The Canine Good Citizen Program
By launching the Canine Good Citizen Program in 1989, the American Kennel Club established a training benchmark, for both pet dogs and their owners, that represents a solid, basic foundation for the well-adjusted dog. The tests involved in the Canine Good Citizen Certification represent the facets of dog behavior that are important in the home environment, social situations, and even veterinary visits.
Although the program establishes training goals and works with other organizations and local governments to encourage the adoption of their standard, it is the certification exam that they are most known for. In fact, obtaining the Canine Good Citizen Certification is a prerequisite for some assistance and therapy dog organizations, and it is considered the starting point for other obedience and performance events.Who Can Take the Certification Tests?
Any dog, whether purebred or mixed breed, can take the tests and obtain Canine Good Citizen Certification. The only requirement is that the have all necessary vaccinations and boosters, including rabies, so there is an implicit minimum age for participation. Additionally, the program encourages owners who obtain certification with a puppy to re-test when the dog reaches adulthood, to make sure the training and behavior is maintained through the normal behavioral changes that occur as a dog matures.
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However, Canine Good Citizen Certification tests are often given at AKC sanctioned dog shows, especially breed specialty shows, and those specific exams may require that the dog be a participant in the conformation show, or be a registered purebred dog. What Does the Test Involve?
The Canine Good Citizen Certification exam is broken into ten functional steps, each representing a behavioral objective. Each of the steps, or "stations," is visited by the dog and owner, and involves a situation with an evaluator that simulates a real-world challenge. The ten stations are:
1. Accepting a friendly stranger, in which the evaluator approaches the owner and greets and speaks with him/her, and the dog must remain composed and calm, and stay with the owner.
2. Sitting politely for petting, where the evaluator pets the dog in a sitting or standing position, and the dog must remain friendly but composed.
3. Appearance and grooming, in which the evaluator brushes and examines the dog, including his paws and ears. The dog must remain calm and accepting during the examination, which also evaluates the owner's care and grooming of the dog.
4. Walking on a loose lead, where the owner walks the dog on a leash, making turns and stops, and the dog must clearly be following the lead of the owner.
5. Walking through a crowd, in which the owner walks the dog through a group of people, and the dog must remain under control and not show fear, timidity, or over-exuberance.
6. Sit, down, and stay, in which the dog must respond to the owner's commands to sit, lie down, and then stay while the owner walks to the end of the 20-foot lead.
7. Coming when called, where the owner walks 10 feet away, and the dog should stay until the owner calls, then should come to the owner.
8. Reaction to another dog, in which the owner walks the dog on lead, then passes the evaluator who has another dog on lead. The two (humans) greet each other, then continue, and the dog should show only casual interest in the other dog, and should not go to the other dog or the evaluator.
9. Reaction to distraction, where the dog must remain controlled when some distracting event occurs, such as the dropping of a cane, a passing jogger, etc.
10. Supervised separation, in which the owner leaves the dog with the evaluator and goes out of sight for three minutes, and the dog must maintain good manners and training with the evaluator and not show agitation over the owner leaving.
After these ten objectives are met, the dog and owner are granted the Canine Good Citizen Certification.