Your Ultimate Guide to Canine Good Citizen in Minneapolis, MN (CGC) FAQs

Canine Good Citizen Classes, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Edina, Bloomington, Hopkins, Richfield, MN

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program: Put your dog’s social and obedience skills to the test.

Wanna take your dog’s training to the next level? Are you looking to prove that your pooch has what it takes to be an upstanding member of society? Or, let’s be honest here… do you just want some dang recognition for all of the hard work you and your BFF have been doing?! Meet the “Canine Good Citizen” or CGC program. We’ve compiled an all-encompassing FAQ to help you and Fido learn everything you need to know about the program. We’ll give you all of the facts, as well as our personal take on the CGC: who it’s good for, what its shortcomings are, and why you may (or may not) wish to participate in this program.

First things first: What is the Canine Good Citizen program anyway?

The Canine Good Citizen program was started by the American Kennel Club (AKC) to promote responsible dog ownership and the presence of well-mannered dogs in society. Think of it as a standardized test to evaluate dogs’ social and obedience skills in various everyday situations. Dogs who pass all ten items on the test are awarded the official “CGC” title. Since the program is run by the AKC, this title is a very well-known achievement in dog training and is nationally recognized.  Basically, the CGC test is one way to prove to the world that your dog is officially one of the goodest boys or girls ever.

How can I prepare my dog for the CGC test?

To prepare for the CGC, teach your pup his basic obedience skills, but do not ignore the critical social skills necessary for success in the real world. Not only will your dog be tested on the classics (sit, stay, come, & loose-leash walking) but he’ll also be required to calmly and confidently interact with strange people, strange dogs, and unfamiliar surroundings.

No single test item is particularly difficult, but earning the CGC is an impressive accomplishment nonetheless. Teaching your dog to sit is easy-peasy, but teaching your dog to reliably sit amongst distractions is a whole different ball game.  Even harder still is raising your dog to have the confidence necessary to be left alone with a stranger or calmly navigate a crowd on leash.  Our biggest tips to ensure CGC success are:

1. Start young. All adult dogs’ personalities and behaviors have been shaped by their past experiences, for better or for worse. Scary stuff can and will go happen, but your quick response to get your puppy back into emotional regulation will build emotional resilience. The manner in which a puppy is raised tremendously effects how it will behave as an adult. Social skills and emotional resilience are much easier to foster in young puppies.  Older dogs can still learn a lot, but progress will be slower, more difficult, and limited in comparison. Get started on socialization and lay the foundation for obedience skills ASAP.

2. Social skills, social skills, social skills! Obedience skills easily fall into place if you and your dog already have a strong, trusting relationship and a lots of positives social experience. Pay attention to what is developmentally appropriate for your dog, and DO NOT train him past his limits. Learn how to (appropriately) handle every-day puppy naughties. Set achievable expectations and respect your pup’s developmental stages. Failure to mindfully socialize, mishandling of bad behavior, and/or a lack of secure attachment will seriously impact your ability to raise a Canine Good Citizen. (But we’re not here to scare you! We’ll show you how to raise your pup right and we’ll make it super fun, too.)

Where can I find Canine Good Citizen dog training programs in Minneapolis?

Look no farther! We’re your people. We’ve built our entire curriculum around the skills necessary to raise a good-mannered, sociable, and confident dog. Nobody in the state (and farther!) does social skills like Go Anywhere Dog. Every single class we offer provides loads of safe off-leash dog/dog play, tons of positive interaction with humans, and developmentally appropriate obedience lessons for every stage. We prepare for distractions in the classroom, and then we take our dogs out of the classroom (literally!) to train in parks, breweries, and other Minneapolis hot spots. We know we’re biased, but our program is a dang good way to prepare your pooch to take the CGC test.  Check out our group classes offerings or contact us for 1-on-1 private dog training  in Minneapolis, Bloomington, Edina, Richfield, Hopkins, St Louis Park, and Eagan.

So what exactly is on the CGC test?

There are ten different tasks on the test, and each task must be completed correctly in order to pass and receive CGC certification. Dogs must:

  1. Calmly allow a stranger to approach and say “hello.”
  2. Sit politely to receive petting from a stranger.
  3. Be appropriately groomed, and allow a stranger to run a brush along their back. Dogs must also allow the stranger to handle their feet and ears.
  4. Walk with a loose leash on a flat collar.
  5. Walk through a small crowd of people, remaining calm and well controlled.
  6. Demonstrate sit, down, and stay on cue.
  7. Come when called.
  8. Remain calm and controlled while another dog and human approach on leash and make polite conversation.
  9. Remain calm and confidently react to a novel distraction, such as a sudden loud noise or appearance of a large novel object.
  10. Remain calm when left on-leash with a strange. (Their beloved humans briefly walk out of the room.)

