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Service Dogs (and their handlers) should consider taking the Canine Good Citizen test too

Training your dog to help with your disability is a very complex and time consuming process. Some people who put in many hours training their dog to help them with their own epilepsy, mobility issues, blindness, psychiatric conditions, etc. do not take into consideration how their dog behaves toward others in public. One of the best things you can do to help train your dog is to take the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test. While we don’t require it, the United States Service Dog Registry highly recommends getting your dog retested with the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test every two years.

The test is fairly simple and consists of 10 items. Don’t be nervous. The test is easier than you may fear.


Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. With the dog sitting at the handler’s side, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming
This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so. It also demonstrates the owner’s care, concern and sense of responsibility. The evaluator inspects the dog to determine if it is clean and groomed. The dog must appear to be in healthy condition (i.e., proper weight, clean, healthy and alert). The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot. It is not necessary for the dog to hold a specific position during the examination, and the handler may talk to the dog, praise it and give encouragement throughout.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog’s position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler’s movements and changes of direction. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops. The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. In either case, there should be a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The handler may talk to the dog along the way, praise the dog, or give commands in a normal tone of voice. The handler may sit the dog at the halts if desired.

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). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler’s commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. Prior to this test, the dog’s leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to sit and then down. The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler’s commands. The handler may not force the dog into position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of the line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog. The dog may be released from the front or the side.

Test 7: Coming when called
This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to “stay” or “wait” or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog.

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, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise.

Test 10: Supervised separation
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold of the dog’s leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, “there, there, it’s alright”).

Remember, the impression you give others about your Service Animal will last forever. You work hard training your dog to assist you, make sure your dog is trained to work with the public too.



  • K-9 Diabetes Trainer Mom August 20, 2008

    i wish more service animal users would go through the CGC testing. i’ve seen so many dogs that are really useful to their owners but kind of obnoxious in public. their dogs pull and bark at mine. i train diabetic alert dogs and all of my dogs and their owners have to go through CGC testing. just my 2 cents.

  • Anonymous August 20, 2008

    I really don’t think this should be required at all!!! Who is the AKC to come up with this list of things your dog “should do” anyway. It should be up to me and me alone!

  • David Olsen August 20, 2008

    I think the US Service Dog Registry is right about this. You can not make it a requirement but it sure helps if someone has taken the test. Besides, the test is really more for the owner than the dog!

  • FurberryGurl August 20, 2008

    I agree about this being something that is strongly suggested but not required. Great post!

  • janice2345 August 20, 2008

    I think “anonymous” is smoking something funny!

  • epidog34 August 20, 2008

    I already registered my epilepsy dog with the United States Service Dog Registry and got my number. He’s been doing really well with his training. Going for my CGC is a great idea. How do I find classes around Philadelphia?

  • Anonymous August 20, 2008

    i have a service monkey and there are no classes for it. im paralyzed from the neck down. sometimes my monkey flings feces which can be quite embarassing. i wish there was something for me.

  • alex hernandez August 20, 2008

    Your service monkey throws feces? Is that a joke? WTF??? Personally i think thats why all Service Animals should be SERVICE DOGS.

    Damn. I’m blind and I use a guide dog. It’s people like you with your stupid exotic animals that make it tough for the rest of us. Jeezuz. Service monkey. That throws feces. And you’re embarassed. No kidding, moron.

    • Charlotte January 20, 2016

      Really? you’re blind but can read the other person’s comment? that is fairly interesting. i’m sure that if your computer was computing this kind of information it also wouldn’t have spelled the word Jesus as “jezzuz”. perhaps you should think more clearly if you’re going to rant on someone else’s disabilities. i’m sure service monkeys don’t exist as they aren’t covered by the ADA. But seriously next time you want to claim you’re blind you shouldn’t make it so obvious that you aren’t.

