Canine Good Citizen: 10 Essential Skills for Every Dog

This week we talked about AKC Community Canine, advanced CGC. For those readers who may not have seen the original Canine Good Citizen test, we’re posting the test items today.  CGC started in 1989 and since then, more than 700,000 dogs have participated in the program.

10 Essential Skills: CGC Test Items

Wyn-blur CGC certificate copy 2Before taking the Canine Good Citizen test, owners will sign the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge. We believe that responsible dog ownership is a key part of the CGC concept and by signing the pledge, owners agree to take care of their dog’s health needs, safety, exercise, training and quality of life. Owners also agree to show responsibility by doing things such as cleaning up after their dogs in public places and never letting dogs infringe on the rights of others.

After signing the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge, owners and their dogs are ready to take the CGC Test. The test is all done on leash. Items on the Canine Good Citizen Test include:

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting

This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. With the dog sitting at the handler’s side, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming

This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so. It also demonstrates the owner’s care, concern and sense of responsibility. The evaluator inspects the dog to determine if it is clean and groomed. The dog must appear to be in healthy condition (i.e., proper weight, clean, healthy and alert). The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot. It is not necessary for the dog to hold a specific position during the examination, and the handler may talk to the dog, praise it and give encouragement throughout.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)

This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog’s position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler’s movements and changes of direction. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops. The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. In either case, there should be a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The handler may talk to the dog along the way, praise the dog, or give commands in a normal tone of voice. The handler may sit the dog at the halts if desired.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd

This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place

This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler’s commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. Prior to this test, the dog’s leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to sit and then down. The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler’s commands. The handler may not force the dog into position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of the line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog. The dog may be released from the front or the side.

Test 7: Coming when called

This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to “stay” or “wait” or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog

This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction

This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise.

Test 10: Supervised separation

This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold of the dog’s leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, “there, there, it’s alright”).


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Training City Dogs: Meet Shelby Semel

This week we’re focusing on the AKC Community Canine test (advanced CGC) that was recently held in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.


Shelby Semel

Shelby Semel, owner of Shelby’s Dog Training, attended the test along with two of her trainers, Corinne Fritzell and Susan Ward.  Shelby is a graduate of the Animal Behavior College and she completed a hands-on mentorship with Kate Perry.  Susan is a graduate of Jean Donaldson’s SF SPCA In-House Dog Trainer’s Academy and the Advanced Instructor’s Training Course at Rondout Valley Kennels, and Corrine is studying animal behavior through the Hunter College Master’s program in animal behavior.

Located at 411 East 57th Street, New York (Mid-town East, near 1st Avenue), Shelby’s Dog Training is a model program when it comes to offering training that teaches dogs and owners how to function in a busy, urban setting. The school’s curriculum has something to meet the needs of every dog and owner: Puppy socialization, Wallflower/adult shy dog class, Basic Obedience, Intermediate Obedience, Advanced Obedience, Control Unleashed, Difficult Dog class, and a Tricks class.

And speaking of tricks, this highly successful training school has found the trick to helping dogs and their owners…they use a scientifically sound training approach, realize that different dogs may do better with different techniques, and they offer a comprehensive curriculum designed to meet the needs of New York City’s dogs and their owners.

For more info, see:

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Training City Dogs: Meet the Instinct Dog Trainers

This week is all about the AKC Community Canine test in Grand Central. In addition to the dogs who went through the test, I was curious to meet the trainers who teach owners to navigate one of the world’s busiest cities with their dogs. New York City is no place for sissies, either humans or canines.


It was a delight to meet Sarah Fraser and Brian Burton at the Grand Central test. They are the owners of Instinct Dog Behavior and Training, LLC (Lexington Avenue between 111th and 112th streets).

Brian and Sarah’s focus is working with behavior problem dogs as well as advanced obedience and competition training. Brian and his rescue dog Sammy competed in the 2013 AKC Rally National Championship, finishing as the top ranked mixed breed.

But what the dog owners who attend Instinct’s classes have to say tells more about this extraordinary, comprehensive dog training program:   “…they are in a true sense of the word, lifesavers.”  And the words frequently used by dog owners to describe the Instinct trainers were: competent, ethical, and lasting results. And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what dog owners are looking for.

There are some unique aspects to the Instinct program…they have a flexible drop-in schedule and access to free lifetime brush-up classes for CGC grads. There are free puppy play groups on Thursday evenings–what a great way to introduce puppy owners to training.

So, Sarah, Brian, and all of the Instinct trainers, the dogs and owners you worked with who passed the CGCA in Grand Central thank you. The AKC CGC program thanks you, and the dogs of New York City thank you.

Watch this video of training at Instinct:

For more info, see:

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Yorkie Passes Advanced CGC in Grand Central

It’s usually not a good sign when a police officer is holding your dog. The dog in the photo is Chowsie, a Yorkshire Terrier owned by Liz Donovan of New York City.


