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Canine Good Citizen

Overview of the Canine Good Citizen Program

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program, established by the American Kennel Club (AKC), is a certification program that focuses on promoting responsible dog ownership and training dogs to be well-mannered in both the home and community settings. Created as a two-part program, it emphasizes not only responsible practices by dog owners but also the importance of good behavior in all dogs.

The CGC program is recognized nationwide in the United States and has gained substantial popularity since its inception. It serves as a foundational step for many dog owners who wish to pursue further training, such as Therapy Dog certifications, or who simply aspire to ensure their dogs are sociable and well-behaved members of society.

Purpose of the CGC Program

The primary aim of the CGC program is to instill positive behavior and manners in dogs through training that focuses on practical, everyday skills. The program is structured around a series of 10 test items that evaluate a dog’s ability to behave politely in a variety of situations. These tests include skills such as accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely for petting, walking through a crowd, and reacting appropriately to other dogs.

A key aspect of the CGC program is its emphasis on the dog-owner relationship, encouraging owners to become actively involved in their dogs’ training and behavior. This involvement fosters a deeper bond between the dog and the owner, and it promotes a better understanding of the responsibilities of dog ownership.

Significance of the CGC Certification

Earning a CGC certificate is a testament to a dog’s behavior and temperament, often serving as a requirement for certain privileges such as living in pet-friendly housing or participating in dog-related activities. The certification is also a stepping stone for dogs and owners looking to get involved in advanced training programs or canine sports.

The CGC program’s impact extends beyond individual dog owners, as it helps in setting a standard for dog behavior that benefits communities at large. By encouraging and recognizing responsible dog ownership and well-mannered dogs, the CGC program plays a vital role in fostering harmonious interactions between dogs, their owners, and the general public.

History & Development of the CGC Program

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program was established by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1989. It was developed as a response to the growing need for well-mannered dogs in an increasingly dog-friendly American society. The program was designed to encourage responsible pet ownership and to promote the training of well-behaved dogs.

Since its inception, the CGC program has evolved significantly. It started as a basic program for rewarding dogs with good manners at home and in the community. Over the years, the program has expanded and it has become a benchmark for other advanced training programs. The CGC certification is now widely recognized and respected, and it often serves as a prerequisite for more specialized training like Therapy Dog and Service Dog work.

Impact on Dog Training & Ownership

The CGC program has had a considerable impact on dog training and ownership in the United States. It has provided a standardized way to evaluate and acknowledge a dog’s basic good behavior and the owner’s commitment to responsible pet ownership. This standardization has also influenced the development of various dog training curriculums and methodologies.

The program’s success has led to its widespread adoption by various organizations and communities. Many dog-friendly apartments, condos, and community programs now require or recommend CGC certification. It has also been used in some areas as a legislation tool related to dog ownership, promoting responsible ownership and positive community relationships with dogs.

Eligibility & Requirements for the CGC

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program is designed to be inclusive, welcoming all dogs regardless of breed or age. This broad eligibility reflects the program’s goal of promoting good behavior among as wide a range of dogs as possible. Key aspects of eligibility include:

  • All Dogs Welcome: Both purebred and mixed breed dogs are eligible to participate in the CGC program. This inclusivity ensures that any dog, regardless of its pedigree, has the opportunity to be recognized for its good behavior.
  • No Age Limit: There is no minimum or maximum age requirement for the CGC program. This allows for the participation of puppies as well as older dogs, acknowledging that good manners can be taught and reinforced at any stage of a dog’s life.

Registration & Test Process

To participate in the CGC test, dog owners need to follow a specific registration and testing process:

  • Finding a Test Event: Owners can locate CGC test events through the AKC’s event search tool or by contacting local AKC-affiliated clubs. These events can be standalone or conducted alongside other dog-related activities.
  • Registering for the Test: Once an appropriate event is found, owners need to register their dogs. This process usually involves completing a registration form which may include a fee.
  • Understanding Test Requirements: It is important for participants to be familiar with the CGC test format and requirements. This includes knowing the various components of the test and what is expected of both the dog and the handler during the evaluation.