All of these tasks must be completed without any food rewards, and the dog must not show any signs of fear, discomfort, or over-excitement.

Can any dog take the CGC test, or does my dog need to be AKC registered?

While the CGC program is run by the AKC, your dog does not need to be AKC registered. Any dog (regardless of breed or mix!) is welcomed and encouraged to participate. As long as your pooch can successfully complete all ten tasks during testing time, he can receive the CGC title. We know that any dog can learn to be the very bestest boy or girl regardless of pedigree (or lack thereof. 😉 )

Is the CGC certification recognized outside of the United States?

The answer is… it depends! The AKC is a HUGE organization and its popularity has spread internationally. Many countries outside of the U.S. recognize the training and effort behind the CGC title, but the acceptance of the CGC varies from country to country and even city to city. If you plan to use your CGC certification abroad, it’s best to check in with your destination country or host organization before traveling.

What happens if we don’t pass? Can my dog retake the CGC test?

Absolutely! If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again! Note the areas where your pup struggled, then practice, practice, practice. Even a failed test is an excellent opportunity to learn from your mistakes, strengthen your weak spots, and build confidence in your pup. Your dog won’t know the difference between passing or failing, so celebrate the wins! You can always test again later.

Although there are no age requirements for dogs taking the CGC test, know that most dogs do not pass until they’re around three years old. It’s very difficult to (humanely and appropriately) train a dog to a polished CGC level at a younger age. To build lasting obedience skills, it takes time, practice, and developmental readiness. Don’t feel pressured to move too quickly – work at your dog’s pace and enjoy the ride.

This sounds great and all, but what does a CGC title give me and my dog?

A pat on the back and bragging rights! In all honesty, having a CGC title doesn’t actually do all that much. We recommend the CGC program as an excellent jumping-off point for therapy dog training. Some landlords appreciate their tenants’ dogs having the CGC title and some employers may require certification in order to bring your dog to work, but the CGC title mostly serves as a badge of honor and recognition. After all, if you’ve passed the CGC test you’ve put in a lot of hard work… it’s nice to be recognized. Way to go!

Are there any downsides to the CGC program?

Nothing is perfect! Overall, we think getting CGC certified is an awesome training goal. We’re huge fans of polite dogs being a part of everyday society. We love recognizing our clients for all of the hard work that they’ve done. Raising your furry BFF to have outstanding social and obedience skills is soo cool. (To us, anyway.) The entire Go Anywhere Dog curriculum lends itself perfectly towards gaining that CGC title.

But. With that being said, there is one major thing we wish we could change: the draconian rules about treats. Why can’t we reward our dogs during the dang test!?  We sure wish we could. The CGC emphasis on demonstrating behaviors without reward pushes a lot of folks to fade out rewards too quickly.  If the reinforcement rate gets lowered to nothin’, poof! The behavior gets extinguished. Dogs do what works for dogs – it’s simple as that! Banning treats may also leads to more inhumane training methods – if rewards aren’t allowed, some folks will unfortunately turn to using pain, fear, or intimidation tactics to get compliance. But even if that didn’t ever happen and everyone always lovingly and humanely trained their dogs…. What’s the point of saying no treats? There’s no real-life scenario where you won’t be able to carry around a treat pouch. Dogs who are well rewarded for good behavior are more likely to keep up their awesome good work. We just don’t believe there’s any reason to forbid participants from rewarding their dogs for a job well done.

Does my dog need to pass the CGC test in order to become a therapy dog?

Nope! A dog may become a therapy dog without taking the CGC test, but it’s a great stepping stone on the way to therapy dog certification. All of the skills necessary to earn the Canine Good Citizen title are also applicable to therapy dogs. In fact, many therapy dog organizations view CGC certification as a valuable indicator that a dog has good foundational skills and temperament. Our personal take is that the CGC program gives aspiring therapy dog trainers a good jumping-off point for becoming a therapy dog team.

Go ahead, give it a shot!

Who doesn’t want a dog with impeccable manners and reliable obedience?! See if your dog can learn all 10 CGC tasks. Even if you never take the official test, you’re guaranteed a rewarding experience that will deepen the bond between you and your dog. With a little bit of patience, a lot of love, and a teeeny bit of guidance from us, you and your dog can totally earn that coveted CGC certification. Don’t leave us hangin’ – grab your treat pouch and join us!

How can we help?

We’d love to help you along your dog training journey in preparing for the Canine Good Citizen Test.

We’ve got a wide variety of offerings that fall into six main categories:

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