How to Pass the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test

Dog Training


Meg Marrs


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canine good citizen

Dog owners are not always aware of everything they could be doing to improve the lives of their pets. One thing many might not know about is the Canine Good Citizen Test and what it could mean for their dogs.

The Canine Good Citizen test helps promote responsible behavior for dog owners, as well as teach proper training for dogs so they are well-mannered and easy-going around other dogs and people.

The Canine Good Citizen test (CGC) proves that your dog can remain well-mannered in public and be a good canine citizen!

What is the Canine Good Citizen Test?

The Canine Good Citizen test is an evaluation established by the American Kennel Club.

What many don’t realize is that it is actually an evaluation for both a dog and his or her owner. Owners must be able to handle their dog well, while the dog must behave in an appropriate manner as he or she is tested in a variety of circumstances and environments.

The Canine Good Citizen test is essentially a behavioral evaluation. Those who pass the Canine Good Citizen Test earn a certificate showing they passed. Some dogs may even continue training to become therapy dogs.

cgc test

What are the Requirements for Taking the Canine Good Citizen Test?

There are a few requirements for taking the Canine Good Citizen test.

First, owners must sign a Responsible Dog Owner Pledge. This pledge states that the owner will take good care of their dog, tend to their health needs, provide their dog with adequate exercise and training, and must promise to keep their dog safe and care for them throughout their lives. As dog lovers, I think that’s a pretty easy pledge for most of us to make!

Owners must also agree to be a responsible dog owners by always cleaning up after their dog in public and promise to not let their dog infringe on the rights of others.

The other requirement for taking the Canine Good Citizen Test is that the dog must be on a leash, with a collar that fits well and is not too tight. Owners should also bring their dog’s brush or comb that will be used during one of the testing tasks.

Where Do You Take the Canine Good Citizen Test?

Owners may sign up to take the Canine Good Citizen Test with the American Kennel Club.

Each state has its own selection of locations where a Canine Good Citizen Test may be taken. Owners may look online at the American Kennel Club website to find nearby locations. These tests are typically held at dog training clubs throughout the state, and are only offered at select times.

How Do My Dog And I Pass the CGC Test?

Dogs pass the Canine Good Citizen Test by completing a series of 10 challenges. The challenges include:

1. Accepting a Stranger

The dog must allow a friendly stranger to approach and speak to the dog’s owner. The evaluator will approach the dog and owner naturally, and will greet the owner while ignoring the dog. The owner and evaluator will shake hands and have a quick conversation. The dog must not ask nervous or shy.

2. Sitting Politely for Petting

Your dog must allow a friendly stranger to pet it while it is out with its handler (aka you).

3. Appearance and Grooming

Your dog must permit someone else to check it’s ears and front feet, as a groomer or veterinarian might do. The evaluator will inspect your dog to make sure it is clean, well groomed, and healthy (normal weight, clean, alert).

The owner will present a comb or brush that is usually used to groom dog, and the evaluator will use it to gently groom the dog. The dog doesn’t need to stay in the exact position, but must remain pleasant and calm.

4. Out For A Walk

You will walk your dog on a loose lead as the evaluator provides directions. In some cases, the path will be told to you beforehand. Other times, the evaluator will tell you when to turn as you are walking. Your dog may walk on either side of you, so long as your dog’s position shows that it knows you are in control and is paying attention to you.

Your dog doesn’t need to be perfectly aligned to you or stop the moment you do, but you do need to be in control. There will be a right turn, a left turn, an about turn, and one stop in the middle of the walk.

5. Walking Through A Crowd

Your dog will walk around with you and pass close to several people (at least three). This demonstrates that your dog can move politely in pedestrian traffic and can remain under control in public spaces.

Your dog can show interest in strangers, but must continue to walk with you and avoid any sign of over-exuberance (such as jumping up on strangers or straining on the leash) or shyness.

6. Sit and Down on Command + Staying In Place

Your dog must be able to do sit and do down on your command. Then, the owners will choose a position (sit or down, it’s your choice) and leave the dog in the stay. Your dog will be on a 20ft long line for this evaluation.

You may use more than one command to get your dog to sit and lie down, so long as it’s clear your dog is following your commands. You may also gently touch the dog for guidance, but cannot force it into position.

After leaving the dog in stay and walking the length of the line, you will then call your dog, and he or she should return to you at a natural pace.

7. Come When Called

Your dog must come to you when called from a distance of 10 feet. You may tell your dog to “stay” or “wait,” or you can simply walk away with no instructions for the dog.

8. Reaction to Other Dogs

You and your dog will be approached by another handler with his or her dog. You will approach one another from a distance of about 20 feet. Then you will stop, shake hands, and exchange pleasantries.

Dogs should show no more than casual interest in the other dog and the handler. This test shows that your dog can behave politely around other dogs.

9. Reaction to Distraction

The evaluator will select and present two distractions, such as dropping an item or having a jogger run in front of the dog. The dog can express natural interest or curiosity, but should not show aggressiveness, panic, try to run away, or bark.

