A “good citizen” might evoke images of tipping your hat to strangers, opening the door for others, paying taxes, or chasing someone to return a dropped wallet. Those all apply to bipeds, but what about our four-legged friends?
Dog lovers know their pal is part of the community, too—so what does it take for them to be a good citizen? Put your dog to the test—the Canine Good Citizen test.
Just like some professionals earn a Ph.D or M.D. after their names, imagine your dog’s name followed by CGC. The American Kennel Club created the program for the Canine Good Citizen Award in 1989, recognizing trained and tested dogs with evaluation and certification.
Some of us might say “my dog’s certifiable” but that’s another story.
It’s time for some pre-testing. Let’s ask some questions about the potential performance of your pooch:
- A stranger approaches: do they get a friendly greeting, or bowled over?
- A hand reaches out to pet them: does your dog remain calm and accepting?
- Other dogs are around: do they behave graciously or flip out?
- You call them: do they obey?
- You go for a walk: do they follow directions? Better yet, is the leash comfortably loose or taut?
- Sit. Stay. Lie Down: do they comprehend and respond, or just stare at you with amusement?
- Time for grooming: do they tolerate it? Can you touch and work with ears and paws?
- A crowd needs navigating: do they move respectfully, or rush, brush, and bump?
- Distractions abound: can they focus and react appropriately?
- You leave them with a trusted friend: do they share that trust, or freak out if it’s not you?
If your canine companion would ace all of these in an instant, you’re only a test away from officially proving their good citizenship to the world.
However, most of us probably see an area or two—or ten—that might need improvement. You can see all ten official CGC skills in action in this video as Skya passes her certification. It’s not as easy as this Australian shepherd makes it look:
You probably see some areas of obedience and manners for your dog to improve upon, and that’s nothing either of you should be ashamed of. Think of it like a clarifying canine compass, pointing both of you to the next obedience training adventure.
Once you’re ready, you can find approved CGC evaluators by state and get tested. Some may even offer training, if needed.
Once it’s official, invite human and canine friends over and throw an award ceremony to celebrate!
It’s not all about a certificate, of course.
Your dog’s certification might inspire others who witness their qualified composure. In addition, there’ll be less stress when you leave your buddy with a local pet sitter—since your pal already passed the separation anxiety test.
Best of all, training time fosters the bond between you and your dog.
The Canine Good Citizen Award is for your dog, but as their human companion, you’re definitely a participant in the process. That means you’ve got your own test to take, or at least pledge to make, when it comes to care for your canine and the community.
Does this describe you?
- I will be responsible for my dog’s health needs.
- I will be responsible for my dog’s safety.
- I will not allow my dog to infringe on the rights of others.
- I will be responsible for my dog’s quality of life.
Check out the details of these commitments on the CGC Responsible Dog Owner’s Pledge. Then join forces with your future Canine Good Citizen to pass that test. You can do it together, hand in paw!
Want more information and resources about CGC? Check out the American Kennel Club website.