In last week’s blog post, An Overview of the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test, I described the ten elements of the CGC test. Preparing for this test is key. There are a few specific behaviors that not all “well behaved” dogs know.
Preparing for the CGC Test
The CGC test is designed to reward well-mannered dogs and their owners. The first step towards a well-mannered pet is training. What people consider “polite behavior” does not come naturally to dogs. Sitting politely for greeting, walking on a loose leash, and coming when called are skills that need to be trained step-by-step. A basic obedience class should build the foundation for many of the skills necessary to pass the test.
Some trainers offer group classes specifically geared towards the Canine Good Citizen test. These classes are typically taught by CGC evaluators who will be able to find the weaknesses in your dog’s training and help you overcome them. Practicing the test items each week will also increase your familiarity with the rules, making test day as stress-free as possible. We cover the Canine Good Citizen skills in our Advanced Dog Manners group class.
It’s not impossible to train your dog by yourself to pass the CGC test. If you decide to go that route, study the test items carefully and be sure to practice in public places, such as dog-friendly parks and pet stores, so your dog gets used to performing around the distractions that will be present during the test.
Five Skills to Practice
I have broken down the elements of the Canine Good Citizen test into several specific behaviors that need to be taught:
A sit-stay: This covers SO many of the test items! A reliable sit-stay will keep your dog in place while you greet a friendly stranger (with or without another dog), while the evaluator brushes her and checks her front feet, the 20′ stay, and the 10′ recall.
Loose leash walking: You’ll need this to walk through a crowd and demonstrate your dog’s ability to stay at your side while you make turns and stop, too.
Down on cue: This is a required part of the test, but your dog does not have to hold a down-stay (as long as you can use your sit-stay for the 20′ stay test).
Come when called: The test only requires a recall from 10′ away. If you’re practicing from greater distances, as well as around distractions, you’ll be golden on test day.
Supervised separation: This is one of the hardest elements of the Canine Good Citizen test for some dogs. You can approach it in two different ways – either as an out-of-sight stay, or by building your dog’s comfort just “hanging out” with a stranger. It all depends on your dog’s temperament and what you prefer to train.
To find out about upcoming Canine Good Citizen tests, visit the AKC’s test search page. Alternatively, you can contact a CGC evaluator in your area and inquire about testing. If you’re local, we hold CGC tests in Providence every quarter at Spring Forth Dog Academy.
On the day of the test, make sure your dog is feeling well and appears clean and well-groomed. Bring a leash and a collar or harness for your dog to wear. Don’t forget the brush that you usually use to groom your dog, too! If the test is outdoors, bring along a bowl and some water for your dog as there may not be any available. Give your dog ample opportunities to relieve himself, as you cannot pass the test if your dog eliminates during an exercise.
Be sure to relax and act naturally. Smile at your dog and take a deep breath before starting. Remember, it’s just a test — and if your dog doesn’t pass, there’s always another opportunity to take it.
When your dog passes the CGC test, you will get a copy of the test results from the evaluator. You can send this in to the AKC to receive a certificate to display. The AKC also has collar tags and embroidered patches available to celebrate your dog’s Canine Good Citizen status.
The Next Level
After your dog has passed the Canine Good Citizen test, there are two additional ten-part tests you may choose to take: the Community Canine (CGCA) test, and the CGC Urban (CGCU) test.
The Community Canine test is also known as the “Advanced Canine Good Citizen,” hence the abbreviation CGCA. This test is performed in the “real world” – not in a dog training facility or dog show ring. Distractions are added to each element of the test. (By contrast, dogs taking the CGC test are only tested on two discrete distractions.)
The newest test, Canine Good Citizen Urban, is designed to assess a dog’s suitability for city living. Test elements include city-specific distractions like traffic, skateboarders, construction noise, and food on the sidewalk. The dog and handler team demonstrate their ability to cross streets under control, walk in a public building, and navigate through a crowd on the sidewalk.
Whether you decide to just take the original CGC test or aim to complete all three, keep your training sessions short, sweet, and fun for your dog. A lot of owners get tense when they start training with a goal in mind. Others cut out food rewards prematurely since they’re so focused on what is and is not allowed during the test itself. Laugh, relax, and have fun!