What is CGC Dog Training

what is cgc dog training
Photo Credit: Tom Verdoot

The aim of every dog owner is to have a dog who can be a great companion, well-mannered, and bring happiness to the home and community.

The CGC which is an acronym for Canine Good Citizen is a dog training program originated by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Their objective is to recognize responsible pet owners and reward the good manners of their dogs.

When the dog receives the title or certificate from the AKC, it is regarded as a well-mannered animal and is recorded in their CGC archive automatically.

The CGC Test

This test is offered by a lot of training schools while a lot of dog clubs offer the CGC certificate. The test is open to all dogs irrespective of their breed.

This test is also considered the first step to be taken before a dog can engage in advanced training. Some apartments also require a dog owned by the occupants to have this certificate. Some insurance companies offer unconditional services to dogs with the CGC certificate.

Before a dog can receive the CGC certificate, it must pass a test that is made of the following 10 exercises.

  1. Assessment of the dog’s ability to remain calm while a stranger approach and talks to the handler.
  2. Evaluation of the dog’s ability to accept touch from a stranger without showing resentment, aggression, or fear.
  3. Assessment of the dog’s health and the cleanliness and its compliance when groomed and examined.
  4. Determination of the dog’s level of control by the handler while taking a walk and its attentiveness to the handler’s moves.
  5. Evaluation of the ability of the dog to move in a crowded area with numerous distractions without tugging at its leash.
  6. Finding out how the dog obeys the command of the handler and if it stays in place till the command is released.
  7. Evaluating the response of the dog to the call of its handler.
  8. Analysis of the dog’s reaction when it is with other dogs and its ability to maintain a neutral attitude towards other dogs.
  9. Demonstration of the dog’s ability to remain calm when distracted without showing an unsafe level of panic and aggression.
  10. Assessment of the dog’s ability to be left with another person. The dog should be able to avoid showing signs of anxiety as the handler walks away.

If the dog passes all the tests, it qualifies for the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate from the American Kennel Club (AKC).

The Canine Good Citizen Training Plan

Many dog owners have taken part in the CGC program and have obtained their certification. If you are interested in participating in the training program, the Great Dane Club of Northern California (GDCNC) has put together a comprehensive plan.

This plan is designed to help you and your dog in the training and to acquire the skills needed to pass the CGC test.

There are diverse methods that can be used to train a dog and teach it to perform tasks. The training plan is therefore not the only right way to train your dog. It is just an option.

Although attending a class with a professional trainer is the best idea in the CGC training program, it might always be possible.

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This plan provides ideas that can be used to conduct a training session with your dog alone. The training plan is grouped into 7 sets. They are:

Set 1

The first training session should be centered on training your dog on two basic skills: sit and walking on a loose leash.

If your dog does not know how to obey the sit command, you can train your dog with the following procedure:

  1. Find an area that is familiar to your dog and has little or no distractions.
  2. Put your dog on a leash and remove the slack to an extent.
  3. Hold a treat near your dog’s nose and slowly lift your hands till your dog begins to look up.
  4. Continue holding the treat above your dog’s head until it tilts its leg back and sits.
  5. If you are using a clicker, click immediately, and offer a treat. If not, just give a treat and repeat the procedure again.

It is best not to use the cue word at first until your dog gets familiar with the procedure. When the dog begins to obey the cue word, then you can change the training environment and add more distractions.

If your dog does not know how to walk loosely on a leash, the following procedure can be used to train your dog:

  • Put your dog on a leash and stand in a familiar place.
  • If your dog stands with you without pulling on the leash, click and/or treat.
  • If your dog does not stand and starts to move and pull the leash, do nothing, and wait till it stands. Then click and /or treat.
  • When your dog gets familiar with this training, then its time to train your dog to walk loosely on a leash.
  • Put your dog on a leash and call your dog’s name. give the walk command and start walking.
  • If your dog walks beside you and does not pull on the leash, stop and treat.
  • Continue walking and give your dog a treat if it keeps moving near you. Do not stop walking while giving this reward.
  • Gradually increase the distractions and the length of time between treats if your dog gets better in this training.
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Set 2

This set of training should still be focused on the sit and walking on a loose leash training. Some other positive behavior like down, stay after sit, accepting touch can be introduced in this training set.

If your dog does not know how to stay down, follow these procedures:

  1. Put your dog in a leash and give the sit command.
  2. When the dog sits, move the treat to the belly of the dog until its nose is pointed towards the floor.
  3. The dog will likely bend low and raise its hind. When this happens, bring the treat down to the floor and gently pull back the hand holding the treat.
  4. This hand movement will make the dog lie down.

If your dog does not know how to stay, these procedures can be used:

  1. Put your dog on a leash and a familiar place with little or no distraction.
  2. Say the sit command and treat when the dog obeys.
  3. Using your cue word or body language, issue the stay command.
  4. Move away from your dog. If it does not move or follow you, go back to the dog and give it a treat.
  5. If your dog follows you or refuses to stay, place the dog in the initial position, and try the procedure again.
  6. Add more distance as the dog begins to get familiar with the command and obey with ease.