Special Considerations

While the CGC program is broadly accessible, there are special considerations for dogs with specific training or behavioral needs:

  • Dogs with Behavioral Challenges: Owners of dogs with behavioral issues such as extreme shyness, anxiety, or aggression may benefit from consulting a professional trainer or behaviorist before attempting the CGC test.
  • Training & Socialization: Although there are no pre-test training requirements, adequate training and socialization are crucial for a dog’s success in the CGC test. This may involve attending obedience classes or working with a trainer to make sure the dog is well-prepared for the test scenarios.

Test Structure & Components of the CGC

The Canine Good Citizen test is structured to assess a dog’s behavior and manners through a series of specific tasks or skills. The test consists of ten different components, each designed to evaluate aspects of the dog’s behavior in various social and environmental settings. These components aim to demonstrate the dog’s obedience, calmness, and ability to interact appropriately with people and other dogs.

Key Components of the Test

The ten test items in the CGC program encompass a range of behaviors and skills:

  1. Accepting a Friendly Stranger: Evaluates the dog’s ability to behave politely around new people.
  2. Sitting Politely for Petting: Tests the dog’s demeanor while being petted by a stranger, assessing its calmness and friendliness.
  3. Appearance and Grooming: Involves an evaluator examining the dog to ensure it is clean, well-groomed, and in good health.
  4. Out for a Walk (Walking on a Loose Lead): Assesses the dog’s behavior during a walk, focusing on its ability to follow the handler’s lead without tension on the leash.
  5. Walking Through a Crowd: Tests how well the dog navigates through a group of people, demonstrating good social behavior and control.
  6. Sit and Down on Command & Staying in Place: Evaluates the dog’s responsiveness to the handler’s “sit” and “down” commands, and its ability to stay in place.
  7. Coming When Called: Assesses the dog’s reliability in responding to the handler’s call to come.
  8. Reaction to Another Dog: This component tests the dog’s behavior around other dogs, looking for calmness and lack of aggression.
  9. Reaction to Distraction: Evaluates the dog’s reaction to common distractions, checking for calmness and stability.
  10. Supervised Separation: Tests the dog’s ability to be left with a trusted person, maintaining its training and good manners.

Purpose of Each Component

Each component of the CGC test is designed to simulate everyday situations, to make sure that dogs that pass the test can handle typical social and environmental challenges. The CGC test not only evaluates the dog’s training and behavior, it also evaluates the handler’s ability to control and guide the dog in various situations.

The test is an effective tool for ensuring that dogs are well-behaved in public settings and are able to interact safely and politely with other dogs and people. It sets a standard for responsible dog ownership and canine behavior in the community.

Evaluation Criteria in the CGC Test

The evaluation criteria for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test focus on assessing a dog’s behavior and obedience in a variety of scenarios, each reflecting real-world situations. The test evaluates specific aspects of the dog’s conduct and interaction with humans and the environment. Success in the CGC test hinges on demonstrating calmness, obedience, and sociability.

Key Areas of Focus in the CGC Test

In the CGC test, dogs are expected to exhibit calm and polite behavior when interacting with people and other dogs. This includes being receptive to friendly strangers and behaving appropriately when being petted. Obedience to the handler’s commands, such as sitting, staying, and coming when called, is crucial.

Adaptability in the test is critical. Dogs are evaluated on their ability to adapt to different situations, such as walking through a crowd or reacting to distractions, while maintaining composure. The test also assesses a dog’s tolerance for grooming and handling, an important aspect of its comfort with common handling scenarios.

Disqualification & Failure Criteria

Certain behaviors can lead to disqualification or failure in the CGC test. Aggressive behavior towards people or other dogs is a major offense, leading to immediate failure. Excessive fear or anxiety, to the extent that it hinders performance in the test exercises, will result in not passing. A lack of cooperation or a consistent refusal to follow basic commands can also lead to failure.

The Role of CGC Evaluators

CGC evaluators have a crucial role in conducting the test fairly and consistently. They are trained to observe and interpret the dog’s behavior, making the final decision on whether the dog passes or fails each component of the test. Their evaluation ensures that each dog is assessed according to the CGC standards.

Preparing for the CGC Test

Preparation for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test is a crucial step that involves comprehensive training to ensure a dog’s success. This preparation is not just about teaching the dog specific behaviors; however, it is also about reinforcing good manners and social skills.

