to “welcome being groomed or examined”.  For this part of the test, the owner must provide the evaluator a grooming brush for their dog.  You will want to pick a brush that your dog is used to and enjoys.  Your dog should be accepting of a stranger not only brushing it but also examining its ears and paws.  Dogs that are not used to this often times will object or shy away.  This behavior will cause a failure of this skill set.  By enlisting the help of others, you can accustom your dog to allowing strangers to examine it without resistance or stress.   This can be very helpful during visits with the Veterinarian or groomer.

 What Must My Dog Know For the CGC Test?

  Skill Sets required for a CGC.  Failure to pass any of the skill sets will require that the test be taken again at a later time.  It is not seen as a failure but only the need for some more work on those skill sets not passed.

ITEM 1:  Accepts a friendly stranger  
                 Your dog must show that it is willing to allow a friendly stranger to approach and speak to you in a natural, everyday situation.  The dog must not show any signs of resentment, aggression or fear.  Also, your dog must not jump on, paw or lunge forward to greet the evaluator.  It must remain calm.  If you are required to use excessive corrections, such as holding your dog back to prevent jumping, your dog will not pass this skill set and needs some more work in this area.

ITEM 2:  Sits politely for petting
          Your dog must demonstrate that it will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while with its handler.  With your dog sitting by your side, the evaluator will begin the test for this skill by walking up to the handler and asking “May I pet your dog”.  The evaluator will then begin to pet your dog on its head and body.  During this time you may talk to your dog to offer support and praise.  Your dog should not show signs of resentment or shyness.  Your dog may stand to receive petting.  However, the dog should not struggle or pull away to avoid being petted.  While it is ok for your dog to move forward towards the evaluator to be petted, it should not lunge at or jump on the evaluator.  Your dog should appear under control at all times. 

ITEM 3:  Appearance and grooming
          With your dog holding no particular position during this test, the evaluator will ask for your dogs grooming brush and will begin to softly brush your dog in a natural manner.  They will also lightly examine the ears and gently pick up each front foot.  If your dog must be restrained at any time to allow examination, it will not pass this skill set.  While it is ok for dogs to wiggle or squirm when excited, it should not be so excessive that the dog cannot be brushed.  The main thing the evaluator is looking for is can a Veterinarian or groomers easily examine your dog.

ITEM 4:  Out for a walk (Walks on a loose leash)  
          At the evaluator’s discretion, you may be asked to follow a preplanned course or given directions out loud by the evaluator such as “turn right”, “walk straight”, and “stop”.  Your dog can walk on whichever side you prefer (note that for AKC obedience competitions, dogs are required to walk on the left side).  It is not necessary for your dog to remain perfectly aligned with your body nor must it sit when you are told to stop.  You may give verbal commands and praise to your dog at the time of this skill set as with all of the skill sets.  If your dog excessively sniffs the ground, pulls consistently against the leash or totally ignores you as you are walking him, he will not pass this skill set. 

ITEM 5:  Walking through a crowd
          The purpose of this is to show that your dog is able to move through pedestrian traffic politely and under control.  While your dog may show interest in the strangers, it must not show shyness, fear, resentment or lunge towards any of the people in the crowd.  Doing so will fail this skill set.

ITEM 6:  Sit and down on command/Staying in place
          This skill set demonstrates that your dog will sit and down on command and then will stay in place while it is in a sit or down as you walk away from them.  Prior to the test beginning, the evaluator will either attach a 20 foot training leash to your dog, removing its 6 foot leash or attach a 15 foot leash to your current leash.  Once ready, you will be asked to give your dog the sit and then the down command.  You may use multiple verbal commands to ask your dog for a sit and down.  However, you may not use excessive force to get the dog to do either command.  The next step is staying in place.  When the evaluator requests that you “leave your dog”, you will give the stay command, walk to the end of the 20 foot training leash, turn around and walk back to your dog.  While your dog may stand up if placed in a sitting position prior to you leaving, it must not walk forward towards you before you are given the OK by the evaluator to “release your dog”.  Walking towards you prior to the release command will fail this skill set.

ITEM 7:  Coming when called
          With the 20 foot training line still attached from Item #6, you will be asked “leave your dog”.  From either the sit, down or standing position, give your dog the command to “stay” or “wait”.  Walking 10 feet in front of your dog, when given the command by the evaluator to call your dog, you may do so.  It is ok to use body language and verbal encouragement when calling your dog. Your dog should come to you when called.  You may call your dog multiple times; however, you must not try to “pull” your dog to you using the training line.  Doing so will fail this skill set.

ITEM 8:  Reaction to another dog

         The purpose of this is to show that your dog can behave politely around another dog.  The evaluator will have you and another handler approach each other with the dogs walking on leash.  Upon reaching each other, you and the other handler will stop, great each other, and shake hands.  Once done, you will continue on.  Upon meeting up with the other dog and handler, your dog may show a casual interest in them but should not try to jump or lunge towards the other dog or handler.  In addition, when walking away, your dog should not try to turn back and follow the other dog.  Doing either of these things will cause you to fail this skill set.

ITEM 9:  Reaction to distraction
            This shows that your dog remains confident when faced with common distractions and situations within the community.  An evaluator must select two distracters from among the following:

                        A person using crutches, a canine, a walker or wheelchair from 5’ away
                        A sudden opening or closing of a door
                        A jogger running in front of the dog
                        A person pushing a cart or crate passing no closer than 5 feet
                        A person on a bike no closer than 10’ away

                 Distractions for a CGC test should be items that are common occurrences in a community.  While your dog may show casual interest in a distraction, it should never show aggression, agitation or fear.  Also, your dog should never become so frightened that it urinates or defecates during the distraction.  Exhibiting any of these behaviors will require more work on this skill set.

ITEM 10:  Supervised separation
               This test shows that your dog can be left in control of another trusted person and will maintain its training and good manners.  The evaluator will take the leash and request that you leave for a period of three minutes.  You must go to a place where your dog can no longer see you or where you have gone.  Your dog does not have to remain in a particular position during this time,  However, if your dog begins to become overly stressed, crying, fearful, panting, barking, pulling or pacing, the test will be stopped and the owner called back.  While your dog may look for you while you are gone, it should not show stress and upset while you are gone.                

Automatic Failure and Dismissal

If at anytime your dog eliminates during the testing process, you will fail the test.  The only exception to this rule is that if skill set number 10 is held outside, then elimination is acceptable during that time.  Make sure to give your dog a chance to eliminate before you begin your test.

Dismissal of your dog will occur if at any time your dog growls, snaps, bites, attacks or attempts to attack another dog.  In addition, if you dog has passed its CGC test and is later seen or reported to exhibit any of these behaviors, it can have its CGC certification withdrawn once reported to the AKC by the CGC evaluator. 

Suggestions for Success      

Practice makes perfect.  Make sure to practice not only at home but in different environments where distractions are present.  Be consistent with your training and make sure to offer lots of praise on a job well done.  Keep training fun and happy.  Knowing your dog’s problem areas and working on them will only lead to success.   Remember you can take the test more than once.  If you find that you need more work on a skill set, don't worry. You can work on that area and take the test again at a later time.  Training your dog should be a fun time for both of you!  For additional information regarding the CGC Program go to: and search on keyword CGC.  Happy Training!!

Eileen Edelblute
AKC Certified Canine Good Citizen Evaluator
Clinton, MD

Click to Return to
November 2009 ~ Dane World Online
Table of Contents