The American Kennel Club's Good Canine Citizen Test - Your Questions Answered

Written by: Loren Seldner



Time to read 6 min

The American Kennel Club's Good Canine Citizen (CGC) Test offers a valuable opportunity for dog owners seeking to enhance their furry friend's training and behavior. This article aims to give dog owners an in-depth understanding of the CGC Test, including its ten requirements, preparation tips, and significance for owners of Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) and Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs).

What is the American Kennel Club's Good Canine Citizen Test?

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The American Kennel Club's Good Canine Citizen Test certification program evaluates a dog's obedience and social skills in various real-life situations. It consists of ten essential requirements that a dog must complete to earn the CGC certificate. These requirements cover temperament, obedience, and public manners, ensuring that dogs are well-behaved and safe in public spaces.

1. Accepting a Friendly Stranger: The dog must exhibit no aggression or shyness when meeting a stranger.

2. Sitting Politely for Petting: The dog should sit calmly and allow a stranger to pet them.

3. Appearance and Grooming: The dog should be comfortable with being groomed and handled.

4. Out for a Walk (Loose Leash Walking): The dog should walk on a loose leash without pulling or excessive wandering.

5. Walking Through a Crowd: The dog should maintain composure while walking through a crowd of people.

6. Sit and Down on Command / Stay in Place: The dog should respond promptly to sit and down commands and stay in place.

7. Coming When Called: The dog must come when its owner calls.

8. Reaction to Another Dog: The dog should exhibit appropriate behavior and not show signs of aggression or fear towards other dogs.

9. Reaction to Distractions: The dog should remain focused and calm when faced with everyday distractions.

10. Supervised Separation: The dog must remain calm and under control when separated from its owner for a brief period.

How to Prepare for the CGC Test

1. Basic Obedience Training: Focus on teaching your dog essential commands like sit, stay, down, come, and walking on a loose leash.

2. Socialization: Expose your dog to various environments, people, and other dogs to build their confidence and adaptability.

3. Desensitization: Gradually introduce your dog to distractions they might encounter during the test, such as loud noises or unusual objects.

4. Practice Test Scenarios: Set up mock test scenarios to help your dog become familiar with the test requirements.

Which breeds are suitable for the CGC Test?

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The CGC Test suits all dogs, regardless of breed, size, or age. However, it is crucial to consider a dog's individual temperament, health, and training level before undertaking the test. For example, dogs with a friendly and sociable disposition and a foundation in obedience training are likelier to succeed in the test.

Why is the CGC Test for important for ESAs and PSDs

The CGC Test is significant for these dogs as it ensures they can maintain good behavior and respond appropriately in public settings.

ESAs are often granted access to public spaces where pets are not typically allowed, including housing accommodations. The CGC certification demonstrates that an ESA can behave well, reassuring the public and property owners that the dog is well-trained and reliable.

PSDs are trained to assist individuals with psychiatric disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While they are often trained to perform specific tasks, such as using tactile pressure, fetching drugs, or obtaining assistance, the CGC test teaches foundational skills. In addition, it ensures that PSDs can remain calm, obedient, and focused in various environments, allowing them to provide optimal support to their handlers.

What are the options to prepare my dog for the Canine Good Citizen Test?

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test can be approached through various training options, each with pros and cons. Here are a few possibilities:


Training your dog for the CGC Test on your own can be cost-effective. You can set your own pace and adjust the training to your dog's specific needs. However, it requires a good understanding of training techniques and the CGC requirements. Without professional guidance, you may face challenges in identifying and correcting training errors or addressing specific behavior issues.

Online Resources

Online platforms and resources offer a wealth of information and training resources for the CGC Test. They provide step-by-step guides, video tutorials, and even virtual classes. This option is convenient and accessible, allowing you to learn at your own pace. However, you may need the personalized guidance and feedback that a professional trainer can provide, making it essential to research and choose reputable sources.

To ensure owners feel fully supported and develop confidence as a trainer, Free My Paws Master trainer and Head of our Training Academy Toriano Sanzone has not only created a complete set of video training resources but also ensures that your results can be evaluated.

So, when ready, video your dog's performance for guidance and feedback.

'One of the most satisfying things about the Free My Paws Canine Good Citizenship program is seeing how owners, who've never successfully trained a dog before, grow in skill and confidence – strengthening the bond of trust between human and canine. And it's wonderful to see how proud both of them are as they show just what they're capable of!' -Toriano Sanzone

Working one-on-one with a Professional Trainer

Enlisting the support of a professional dog trainer specializing in CGC preparation can be highly beneficial. Trainers have extensive knowledge and experience training dogs for the CGC Test and can provide personalized guidance and feedback. In addition, they can identify areas of improvement, offer targeted exercises, and help address specific behavior challenges. However, working with a professional trainer may involve high additional costs and scheduling considerations.

CGC Training Classes

Joining a CGC training class offers a structured environment focused explicitly on preparing dogs for the CGC Test. These classes typically cover all the required skills and provide opportunities for socialization with other dogs and handlers. They often include mock test scenarios to familiarize dogs with the testing environment. Training classes offer expert guidance, peer support, and a consistent training schedule. However, using a reputable and experienced trainer or training facility is essential for optimal results.

Combination Approach

Some dog owners combine different training methods to prepare their dogs for the CGC Test. They might start with self-training using online resources and then seek guidance from a professional trainer for specific areas of improvement or advanced training techniques. This approach allows for flexibility and customization while benefiting from professional expertise.

Ultimately, the most suitable training option depends on your dog's needs, training experience, and budget. Whichever method you choose, consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement techniques are essential for successful preparation. Remember to focus on building a strong bond with your dog and creating a positive training experience, contributing to their overall success in the CGC Test.

As a PSD Owner, What Can I Do With a CGC Certificate?

As a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) owner, having a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate for your dog can offer several benefits.

The CGC certification demonstrates that your PSD is well-trained, obedient, and can handle public situations appropriately. This certification can be valuable when accessing public spaces like restaurants, stores, and transportation. It also helps establish credibility and trust with landlords, as some housing accommodations require CGC certification for PSDs.

Additionally, the CGC certificate can enhance your confidence as a PSD owner, knowing that your dog has met a recognized standard of good behavior and can provide reliable support in various environments

Is the Canine Good Citizenship Test the Same as the Community Canine Test?

The AKC's Community Canine℠ test is the next, more advanced level of the AKC's Canine Good Citizen Program. Dogs who pass the AKC Community Canine test can use the official AKC Community Canine title by using the letters "CGCA" (Advanced CGC) on the dog's title record.

While it's not a requirement for ESAs or PSDs, the CGCA can also be helpful as a way to reassure landlords and housing associations that your pet will not create any issues.

And if you've enjoyed training your dog to pass the Canine Good Citizen Test, why not continue your journey together and work towards advanced certification?


The American Kennel Club's Good Canine Citizen Test is an excellent benchmark for assessing a dog's obedience and social skills. By fulfilling the ten requirements and obtaining the CGC certification, dog owners can demonstrate their pet's well-behaved nature and reliability.

This is particularly significant for owners of ESAs and PSDs, as the accreditation reassures the public and property owners, allowing these dogs to fulfill their essential roles effectively.

Want to learn more about training your dog to become a Good Canine Citizen. Our Free My Paws Training Academy is here to help you! Click here for more information on how to get started.

Stay Pawsitive!