10. Supervised Separation

An evaluator will ask if they can watch your dog, and then will take your dog’s leash. You, the owner, will go out of sight for three minutes. Your dog doesn’t need to stay completely still, but must not bark, whine, pace nervously, or show any sign of anxiety. This test demonstrates that your dog can be left with a trusted person.

 What Equipment Is Needed for the CGC Test?

All tests for the Canine Good Citizen test are performed on a leash.

For collars, dogs should wear a well-fitting buckle or slip collar. The collar can be made of leather fabric, or chain. Pinch collars, electronic collars, and head halters are not allowed. Body harnesses are allowed, but you must discuss it with the evaluator beforehand. The evaluate will ensure that the harness does not completely restrict the dog’s movement – for example, the dog should be able to pull or jump up if it tries to.

The evaluator supplies a 20-foot lead for some of the evaluations, but the owner/handler should bring the dog’s own brush or comb to the test.

Which Items are Not Allowed During the Test?

Owners must not use a special harness meant for training purposes, since judges need to see that the dog behaves well while on a regular leash. Some non-training harnesses are permitted, but you should check with the American Kennel Club to ensure that your harness is allowed if you plan on using one.

Toys and treats are also not permitted, as any dog can be encouraged to behave well if a treat is offered. The dog must exhibit good behavior even when they receive no reward for doing so.

Can I Talk To My Dog During the Test?

Yes, owners may use praise and encouragement throughout the test (but not food, treats, or toys). The owners may also pet the dog during breaks between exercises.

How Would A Dog Fail the CGC?

There are a number of ways that a dog could fail the Canine Good Citizen test, mostly involving not meeting the requirements of the evaluations.

  • 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.
  • Dogs must avoid acting nervous or aggressive with strangers and strange dogs. The dog must stay calm through the various obstacles and evaluations.
  • They must not bark at distractions, and must remain clam and quiet when approached by another dog.
  • 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 (supervised separation) if the test is held outdoors.

Can Dogs Retake the Test if They Fail?

Yes, dogs can retake the CGC test if they fail the first time.

Not all dogs will pass the Canine Good Citizen Test the first time around, and that is okay. Dogs are allowed to retake the test when their owners feel they are ready to do so.

How Long Does the Test Last?

Each test typically lasts around a half hour. The tasks only take a few minutes each to complete.

What Are The Benefits Of Passing the CGC Test?

After your dog has passed the Canine Good Citizen test, you will receive a certificate showing that your dog has passed! Your dog also gains the official AKC CGC title. In fact, dogs with CGC title can have suffix “CGC” after their names (how very fancy)!

Additionally, the CGC award is often a pre-requisite for dogs who want to go on to become therapy dogs for issues such as anxiety or PTSD . Some homeowner’s insurance offer discounts if your dog is a CGC, and increasingly more apartments and condos require a dog to be CGC certified

Which Breeds are Permitted to Take the Test?

Any breed may take the Canine Good Citizen Test. The American Kennel Club does not discriminate against certain breeds, and therefore allows any type of dog to participate.

As long as the owner signs the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge and vouches that the dog is trained dog, he or she may have a go at the Canine Good Citizen Test.

That concludes our complete study guide for taking the Canine Good Citizen test! Has your dog taken the CGC test? What was your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Written by

Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Director of Marketing at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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  1. Noah Sub Avatar
    Noah Sub

    for the CGC if you’d dog is a service dog does task 2 still apply? Service dogs are only allowed to be pet by a person not their owner by receiving the permission of the owner to

  2. Burton Bruce Avatar
    Burton Bruce

    Sounds great, what about dogs that like to sniff? Or sniff your pet when he/she is trying to stand/sit next to you?

  3. Stephanie Lingenfelter Avatar
    Stephanie Lingenfelter

    I was excited to see your site and that it explained everything very clearly. My previous service dog died in 2017.
    I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia severe bipolar disorder number one and severe P TSD. Without the service dog I was on such a high dose of lithium that I had to take parkinson style medications and couldn’t go outside of my house or even meet my 8 year old daughter’s teacher for a year. I also am recovering from stomach cancer, severe malnutrition severe anemia and severe exhaustion which don’t go away because I had gastric bypass which was how they found the stomach tumor.
    My husband suffers from ankylonis spondylitis and severe PTSD. His spine is mostly fused and he has to turn his whole body in order to turn which can be very dangerous for him at times. He only has one vertebrae left in his neck that has not fused we are getting to AKC registered Boston terriers from different breeders that are retiring that Vey believed would be a good fit for this specific issues. I would like to get the dogs good canine certified.
    Your page was extremely helpful as we want to do everything in a in a way that’s good for both us and the dogs.
    Thank you for all that you do

    1. Meg Marrs Avatar

      I’m so sorry to hear about your and your husbands medical issues Stephanie. However, I’m glad that dogs have been able to provide you with some relief. Good luck with the Boston Terrier – they are sweet little guys! Thank you for your kind words, I’m so happy you found the article helpful 🙂

  4. Edward Schlenker Avatar

    My dog has had the training by a trainer at Petco. They never told me about that part of the test

    1. Meg Marrs Avatar

      Hey Edward – which part did they not tell you about?

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