Good Dog


There’s a test and accompanying certificate to prove that dogs know how to behave well in public. This is the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test, and thousands of dogs nationwide pass this exam every year. Why do owners want to do this rigorous testing of behavior, manners and basic obedience skills? Passing this test indicates that you have a well-mannered dog who can be trusted to behave well in public places and in your living environment. Some hotels and apartments now require that dogs be CGC-certified in order to be there. Also, many therapy dog organizations require the Canine Good Citizen certificate in order to volunteer in the community. Locally, Hos-Pets, the therapy dog program at Hospice Care of the Lowcountry, requires this, as does PAWS to Read, a volunteer group which helps kids at the Boys and Girls Club with reading.

The CGC requires work by both the owner and the dog to master the target skills. It is about your relationship and the dog’s willingness to work for you. The test also measures both of your comfortable levels in a variety of real life circumstances. Your dog is under control but relies on your communication and relationship skills.


The test consists of 10 skills. They are:

ACCEPTING A FRIENDLY STRANGER:  A person approaches the handler and his/her dog. The two people engage in conversation. The dog, remaining beside the handler, ignores the unknown person and this person ignores the dog.

SIT POLITELY FOR PETTING: A stranger approaches the handler and dog and asks for permission to pet the dog. The dog must sit beside the handler while stranger pets the dog and on head and body. The dog should show no shyness or resentment. The dog may stand once the petting has begun but may not approach the stranger.

APPEARANCE AND GROOMING: A stranger must be able to examine the dog and make sure the dog is clean and well cared for. Looking into ears, picking up front paws, brushing and touching the dog on head and body.  For therapy dog work, the dogs’ nails should be filed or dremeled. The nail shape should be rounded with no sharp edges.

OUT FOR A WALK: Walking on a loose leash by the owner’s side, the dog must stop when the handler stops, change directions and make turns. This indicates the dog is under the handler’s control and paying attention.

WALKING THROUGH A CROWD:  The dog must calmly walk around people or various equipment such as wheelchairs.  Dogs may show no anxiety and only mild interest in these obstacles, while paying attention to the handler.

SIT, DOWN AND STAY: The handler instructs the dog to sit, lie down and stay, then hands the leash to the evaluator. The handler walks away from the dog, then returns. The dog must remain in position until the owner returns.

COMING WHEN CALLED: Dog is left with evaluator while the owner walks away. The owner then calls the dog and the dog goes directly to them.

REACTION TO ANOTHER DOG:  A person approaches with another dog. The dogs are to ignore one another as the handlers talk. The handlers then walk away without the dogs bothering the other handler or dog.

REACTION TO DISTRACTIONS: A dog may show no panic, shyness, barking or resentment when faced with distractions such as noisy items being dropped, joggers, people in walkers, etc.  For therapy work they may engage in a positive way—such as sitting close by to be petted— with people using medical equipment.

SUPERVISED SEPARATION:  The handler gives the leash to the evaluator and disappears for three minutes. The evaluator is looking to see if the dog shows anxiety or stress at being left by owner.

Abby BirdTo pass the test, dogs must show mastery of all 10 skills. Re-taking the test is permitted.

It’s not mandatory for dogs to attend training sessions before taking the test, but most dogs—and owners—need practice in one or more of the test objectives.

For more information about the Canine Good Citizen certification, including training sessions, the exam and volunteer opportunities for dogs who have earned their certificates, contact me at