An explanation of the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program


A former client recently moved to Colorado. She called me prior to her move to schedule a Canine Good Citizen test for her dogs.

She needed the test because the landlord in her new apartment building required a CGC on any dog living there. She’s also hoping to use her dogs as therapy dogs in nursing homes and knows the CGC will help towards this goal.

Thankfully, she’s put the time into training her dogs, and both passed the test easily.

The Canine Good Citizen program, commonly called the CGC, was created by the American Kennel Club in 1989 to recognize dogs that have good manners at home and in the community.  It is open to mixed breed and purebred dogs of all ages.

The advantages of obtaining a CGC are many. It encourages you to work with your dog toward a goal and often gives you the motivation to try other joint pursuits that you and your buddy will both enjoy, such as Rally O or Agility or Treibball.  Some landlords with an “it depends” attitude on pets may regard the CGC as a positive sign that the dog is well-mannered and worth taking a chance on, while others may require it.

It is also a prerequisite of many therapy dog groups before accepting a team for further training.

The CGC test is made up of ten skills that demonstrate the dogs are properly cared for and have good manners and basic socialization skills.

Dogs must be neatly groomed and prove they can be handled and petted, demonstrate abilities like sit, down and stay, and show they will come when called. They have to walk nicely on a leash around both other people and other dogs. The dog should also be calm when faced with distractions, and demonstrate that he can be left with a friendly stranger without panicking when his owner goes out of his sight.

If a dog successfully passes all ten test items, his owner must agree to the AKC Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge.  The pledge has four main components.

The owner agrees to be responsible for the dog’s health, safety and quality of life. This includes such things as ensuring the dog is up to date on vaccinations and gets regular exercise and grooming, has some form of ID such as a collar tag and/or microchip and is given attention and affection.  The owner also pledges to ensure the dog does not infringe on the lives of others by doing things such as running loose in the neighborhood or barking continuously and pledges to pick up and properly dispose of the dog’s waste when in public settings, including dog parks.

The value of the CGC has been recognized throughout the world.  Several other countries, including England, Australia, Japan, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and Finland, have developed their own programs based on the AKC model.

The Japanese program is especially demanding but enables qualifying dogs to accompany their owners into participating national hotels and restaurants. In this country, some police departments and animal control facilities use the program for problem dogs. There are also insurance companies who give a discount on homeowner’s insurance if the dog has a CGC or who will not insure households with specific breeds unless the dog has a CGC.

The importance of the CGC has also been recognized by resolutions or proclamations from the U.S. Senate and 40 U.S. states. The Alabama Senate is one of these, having passed Joint Resolution 71 endorsing the program in 1993.

You have the opportunity to have your dog CGC tested this Saturday, Aug. 23 at Woofstock at Kiesel Park. Woofstock will start at 9:30 a.m. with a Blessing of the Animals and will go until 4 p.m., with vendors, a silent auction, kids’ activities, demonstrations, music, lots of great food and a clinic with microchipping for just $18!

I will be there CGC testing dogs throughout the day and answering your dog training questions from 2-3 p.m. The charge for testing is $20.  If you provide proof that your dog was adopted from LCHS, the testing fee is just $5.

Whether you choose to test this weekend or not, consider having your dog tested. Visit the AKC’s website at to read more about the program and the specific test items and start practicing with your dog for this weekend or for a future test. Your dog can be a Canine Good Citizen.

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.



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