The American Kennel Club (AKC) began the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification program in 1989 as a way of breeding responsible dog ownership. Dogs that successfully pass the 10-step test are rewarded the Canine Good Citizen certificate. Some organizations require dogs to have the certification before being considered as a service or therapy dog. The Canine Good Citizen program is now held in several countries around the world, adopting the same protocols as the American Kennel Club.
Canine Good Citizens are accustomed to strange situations, do not lunge or threaten people or other dogs when in public, nor do they cause problems at home when company arrives. A Canine Good Citizen is well-mannered and obedience trained. The American Kennel Club states that a dog is more loving and companionable after training and passing the Canine Good Citizen test.
The Canine Good Citizen test consists of 10 areas the dog must be capable of dealing with in a calm manner. These include: friendliness with strangers, sitting to receive pets, loose leash walking without pulling on the lead, being well groomed, walking through crowds without incident, sitting and staying on command, coming when called, remaining calm and friendly with other dogs, not reacting to distractions (usually loud noises) and being comfortable when separated from the owner. Each Canine Good Citizen test demonstrates the dog's ability to accept other people, be handled by the veterinarian, groomer, children, and remaining calm around other animals.
The American Kennel Club is very strict about the types of collars a dog must wear during the training and the testing. Choke chains, slip collars, head halters or other training aides are not allowed. The collar should be a buckle style and can be made from chain, leather or fabric. The trainer will provide a 20-foot leash during the Canine Good Citizen test. Other tools you will need to bring include a comb or brush as the trainer will want to test how the dog reacts to strangers handling him.
You can encourage your dog and pet him after each test. However, no food treats, toys or other rewards will be allowed during the Canine Good Citizen test. Prior to the test, you should train your dog to respond without the treats and toys. The randomization of rewards is suggested. This way the dog will never know when to expect the treats. Food treats after the Canine Good Citizen test will be very welcome by your canine pal.
Your dog should eliminate prior to the test. If he eliminates during the test, AKC rules state the dog is automatically failed. The only exception to this rule is during the 10th test and only if it is outdoors. The other consideration is the dog's behavior. If the dog shows any form of aggression, including growling, showing teeth or barking, the dog will fail the Canine Good Citizen test.
Training is essential prior to the Canine Good Citizen test. Your dog needs to be comfortable with strangers, noisy places, fearless and polite at all times. Practice the Canine Good Citizen test with a trainer, friend or family member a few times. Once your dog passes the Canine Good Citizen test, continue his training.