All About the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Certification

Have you considered the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen certification for your dog? Learn more about the program and skills tested.

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Good dogs! Photo: Robert Tadlock

Are you and your dog valued members of the community?

If your dog exhibits the positive behavior to be recognized as a model of responsible ownership and good training, he or she may be eligible for the prestigious American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification.

In 1989, the American Kennel Club developed a testing protocol to encourage canine training and promote good behavior among domestic dogs and their humans. Up to now, the program has certified more than half a million dogs!

Many advanced curriculums — such as therapy dog training, search and rescue, and service dog training — require a CGC certificate as a prerequisite to their programs.

Read on to learn what you can do to become the proud owner of a Canine Good Citizen.

Canine Eligibility

Canine Good Citizen certification is not limited to AKC-registered or purebred dogs. Owners of any dog may apply. There is no restriction on the age of the dog. Every trial — and there are 10 — of the examination must be successfully passed before a dog can earn a CGC certificate.

Successful completion of the exam earns the CGC designation, which comes with those cherished initials to use when the dog’s name is printed. The certificate issued by the AKC comes complete with a gold seal embossed with the CGC emblem. A CGC dog is eligible to wear a special collar tag that proudly displays this accomplishment.

The CGC Standard of Measure

The AKC Canine Good Citizen test measures valuable attributes that encourage responsible pet ownership. The evaluation is a two-step process. Before your dog can be tested, you must pass the human part of the examination. Owners are required to sign a Responsible Dog Owners Pledge.

The pledge affirms that the owner is committing to a lifetime of caring for his or her dog’s needs, safety, training and quality of life. Owners agree to basic considerations:

  • Have a veterinarian to provide care and guidance for routine health
  • Never let your dog infringe on the rights or property of others
  • Always clean up after your dog in public places
  • Consistently provide proper care for your dog’s hygiene and appearance

Once the owner’s half of the team has satisfied the CGC requirements, the dog is ready to test. Evaluators assess the dog’s ability to demonstrate good training disciplines consistently.

Here are the 10 trials that must be successfully passed before a dog can earn the CGC certificate.

TRIAL 1: Accepting a Friendly Stranger

The first test evaluates the dog’s willingness to allow a friendly stranger to approach and engage in a conversation.

An evaluator will walk up to the human/dog team, shake hands and initiate a non-threatening exchange. The evaluator will ignore the dog. The animal must remain in position and calm. The dog must not react to the evaluator during the exercise.

TRIAL 2: Sitting Politely for Petting

The second test evaluates the dog’s willingness to accept a stranger’s attention. The dog is leashed and sitting at the handler’s side.

The evaluator approaches and pats the dog’s head and body. The handler is allowed to talk to the dog during this exercise. The dog may stand while he is being touched but must not exhibit signs of resentment or shyness.


TRIAL 3: Appearance and Grooming

The appearance and grooming evaluation judges the dog’s willingness to be examined by a veterinarian, groomer or other designated person.

The evaluator assesses the dog for cleanliness and good grooming. The dog must appear healthy (correct weight range, alert, clean). The handler should provide a comb and brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator will softly comb or brush the dog, examine the teeth and ears, and pick up the dog’s feet.

The dog does not need to hold position during the physical examination, and the handler may talk to the dog and provide encouragement and praise. The dog should not resist the physical examination by the evaluator.

TRIAL 4: Walking on a Loose Lead

This trial measures the handler’s control of the dog. The dog may start the test on either side of the handler. The handler’s control of the dog should be absolute at all times, regardless of side or direction and the dog must respond to the handler’s movement.

The dog is not required to remain in step with the handler and is not required to sit when stopped. The handler/dog team moves through an assigned course. The dog must respond to the evaluator’s directions. There will be commands for a right turn, left turn and about-turn. There are designated stops between turns and at the end of the course.

The handler may offer encouragement and praise during the exercise.

TRIAL 5: Walking Through a Crowd

To pass the CGC, a dog must demonstrate the ability to politely move through pedestrian traffic and remain under the handler’s control in public places.

The handler and dog move through groups of people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the people but must remain under the control of the handler. The dog should not exhibit signs of shyness, excitement or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog during the exam, but the dog should not jump, lunge or strain at the leash.

TRIAL 6: Sit, Down on Command/Stay in Place

The sixth trial demonstrates the dog’s basic training skills. The dog must sit, lie down and stay in place on the handler’s command.

For the test, the dog is leashed on a 20-foot-long line. The handler will ask the dog to “sit” and  go “down.” The handler may not force the dog into position but may touch to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler puts the dog in a stay position (sitting or lying); then the handler walks the length of the line.

The dog must remain in place until the handler returns to the starting point and releases him from the stay position.

TRIAL 7: Come on Command

To pass the seventh procedure in the CGC evaluation, the dog must consistently come when called by the handler. The handler puts the dog in a stay position then walks 10 feet away and calls the dog to come. He must come to the handler on command.

TRIAL 8: Reaction to Another Dog

This test measures the dog’s ability to react calmly to another dog. The evaluator will have two handler/dog teams approach from opposite directions. The dogs should remain calm and show nothing more than a casual interest in the other team. The dog must not go to the other handler or approach the other dog.

TRIAL 9: Reaction to Distractions

The ninth trial evaluates the dog’s ability to act confidently and remain calm at all times when confronted with a distracting situation. The evaluator will present at least two distractions. She may drop a stick or bag, open an umbrella, or roll a cart past the dog.

The dog may express an interest and even appear slightly startled. But he must not run, bark or show aggression during the examination. The handler may coax the dog and offer encouragement.

TRIAL 10: Supervised Separation

The 10th and final test in the evaluation for Canine Good Citizen certification is the dog’s cooperation when left with a trusted person.

The dog should exhibit good manners when separated from the handler. The evaluator will have a designated person approach the handler. The evaluator will ask the person to watch the dog and reach for the leash. Then the handler will move from the dog’s sight for three minutes. The dog must not become agitated, bark, whine or pace during the owner’s absence.

Some mild nervous reaction is accepted, but handlers may not talk, coax or attempt to manage the dog during the test.

This video shows a dog named Claudia being taken through part of the test:

YouTube player


Dogs are disqualified if they:

  • Growl
  • Snap
  • Bite (another person or dog)
  • Attack/lunge
  • Attempt to attack
  • Eliminate (urinate or defecate) during the test

Class Act

Classes are available for dog owners interested in getting a leg up on the testing. Check with the local AKC or breeder group chapters, pet stores, veterinarian offices or CGC evaluators for class recommendations.

A downloadable, self-training program handbook and ordering information for [easyazon_link asin=”1593786441″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”p51capital07-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Citizen Canine[/easyazon_link], the official AKC guide for Canine Good Citizen training by Mary Burch, is available.

The American Kennel Club charges an $8 recording fee for CGC certification. The endorsement never expires, but the AKC recommends retesting every two years.

The Canine Good Citizen certificate must not be confused with service dog certification. A CGC dog is not protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act, and CGC dogs do not have access to public places provided to service dogs.

CGC training enhances the bond between owner and pet. It encourages intellectual stimulation and establishes a basis for a high quality of life for dogs.