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Set your dog up for CGC test success

Behavior and Training  •   Jasey Day  •   Jan 13, 2016


The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is a great goal! This training journey enhances your bond with your dog and creates a better-mannered dog!

For success, follow these tips before the test day:

  1. Sign up for a family pet obedience and/or CGC specific training class. There is no substitute for training in a distracting environment – with other dogs and people around – and with the help of a professional dog trainer. In addition, the class may guide you through mock tests before the actual test.

  2. Practice daily for 5-15 minutes. End each session on a positive note and with the dog wanting more training!

  3. Practice the CGC skills in a variety of environments - from quiet to busy atmospheres.

    Go to local pet stores that allow pets. Train during your walks or hikes. Use the lobby of your veterinary clinic – even ask a vet tech to take your dog out of sight for a few moments to work on “supervised separation.” Take your dog to dog-friendly places, such as a flea market or a playground, to work on walking through a crowd!

    Taking your training “on the road” allows you to practice in distraction and to find friendly (human) strangers – especially those active in the pet industry - who may be willing to help you train the “sitting politely for petting” portion of the test. Training in the real world shows your dog that he needs to listen and work with you in any place; this is also helpful if your CGC test is in a brand new location.

  4. Do not let other humans sabotage your training! Do not let people tell you and your dog that “it’s ok if your dog jumps on me!” If you desire a jumping dog, teach a “hugs” command to your dog and only allow the jumping on humans when the hugs command is given.

  5. Do not let your dog learn that he can drag you to meet other dogs and humans - creating this habit may make passing the “reaction to another dog” portion difficult.

  6. Practice without treats and without your treat pouch on you! Teach your dog that rewards happen AFTER the skills from a different location. I often train my dogs, give them praise during training, then say “done, let’s go get your cookies” and dash to my table with my dogs to grab the treats.

    To baby-step from treats for every trick to no treats until the end of the CGC test, ask for two-fers or three-fers -  two tricks for one treat and three tricks for one treat.

On test day:

  1. Ensure your dog has adequate (but not excessive) physical exercise before the test. This depends on your dog – some dogs could handle playing at dog camp all day or a 3 mile hike. Others need a short walk. The bottom line is that the test environment is very exciting so a dog with a “warm-up” may focus better on you than a dog with no physical release prior to the test.

  2. Confirm that your dog has pottied prior to the test.

  3. Remain calm and confident during the test. If you hold your breath or tensely hold the leash, you are signaling to your dog that something is wrong and your dog may get nervous or distracted.

  4. Have a positive attitude. You can retake the test at a later date if needed – the training and the test should be fun!

Additional information on the CGC test can be found at

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