Do not progress to the next set until your dog can do the following:

  • Stay after you have taken at least 10 steps before you return to your dog.
  • The dog should be able to obey the down command at least 8 out of 10 times.
  • The dog can walk in a loose leash in areas the dog is familiar with.
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Set 3

This set of training should consist of the behavior that you were already working with the addition of one more behavior. You have to teach your dog to come when called.

If your dog does not know how to come when called, train it with the following procedure:

  1. Put your dog in a long leash in a familiar area with little or no distraction.
  2. Give your dog the sit and stay command.
  3. Walk far away from your dog to the end of the dog leash.
  4. Call your dog to come and wait till your dog reaches you.
  5. When it does, click and/or treat. You can also offer a full meal.
  6. If the dog does not come, use the leash, get its attention, and offer a treat when it comes.

Continue with this training set until your dog can do the following:

  • Sit and stay in a place while you take 25 steps away and return to it.
  • Lie down and stay while you walk away and return to your dog at least 8 out of times.
  • Walk on a loose leash in areas of little or no distraction.
  • Come when called while on a leash, at least 15 feet away.

Set 4

In this training set, your dog should be introduced to all the skills required to pass the CGC test. This is right to introduce the behavior already learned all over again. This time it should be done in a place with a lot of distraction and unfamiliar to your dog.

You can go to a dog park, a playground, the parking lot of a busy grocery store or a local park. Your dog might not be able to do all the command you have already taught it. It is normal and does not mean you did not put in enough work.

Make sure that your dog is on a leash all the time while training in these areas. The leash has to be very long. If you do not a long leash, you can join short leashes to make a longer one.

Always remember to treat your dog abundantly in this training set and the remaining sets. Proceed to the next training set if your dog can do the following:

  • Obey the ‘sit’ command 9 out of 10 times.
  • Obey the ‘down’ command 9 out of 10 times.
  • Walk loose on a leash in an area full of distraction.
  • Sit and stay while you take 10 steps away and return at least 8 out 10 times.
  • Lie down and stay while you take 5 steps away and return at least 8 out of times.
  • Come when called while on a leash at least 5 feet away.
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Set 5

This set of training still involves the behavior already being practiced. Furthermore, unfamiliar people and more distractions should be added.

In this training session, a stranger will assist you in the training while you seat and contribute verbally. The person will also hold the dog leash while you walk away staying within its sight.

As the training progresses, increase the distance and reduce your involvement in the training. The aim is to able to stay away from your dog and leave it with the unfamiliar person for 3 minutes.

You can progress the next set of training if your dog can do the following in an area full of distractions:

  • Obey the sit command and stay while you take 25 steps away and return to it.
  • Lie down and stay while you take 15 steps away and return to it at least 7 out of 10 times.
  • Allow a stranger to pet it for about 2 minutes while you are in sight.
  • Come when called while on a leash.
  • Walk loose on a leash in an area full of distractions.
  • Allow a stranger to touch its paws as a form of greeting, according to CGC guidelines.

Set 6

This training session involves all the skills already being practiced but in an unfamiliar place with an unfamiliar person.

You can progress to the final training set if your dog can do the following in an area full of distractions and around unfamiliar people:

  • Obey the ‘sit’ command and stay put while you take 25 steps away and return to it, 9 out of 10 times.
  • Come when called while on a leash at least 20 feet away.
  • Obey the ‘down’ command while you take 15 steps away and return to it, 9 and out 10 times.
  • Walking loose on a leash with distractions and other dogs.
  • Stay with an unfamiliar person for 3 minutes while you are out of sight.
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Set 7

By now, you and your dog should be familiar with the skills required for the CGC test. This training session is used to keep practicing those skills in unfamiliar places with distractions, in the presence of unfamiliar persons and other dogs.

You can work on the commands that your dog is still having some difficulties with. It is also time to perform some mock CGC tests for your dog to test how much progress has been made.

Benefits of the CGC

It is common knowledge that it is our responsibility as humans to promote good relationships between pet owners and their pets. It is also our responsibility as pet owners to have a good knowledge of our pets and to communicate with them better.

Going through the hours of training and practice for the CGC test, you become more connected to your dog and form a stronger bond. This strong bond enables both of you to become better companions to each other and to be great neighbors to those living around you.

Apart from forming a bond with your dog, the CGC training can help you and your dog master some basic training such as ‘sit’ and ‘heel’. Your dog will also become better at handling crowds, strangers, and distractions.

Obtaining the CGC certificate will qualify you and your dog for some insurance programs and to live in apartments that allow only well-behaved dogs.

The CGC can also be used as a prerequisite before your dog can be trained for other certifications.

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