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

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The Canine Good Citizen Test is a test which was developed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1989 to assess both dogs and their owners. The goal of the test is to promote well trained, mannerly dogs and responsible dog ownership. Although the AKC is an organization which focuses on the registry and advancement of purebred dogs, any canine is eligible to take the Canine Good Citizen Test. If a dog passes the test, he or she is presented with a certificate.

The basic principles behind the Canine Good Citizen Test have been borrowed and used by organizations all over the world. A pass score on the test may also be required for therapy dogs, service animals, and other working dogs. There can also be some unexpected benefits; for example, in a tight rental market, a rental applicant with a dog which has passed the Canine Good Citizen Test may have a better chance of renting a home or apartment than someone with a dog which has not been certified.

Moreover, successfully passing the Canine Good Citizen Test may assist dog owners in obtaining emotional support animal letters. These letters often require evidence of a dog's good behavior and ability to function well in various environments. By demonstrating that a dog has met the CGC's standards, owners may find it easier to secure such letters, which can be crucial for those needing their pets for emotional support in housing and travel situations. This further emphasizes the test's value in promoting responsible pet ownership and enhancing the lives of dogs and their owners alike.

There are ten components to the Canine Good Citizen Test, which are often tested in tandem with each other, and in no particular order. Owners can apply to take the test through local branches of the AKC or through dog training organizations which offer certification. They generally have to pay a small fee, and they are expected to show up with suitable collars and leashes. Training collars and devices are not permitted during the test, and while owners may praise their dogs for good behavior, they may not offer treats. Misbehavior on the part of the dog or its owner is grounds for dismissal.

The ten components of the test start with a basic evaluation of the dog's grooming and appearance. Test evaluators check to see that the dog has current vaccinations and licensing, and that the dog appears healthy and calm. Part of the grooming section of the test involves allowing a stranger such as a veterinarian or test administrator to handle the dog. Testing also includes asking the owner to walk with the dog on a loose lead as though taking a casual walk, and taking the dog through a crowd.

Potential Canine Good Citizens must also respond to basic commands like sit and lie down, and they must stay when asked to do so. If left alone, the dog must stay where it is ordered to and remain calm. In addition, the dog must remain seated and calm when a stranger approaches its handler, and it must submit to a friendly pat. The Canine Good Citizen Test also includes interaction with other dogs, and it tests to see how well dogs perform when they are distracted.

A Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is entitled to wear a tag indicating that he or she has passed the test, and some dog owners include the CGC after their dog's name, much like an academic title. If you are interested in taking your dog to a Canine Good Citizen Test, use your favorite search engine to look for test dates in your area, or ask your veterinarian or local animal shelter about testing details.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By MrsPramm — On Aug 01, 2014

@Ana1234 - Most of the time dogs become problems because their owners either didn't train them well, or they were bred with certain characteristics. Sometimes it might happen that an otherwise happy dog becomes a problem animal because they are sick or injured.

For the most part, these situations can all be avoided or mitigated by human intervention. Canine training, appropriate breeding practices and health care aren't difficult. But if people aren't willing to do them, they shouldn't be allowed to have dogs.

By Ana1234 — On Jul 31, 2014

@bythewell - I'm not sure it should be the dog that has to pass the test in order for the owner to be licensed though. The canine good citizenship test is a really excellent one, but it doesn't take into account the individual dogs. If you've got a dog that has been scared by crowds of people, for example, you shouldn't expect it to be able to walk around in them. You should just make sure it never has to do that.

This test would tell me some of what a dog is capable of, but not everything and it wouldn't pass every dog that I would consider to be worth having around.

As far as I'm concerned, as long as a dog isn't a danger to itself or to others and is happy and healthy, it should be allowed to stay with its owner.

By bythewell — On Jul 30, 2014

I wish that owning a dog was considered to be more of a privilege than a right in the modern world. This is definitely something that I would insist every dog owner be able to pass with their dog before they could get a license.

It breaks my heart that dogs are treated so badly in so many places and are vilified when they act out because of it. I really believe that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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