Socialization forms a core part of this preparation. Exposing the dog to a variety of environments, people, and other animals is essential. This helps the dog become accustomed to different situations, reducing anxiety or fear in new environments, which is particularly important for the CGC test.

Basic obedience training is another critical aspect. Skills such as sitting, staying, coming when called, and walking nicely on a leash are fundamental. These skills not only help the dog pass the test, they also contribute to its overall well-behaved demeanor.

Training for specific CGC test components is also important. For example, practicing walking through crowds or behaving calmly around other dogs can help the dog understand and perform the required behaviors during the test. This might involve structured training sessions where scenarios similar to those in the test are simulated.

Consistency and patience in training are key. Regular practice and reinforcement of good behavior can significantly improve the dog’s chances of success in the test. Using positive reinforcement techniques, where the dog is rewarded for good behavior, can be particularly effective.

It is also beneficial for owners of the dogs to familiarize themselves with the CGC test format and requirements. Understanding what each test component entails can aid in more focused and effective training.

For dogs with specific behavioral issues, such as excessive shyness, anxiety, or aggression, consulting a professional dog trainer or behaviorist might be necessary. These professionals can provide tailored advice and strategies to address these issues, making the CGC test a more achievable goal.

Getting Started with the CGC Program

  • Consult the Official CGC Test Regulations: For a comprehensive understanding of the CGC program, including all rules and guidelines, refer to the official AKC’s CGC Participant and Evaluator Guide. This document is crucial for anyone looking to participate in the CGC test, as it assists with the preparation needed to meet the program’s standards and expectations.
  • Find a CGC Test Event or Evaluator: Use the AKC’s event search tool on the organization’s website to locate upcoming CGC test events, or search through the AKC’s directory of approved CGC evaluators.
  • Register for the Test: Once a suitable test event or evaluator has been located, complete the registration process for the CGC test. This may involve filling out a form and paying any associated fees.
  • Prepare Your Dog for the Test: Engage in training activities that align with the test components. This includes socializing the dog, practicing basic obedience skills, and acclimating the dog to different environments and distractions.
  • Post-Test Considerations: After the test, use the experience as a learning opportunity. If the dog passes, celebrate the achievement as a testament to its behavior and training. If the dog doesn’t pass, assess areas for improvement and consider additional training or socialization.
  • Re-Testing if Necessary: Remember, dogs that do not pass the CGC test can be retested. Use the time between each test to focus on areas that need improvement, ensuring better chances of success in future attempts.

Related Programs & Advanced Certifications

The AKC’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program extends beyond its core framework into more specialized training areas, including the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program, the CGCU (Canine Good Citizen Urban), and the CGCA (Canine Good Citizen Advanced). These programs offer a continuum of training that reflects a dog’s growth and its owner’s commitment to responsible pet ownership.

AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program

This program targets puppies, emphasizing their early training and socialization. It serves as the foundation for future CGC training, focusing on socialization, training, activity, and responsibility. The S.T.A.R. Puppy Program includes house and crate training, basic obedience skills, and early socialization with people and other dogs, preparing puppies for the expectations of the CGC test as well as overall good canine behavior.

CGCU – Canine Good Citizen Urban

The CGCU program is a specialized extension of the CGC designed for dogs living in urban settings. It assesses a dog’s ability to navigate the unique challenges of urban life, such as busy streets, loud city noises, and behaving appropriately in public places like buildings and commercial areas. Aimed at dogs that have already achieved CGC certification, the CGCU program is tailored to make sure the dogs can exhibit good citizenship in the diverse and dynamic environment of modern cities.

CGCA – Canine Good Citizen Advanced

Representing an advanced level of training, the CGCA builds on the foundational skills acquired in the CGC program. It introduces more complex and challenging scenarios, expecting a higher level of obedience and manners. The CGCA is geared towards dogs and owners who are ready to engage in advanced training or specific activities such as Therapy Dog work, setting a high standard for canine behavior in skills that are essential for dogs expected to function in any and all social settings.

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JUNE 2024 ISSUE

June 2024 Vol. 32 No. 6

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