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AKC GoodDog! Helpline trainer Christie Canfield CPDT-KA is an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator and teaches CGC prep classes. Here, she gives some helpful hints for skills that will help your dog with the CGC evaluation and also for everyday manners.

The AKC Canine Good Citizen title is a benchmark achievement in training your dog. For many dog training organizations, it serves as a prerequisite for continuing on to more advanced classes, such as therapy dog, agility or rally obedience. It also is the prerequisite for many therapy dog programs.

When training for the Canine Good Citizen test, you are instilling good manners for everyday life. If you get into the habit of using these techniques in all interactions with your dog, the CGC evaluation will be a breeze.

1. Teach your dog to pay attention to you. Often overlooked by trainers and owners alike, attention (“Look” or “Watch Me”) is a powerful and versatile command.

How to Teach: Hold a treat to your forehead or by your eye and ask your dog to look at you. Gradually fade the food to use a hand signal and a verbal command to ask your dog to “Look” or “Watch.” This helps your dog focus on you and the task at hand rather than any other distractions in the area.

Use for CGC Test Items: #1 Greeting a Friendly Stranger, #4 Loose Leash Walking, #5 Walking through a Crowd, #8 Reaction to another dog and #9 Reaction to Distractions.

2. Always tell your dog when he is correct. Similar to humans, dogs like to know when they are correct. Give your dog a quick “Yes” or “Good” as soon as he performs the task correctly. This is a way of marking the desired behavior and is separate from the praise that follows.

How to Teach: Similar to clicker training, tell your dog “Yes” and give him a treat. Ask for a simply behavior such as a sit or a down, say “Yes” as soon as the bottom or elbows hit the floor, then reward with a treat. Continue telling your dog “Yes” for every correct behavior and gradually fade the food reward. You are telling your dog, “Yes, you are correct, and you may or may not get a treat for the behavior.”

Use in ALL CGC Test Items

1. Engage with your dog. Don’t be shy; talk to your dog. Use a happy voice. Do not yell or give commands like a drill sergeant. Talking to your dog increases the likelihood that he will pay attention to you. Utilizing a happy voice or singing to your dog will encourage him to want to be with you because you are interesting and fun.

Use in CGC Test Items: #4 Loose Leash Walking, #5 Walking through a Crowd, #8 Reaction to another dog and #9 Reaction to Distractions

2. Always reward your dog. Petting and praise is allowed between exercises so use it to your advantage.

How to Discover What Your Dog Finds Rewarding: Experiment to find out what your dog likes. Try several ways of petting and praising your dog – silent petting, praise without touching, belly rubs, scratching behind the ears, etc. You may be surprised to find your dog will work for one of these as well as he works for food.

Use in ALL CGC Objectives

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Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

This program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. In CGC, dogs who pass the 10 step CGC test can earn a certificate and/or the official AKC CGC title. Dogs with the CGC title have the suffix, "CGC" after their names.