Complete Guide To The CGC – Canine Good Citizen Test: What It Is And How To Pass

Complete Guide To The CGC – Canine Good Citizen Test Most dog owners have heard the term Canine Good Citizen (CGC) at some point, but what does it mean? Is it truly achievable for an average dog and owner, or is it only something that experienced show dogs or dog trainers are capable of? The answer may surprise you!

What Is The Canine Good Citizen Test?

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test is a formal dog training test regulated by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The purpose of the test is to encourage and support responsible dog ownership and well behaved dogs. The AKC believes that “all dogs can be good dogs, and all owners can be great owners: all it takes is a little bit of training, lots of love…”.

With dedication to training the CGC is achievable by virtually any dog and owner. Passing the test means that a dog has been so well trained that he or she is literally a good citizen; polite and a positive addition to their community. Every dog owner should aspire to train their dog to this level.

Who Is Eligible To Take The Canine Good Citizen Test?

The American Kennel Club (AKC)‘s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test is very inclusive; dogs of any age and breed, both pure and mixed, may take the test.

Passing the (CGC) test is achievable with hard work and dedication to training and responsible ownership by virtually any dog owner.

While the CGC test is open to dogs of any age, the AKC also offers a comparable program uniquely designed for puppies called S.T.A.R. Puppy.

Why Should Your Dog Train For The Canine Good Citizen Test?

A dog achieving a passing score on the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test is beneficial for many reasons, such as:

  • Training for the CGC test is an excellent bonding opportunity.
  • The skills your dog learns to become a good citizen makes them a better companion.
  • If you are interested in doing therapy or sports with your dog, the CGC is an excellent starting point to go further with training.
  • Earning a CGC may offer discounts on home insurance.
  • Being a CGC makes a dog more adoptable in the event that something happens to you.
  • Earning a CGC may help make your rental application appear more appealing than other potential renters with dogs who have not earned their CGC.

What Do You Need To Train Your Dog For the Canine Good Citizen Test?

To successfully train with your dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test (CGC) test, you will need:

  • A training treat pouch for efficient treat dispensing.
  • High value, soft training treats. A popular choice from commercially made treats are Zukes mini naturals, the more odiferous the better, so consider salmon flavor. Other popular choices are diced baked chicken, diced cooked hot dogs, diced Vienna sausages.
  • A CGC group training class or a private CGC trainer. CGC Evaluators often train dogs and owners for the test, which makes it more simple to coordinate taking the test when you and your dog are ready.

You will need the following items to take the test with, so plan to train with them as well:

  • A standard leash (NOT retractable).
  • A brush (for the grooming skill).
  • A standard collar or body harness (NO head halters, special training collars or harnesses are permitted. This is specified because the goal of training is to pass the test is that your dog obeys you as a result of the training, not the equipment used).

What Skills Does Your Dog Need To Pass the Canine Good Citizen Test?

Part of why passing the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test is so impressive is that to pass, dogs must be trained to behave in a manner that humans deem to be polite, which often means curbing natural impulses. To pass the American Kennel Club (AKC)’s CGC test a dog must be able to do the following skills:

  • A good citizen accepts a friendly stranger approaching their owner for a chat while ignoring the dog, without displaying shy or resentful behavior.
  • A good citizen will sit or stand politely for petting; a good citizen should allow a friendly stranger to pet their head or body without displaying shy or resentful behavior.
  • A good citizen allows a friendly stranger to groom and examine them, which includes being brushed and their ears and paws being handled. A good citizen is welcomed at grooming salons and veterinary offices because he or she is accepting of being groomed by a groomer or examined by a veterinarian and their staff.
  • A good citizen can be walked on a loose leash; the dog reacts to the owner’s movements and is heedful of his or her owner’s commands. The AKC offers leash training tips here.
  • A good citizen can walk politely through a crowd without becoming overly excited, jumping on people, or being shy. He or she may show interest in people passing by but should not be straining on their leash. During the test, the dog will have to pass 3 humans in close proximity in this manner.
  • A good citizen must sit, lay down and stay while attached to a 20 foot long leash until released.
  • A good citizen must come when called from a distance of 10 feet.
  • A good citizen shows casual interest in other dogs and allows their owner to approach another dog and handler, chat and shake hands, then continue walking.
  • A good citizen is not negatively impacted by distractions he or she may encounter as they are out and about such as joggers running by, a cart being pushed by, a cane or crutch being dropped or a chair falling over. Dogs may show curiosity or be slightly surprised but should not panic, bark, attempt to run away, display aggression or be overly excited.
  • A good citizen must maintain their good manners even when their owner is not present. During the supervised separation part of the CGC test, the owner hands the leash to another person, walks away and is gone for 3 minutes. The dog should not show distress by barking, whining, or pacing; they may only display mild nervousness or unrest.

How Do You Train Your Dog For the Canine Good Citizen Test?

You can start at home and you will need to practice at home, but most owners either work with a trainer in private lessons or in a group class to prepare their dogs for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test.

To learn more, visit the American Kennel Club (AKC)’s CGC Training Resources webpage.

Look for a trainer who is also a CGC evaluator to streamline taking the test when you and your dog are ready. To find AKC CGC Evaluators by state, search here.

The Canine Good Citizen Test

The American Kennel Club (AKC)’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test is either passed or failed. It consists of two parts; one for the dog owner and one for the dog:

The dog owner must read and sign the CGC Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge.

Then the dog is tested, which consists of 10 training and temperament skills:

  • Accepting a friendly stranger
  • Sitting politely for petting
  • Appearance and grooming
  • Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
  • Walking through a crowd
  • Sit and down on command and Staying in place
  • Coming when called
  • Reaction to another dog
  • Reaction to distraction
  • Supervised separation

Is There A Fee To Take The Canine Good Citizen Test?

In most cases yes, there is a small fee associated with taking the test.

However, some rescues or trainers offer the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test pro bono for certain dogs. For example, the American Staffordshire Terrier, more commonly known as the pit bull, sadly is the most abused breed of dog in the world according to PETA. To combat negative stereotypes and to promote responsible ownership of the breed, organizations such as the Pitbull Ambassador Alliance offer reimbursement for the CGC test fee of passing pit bulls.

After Passing The Canine Good Citizen Test, What’s Next?

If your dog passes the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and you enjoyed the training experience, there is more available to you!

The American Kennel Club (AKC) also offers the similar “Community Canine” and the “Urban CGC” tests. AKC Trick Dog is also recommended to add to your list of aspirations.

You may also choose to pursue therapy training, or a canine sport. The world is your oyster when you have a well trained dog!


The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test is an ideal way to bond with your dog and make both of you well respected members of your community. Training for and achieving the prestigious CGC title is also perfect groundwork for other training pursuits such as therapy work or canine sports.