The Canine Good Citizen Program: Everything You Need to Know

The Canine Good Citizen Program: Everything You Need to Know

The Canine Good Citizen Program, or CGC Program, is a program developed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) to promote responsible dog ownership and to encourage the training of well-behaved dogs. This program is open to all dogs, whether purebred or mixed breed. It emphasizes the importance of good manners for dogs and provides dog owners with a recognized method to train a well-behaved and even-tempered pet.

Dog owners who take part in this program will acquire more than just a title and a fancy certificate. They’ll also be able to further embrace the responsibility that comes with dog ownership and provide a nurturing environment for dogs to thrive. Thus, the CGC program is a most meaningful endeavor for dog owners seeking to elevate their pets’ quality of life and ensure their integration into their local communities as amiable and well-mannered members.

This article from PrideBites will serve as an informative guide to the Canine Good Citizen Program, diving into the components, testing elements, and the myriad benefits the CGC will have on enrolled dogs. If you want to join with your dog as a participant, here’s everything you need to know.

The Canine Good Citizen Program Components

The CGC Program unfolds in two main stages: a detailed training course and a subsequent evaluative test. The training course is foundational, introducing dogs to basic commands and appropriate behaviors. It’s the initial step where dogs learn the essence of obedience and discipline, and it creates a stable groundwork for more advanced learning.

The training stage focuses on diverse aspects of behavior and obedience, all of which are indispensable for the test. By internalizing the commands they learn during training, participating dogs will know to respond appropriately during the variety of situations they’ll encounter during the CGC test. Training also helps cultivate the polite and controlled demeanor expected of canine good citizens.

Once the training is complete, a certified evaluator assesses the dogs based on specific AKC-established criteria. This evaluation is comprehensive, ensuring that every dog that earns the title has met the high standards of behavior and temperament expected of CGC program participants and can showcase their readiness to be agreeable and responsible members of their community.

CGC Test Elements

The CGC test is structured around several elements, each designed to assess different facets of a dog's behavior and training. These elements are as follows:

  • Greeting the approach of a friendly stranger
  • Sitting politely for petting
  • Allowing themselves to be groomed or brushed, including letting the groomer handle their ears and paws
  • Accepting equipment like dog collars and leashes and walking on a loose lead
  • Moving carefully through a crowded area
  • Sitting, lying down, and staying in place on an owner’s command
  • Coming when called
  • Behaving politely around other dogs
  • Reacting calmly and confidently to distractions
  • Being temporarily left in the care of a trusted person

The Purpose and Benefits of CGC Certification

CGC certification ultimately recognizes a dog’s ability to behave well in a community setting and acknowledges their owner’s commitment to responsible pet ownership. Dog owners who receive the certification can properly promote the idea that canine companions are responsible, well-mannered members of their communities, rather than being mere pets. Given its celebration of mutual respect and understanding between dogs and humans, CGC certification is one of the highest honors a pup and their parent can receive for undergoing proper training and socialization.

The benefits of acquiring a CGC certification extend beyond acknowledgment of good behavior. CGC certification also opens doors to more advanced dog training and dog sports for those who are interested, and it even grants access to reduced licensing fees in some areas. For some, this certification can also facilitate easier access to pet-friendly housing, creating more opportunities for responsible dog owners to find suitable living arrangements.

Preparing for the CGC Test

If you and your dog intend to go through the CGC test, remember that consistent and positive reinforcement-based training is key. You should also aim to expose your dog to diverse environments and social situations to cultivate their adaptability and encourage polite behavior in various settings. Proper socialization, combined with patience and consistent training, will make it easy for a dog and their owner to face the CGC test with confidence and composure.

Owners should also consider exploring professional training classes or resources prior to the CGC test, as these can offer structured learning environments and expert guidance for dogs. The same resources can also help owners address specific behavioral concerns and enhance the overall training experience, ensuring that dogs are well-prepared to meet the CGC standards.

Finally, you’ll want to maintain a positive and encouraging attitude during the preparation phase. Only then will your dog be able to thrive and develop the skills and behaviors necessary to pass their CGC test. A good attitude towards clearing training requirements will strengthen the bond between you and your dog while fostering a love for learning and adaptability in both of you. These will definitely serve you beyond the happy day that you earn your CGC credentials.


If enrolled in the Canine Good Citizen Program, you and your dog will be able to embrace the shared values of respect, responsibility, and companionship inherent in the experience of dog ownership. Don’t hesitate to learn more about what you can achieve together once you go through the program, and enjoy the many benefits that CGC certification will impart on your shared life.