Can my dog pass the CGC?
Attend any gathering with people and their dogs and you’re bound to overhear talk about the “CGC.”
CGC stands for Canine Good Citizen, which is a certification program created by the American Kennel Club that stresses responsible dog ownership for humans and basic good manners for dogs. Although the CGC certification is a requirement for many competitive dog sports and service dogs, it has become a popular aspiration for owners of plain ol’ pets.
How is a CGC class different from a regular obedience class?
Regular obedience classes typically focus purely on obedience commands, such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay.’ A CGC class takes these commands and incorporates them into real-life situations.
For example, ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ are incorporated into CGC Test Item 1, Accepting a Friendly Stranger. This item requires that a dog sit politely next to its handler when someone (the test evaluator) approaches the duo in a friendly manner to shake hands and speak briefly with the person; as if you were out on a walk with your dog and ran into a ‘friendly stranger’ or acquaintance. The dog can appear interested, but cannot jump on or rush onto the person to try to initiate contact. Nor can the dog show resentment, aggression or extreme shyness. In this item, the ‘friendly stranger’ (evaluator) ignores the dog.
In Test Item 2, Sitting Politely for Petting, the evaluator says something like “What a nice dog, may I pet him?” and then pets the dog on the head and body. In this item the dog can move slightly forward for petting and can appear happy, even a little wiggly, but cannot jump or be overly enthusiastic. And owner/handler cannot use excessive corrections or restraint to keep the dog in place.
Handlers are allowed to talk to their dog and give encouragement and reminders during the testing. So if you know your dog is a wiggle monster when people approach, you can say “Stay. Good boy,” as the evaluator approaches, and can keep encouraging him during the interaction with the evaluator.
The most difficult test item for lots of dogs is Test Item 8, Reaction to Another Dog. In this item, two handlers and their dogs (one of which is a well-behaved ‘distraction’ dog-and-handler team not being tested) approach each other from a distance of about 15 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, then move on. The dog being tested is not allowed to show more than a casual interest in the other dog. Tough task if your dog is super social or reactive to other dogs.
So while the test can be challenging for a lot of dogs, you get plenty of time and instruction in a CGC Prep class, where your AKC-certified instructor shows you techniques that will not only help you pass the 10-item test, but will improve and strengthen your overall handling skills.
The goal of the program for many dog owners is simply to learn the skills and get the practice necessary to be able to take their well-mannered dog out in public. Bragging rights and official AKC certificate are just side benefits.