Although there were many reasons behind my interest in pursuing The American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) with Maci, the top of the list was ensuring that as a young dog, she know early on how to behave in socially acceptable ways when we are in public together.
Maci began with her first AKC title of S.T.A.R Puppy at four months and we always planned to move onto the CGC next, but the pandemic slowed us down. Not only did it make finding a class difficult, but it also stifled her social interactions with humans and other dogs. So, by the time I was able to safely secure a class with an amazing trainer at a local Petco, she needed the program more than ever!
You may be wondering what is AKC CGC and why did I need a “class and a trainer”? It is a ten-skill training program that’s open to all dogs–purebred and mixed breed. It focuses on teaching the basics of good manners and obedience, instilling the values of responsible ownership, and strengthening the bond between owner and dog at home and out in the community. Having the formal weekly class with a trainer who was experienced in coaching us for the test, really set us up for success. The trainer gave us access to people, other dogs and feedback. She instructed us to practice at various dog friendly locations often which ultimately brought out the best in both of us. I valued the experience of learning from another trainer and both Maci and I left the class with a mirid of new skills and a new level of comfort together.
So that is my personal story behind why we pursed this AKC title, if you visit the AKC website you will find their description of the benefits to the program:
For starters, we know it’s up to us as humans to lead the charge and promote responsible pet ownership, so our skills are based on learning how to better understand and communicate with each other. Through the hours of training and practice, you’ll deepen your bond and become a more connected pair. This bond allows you to become the best companions for each other, and great neighbors to those around you. It’s a win, win, win!
Beyond the bonding, there are practical benefits to CGC training, too. Not only will you and your dog understand the basics of dog training, and master skills like sit, down and stay, but you’ll know your dog will be able to handle herself with grace in a crowd and be a welcomed client at the vet or groomer. The CGC title is also a prerequisite for many therapy dog certifications, as well as a great introduction to more advanced dog sports and activities.
Below is what is required to pass the assessment at the end of the program. In our experience, we practiced many of these test items by having the trainer work with Maci versus me. This diversified her skills by having her comfortable responding to the cues or taking the actions asked for by someone else. I was most proud of her when I saw her comfortable to respond to others as well as she did to me.
Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
The dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler.
Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
The dog will allow a friendly stranger to pet it while it is out with its handler.
Test 3: Appearance and grooming
The dog will permit someone to check it’s ears and front feet, as a groomer or veterinarian would do.
Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
Following the evaluator’s instructions, the dog will walk on a loose lead (with the handler/owner).
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).
Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay.
Test 7: Coming when called
This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler (from 10 feet on a leash).
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.
Test 9: Reaction to distraction
The evaluator will select and present two distractions such as dropping a chair, etc.
Test 10: Supervised separation
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person. The evaluator will hold the dog’s leash while the owner goes out of sight for three minutes.
CGC gives Maci a bit of an advantage towards the AKC Novice Trick Title and that’s what we’ve set our sights on next.