Chowsie didn’t get pulled over for speeding, although he was one fast little dog. And he didn’t get arrested for breaking any rules. As a matter of fact, his behavior was perfect. So perfect that last week, he passed the AKC Community Canine (advanced CGC) test in Grand Central Terminal, NYC.

So in this photo, the news was good–Chowsie wasn’t getting a ticket. He was getting some serious congratulations from a Grand Central K9 officer.

“What amazed me the most,” said CGC Director, Mary Burch, who tested Chowsie, “was the incredible confidence of this little dog. He was unflappable and happy to be there. He should be a poster child for toy breeds everywhere. He strutted through one of the busiest locations in the world like he owned the place.”

When asked if she had any tips for training a breed that so many people carry everywhere in a purse, Liz Donovan said, “I’ve been working on his behavior for his whole life. He’s 7 years old; he got his CGC when he was 1 year old. We trained at Petsmart through CGC. But I work every single day on maintaining his skills at home and in the neighborhood.”

Donovan didn’t take all the credit. She acknowledged Chowsie’s breeder. “Carolyn Nestor, the breeder, gave me a dog with the best natural temperament and she worked so hard to socialize him in the first 12 weeks of his life, so I had a well-behaved, confident puppy to start with.”

So Bravo!, Carolyn Nestor and Liz Donovan.

And BRAVO Chowsie, CGCA!  And Chowsie, just remember, “if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.”


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Thank You to Our Veterans

Marine & dog memorial

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AKC Community Canine in Grand Central Station

Last week was a great week for AKC Community Canine. There was an AKC Community Canine test in Grand Central Station in New York City.

AKC Community Canine, also known as advanced CGC or CGCA, is all about dogs being able to generalize basic skills they learned in Canine Good Citizen to the real world.

AKC Community Canine is CGC on steroids.  It’s one thing for a dog to demonstrate learned behaviors in a very controlled situation. It’s another thing altogether to show those skills in an unpredictable, busy, community setting.


Emily, a Leonberger owned by Mara Bovsun, passed the AKC Community Canine test in Grand Central Station. Here’s Emi being congratulated by a Grand Central K9 officer.

When it comes to busy community settings, probably one of the busiest of all is Grand Central Station in New York City. This week, we’ll tell you about this very special test event as well as the dogs and dog training instructors who attended.


As a reminder, here are the test items on the AKC Community Canine test:

Advanced Canine Good Citizen (the “CGCA” title)

To earn the CGCA title, the dog must 1) be registered or listed with AKC (AKC number, PAL, or AKC Canine Partners number) and, 2) already have a Canine Good Citizen award/title on record. Dogs must pass all 10 items of the test to receive the CGCA title.
1. Dog stands, sits or lies down and waits under control while the owner:

sits at the registration table and fills out paperwork, or,
if the test is done in the community, dog waits while the owner sits and has a snack or visits with
another person (e.g., at a park)

2. Walks on a loose leash in a natural situation (not in a ring)–does not pull.

left turn
right turn
fast and slow pace

3. Walks on loose leash through a crowd

at a show or in class, this item is tested in a real crowd, not in a ring
in the community, dog walks on sidewalk, through a crowd at a community fair, park, on a trail, through a busy hallway, etc.

4. Dog walks past distraction dogs present; does not pull.
This item may be tested along with #3 if there are dogs in the crowd, etc.

at a show or class, dog walks by dogs waiting in the crowd–dogs 2 ft. apart
in the community, dog walks by other dogs on a trail, sidewalk, in a hallway, etc.

5. Sit–stay in small group (3 other people with dogs).
Owners and dogs are in an informal circle/square while owners have a conversation.
Dogs are all on the owner’s left side, on leash; 3 ft. apart. (At least 30 seconds)

6. Dog allows person who is carrying something (backpack, computer bag, etc.) to approach and pet it.
“May I pet your dog?” (Item is placed on floor/ground before the person pets the dog)

7. “Leave it.” Dog walks by food and follows owner instructions, “Leave it.”
This can be food placed by the evaluator on the floor or ground in a food dish with a wire cover as in Rally.

8. Down or sit stay–distance (owner’s choice).
Dog is on 20–ft line, owner walks away with back to dog, picks up an item (e.g., backpack, training bag, clipboard, folder etc.) placed on the floor/chair/ground by the evaluator and returns to the dog.

9. Recall with distractions present (coming when called). Handler goes out 20–ft. (off center) and calls dog.
Dog is on the 20–ft. line from #8 above.

10. Dog will sit or stand stay (owner’s choice) while owner enters/exits a doorway or narrow passageway. Owner calls dog through door when ready.

Owner may also choose to 1) send the dog through first and have the dog wait for the owner, or 2) the owner may choose to have the dog go through the doorway at the owner’s side. Whichever method is used, the dog must not pull the owner and must be under good control. Think of the handler having the leash in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

Doorway or gate can be real or simulated with ring gates, two chairs, or a natural passageway (e.g., entrance to trail) in the community.

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Beagle Returns Lost Items in Airport

Here is a link to some of my favorite scent work ever!

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