Part of being a responsible dog owner is helping your dog become a member of society. Important steps towards responsible dog ownership include socializing your dog and preventing doggy boredom, but training your dog is an element that you can’t ignore. The AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program sets guidelines for appropriate dog behavior.
CGC’s guidelines will steer you through the steps of responsible dog ownership and give you training goals. By following the CGC program, you will help your dog become well-behaved, benefitting not only you but also your neighbors and community.
What Is AKC Canine Good Citizen?
The CGC program is based on the belief that with love, praise, and the right training, all dogs can be good dogs. And with a little guidance, all owners can be great owners. The program is a two-part course, one for you and one for your dog, with the aim of helping the two of you become a lifelong team.
Your part of the program is the Responsible Dog Ownership pledge, a promise you formally make to maintain your dog’s health, safety, and quality of life. For example, it’s important to give your dog attention and playtime, as well as preventing them from becoming a nuisance or running loose.
Your dog’s part of the CGC course is a 10-skill program focused on good manners. Skills include social behaviors, obedience, walking skills, and confidence. The test items are:
- Accepting a friendly stranger
- Sitting politely for petting
- Accepting grooming or an examination from somebody other than the owner
- Reacting politely to other dogs
- Sitting and lying down on cue and staying in place
- Coming when called
- Walking on a loose leash
- Walking politely and under control through a crowd
- Reacting calmly to a distraction (such as a dropped chair)
- Reacting calmly to supervised separation from the owner
Getting Started with CGC Training
Although you can train your dog at home, formal CGC classes will not only help you through any struggles, but will provide your dog with socialization. After you’ve taught your dog to master all 10 skills, it’s time to take the CGC test together. In order to pass, you and your dog will have to successfully perform every skill under the supervision of a CGC evaluator.
Over 1 million dogs have already earned their CGC award, but if your dog doesn’t pass the test, it’s not cause for concern. It simply means a little more training may be in order. Be patient with your dog and work polish the problem behaviors, then you and your dog are welcome to try the test again.
Any dog of any age can participate in CGC, although if you have a puppy, you might want to start with the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy program. However, there is no minimum or maximum age limit for the CGC test. Plus, both purebred and mixed breed dogs are welcome. Once your dog has passed the test, the CGC title is valid with the AKC for life.
What Are the Benefits of AKC Canine Good Citizen?
The most obvious benefit of the CGC program is having a polite and well-behaved dog who can accompany you many places. For example, CGC training will make your dog a welcome and pleasant visitor in the homes of friends and family. Trips to the vet or groomer will be easier with CGC skills under your dog’s belt.
CGC can also help your dog fit in at the office if you take your dog to work with you. CGC helps with the basics like sit and stay, but it also builds confidence, helping dogs feel calm when meeting strangers and in busy, crowded situations.
But there are less obvious benefits too. Being successful at CGC training requires lots of love, patience, and praise. And all those positive interactions will strengthen your bond with your dog, both at home and in the world at large.
You will also be meeting some of your dog’s most basic needs, which is an important component of responsible dog ownership. For example, several of the test items require getting your dog out around other people and other dogs. That provides important socialization. Other test items will provide physical exercise. And of course, any kind of training is a great source of mental stimulation for your dog.
The benefits also go beyond you and your dog. The CGC program helps spread the word about responsible dog ownership across the country, ensuring dogs will always be welcome members of society. In fact, many state governments have started to recognize the CGC program as a way to advocate for responsible dog ownership, and 48 states have CGC resolutions that endorse the program on a statewide level.
What Comes After CGC?
After your dog earns a CGC award, you’re both ready to pursue other fun and fulfilling activities. Examples include:
- Therapy dog work
- Dog sports
- AKC Community Canine (ensuring you have a well-mannered dog while you’re out in the community)
- AKC Urban CGC (a test of your dog’s skills in an active city or town setting)
- AKC Trick Dog (After earning your CGC title, you and your dog only have to perform five tricks from the Novice checklist to earn your Novice title in AKC Trick Dog.)