  • Team Doodle September 28, 2008

    My service dog and I took the test and it was not that big of deal if you have a service dog you should have trained them to do this stuff already. And it nice to show the CGC patch on his vest. I agree with K-9 mom I seen so many out of control dogs that can’t help their owner because they was not paying any attention to the handler. And they can be asked to leave or they can be blocked to enter a place because the dog is obnoxious. The ADA doses say if the dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety to others they can be asked to leave or denied access.

  • Heather January 24, 2012

    The CGC is the starting point in my Service Puppy’s career. Once they pass the CGC they are ‘ready’ to start formal Public Access Training. My dogs always have and always will wear their CGC patch right along side their Service Dog patch.

  • bruce tost March 9, 2012

    I love it. I have a service dog and I would like to be on your E-Mail list.

  • bruce tost March 9, 2012

    Around my house, dog hair is a condiment.

  • NA Bilzing September 6, 2013

    My SD isn’t supposed to do some of the things listed for the CGC.
    He isn’t supposed to stay 20 feet away from me.
    Why would I leave him with someone when I am out? That is the reason he’s with me, because I am out of the house.
    As far as friendly strangers go, he has a command that lets him choose if he wants to be petted.

    I have had 2 service dogs since 1999 and am going to have to find one to start training soon because my 2nd dog is 9 and an extra large dog.

    Also… Since there is no registry or certification needed for a SD according to the DOJ with the ADA, why is there an organization named “United States Service Dog Registry”?
    I went to their web page I don’t even know how long ago and was angry that they have that as their name. I have actually had people come up to me and ask if my dog is registered and I politely tell them that there is no certification or registration for SD’s. Then they tell me that they saw websites that were for registering SD’s. And I’m supposed to have him registered and that he wasn’t allowed in because of that. I often don’t have a lot of strength physically or mentally. Rather than explaining it to them or bringing the police into it (they don’t know the laws anyway) I will just leave.
    I do a LOT of education when I am out. Partially because I don’t choose “typical” SD’s. My first was a Greyhound and 2nd is 3/4 Newf and 1/4 Lab. People out there want to know the truth. A website out there that throws around SD Registry isn’t helping. They and the other websites that talk about certifying SD’s make it worse for some of us who train our own and use rescue dogs instead of a Golden, Lab or GSD.

      • Nancy September 7, 2013

        CGCA wants your dog to be registered at AKC. My Greyhounds have all been purebreds and are registered as retired racers. But the AKC does not accept that. Even though every Greyhound I’ve had can trace it’s sire’s back to the 1800’s, mostly to Ireland. How many AKC dogs can do that? Anyway a CGCA is not going to work with those of us who are using Purebreds that aren’t registered, Rescue and Shelter dogs, now is it?

        I’m still puzzled as to why the name of your group had to have the word “registry” in it. I don’t see how that has anything to do with agreeing to “a specific set of training and behavior standards”.
        I doubt very much that I’m the only one who has come across this problem with the word registry in your name.

        • Kea Grace September 13, 2013

          The CGC can be obtained by any dog, regardless of breed, mixed-breed status, or registration status. It’s not just for AKC-registered dogs; it’s for all dogs. The AKC does allow limited registrations for purebred dogs through their PAL (Purebred Alternative Listing) program, but it’s not required for the CGC certification.

          Thank you for your comment. We wanted people to be able to register their partner with us as a sign they’ve agreed to meet and uphold a specific set of training and behavioral standards. We can see where the confusion might originate from, though, and we’ll give some serious thought to finding a solution.

  • Tommy G. July 2, 2015

    I have a pit bull SD. 5 yr old dog. CGC, CGCA and AKC registered as a canine partner. We attend a local SD school for psychiatric SD’s. I keep a copy of my doctor’s note and my VA disability paperwork showing I am 100% disabled vet because from a glance I don’t look disabled. I like to play it safe since I have a pit. It has paid off when ignorant stinky little 7-11 managers try to kick me out. I always get a police report. And I always win. Nice to have a little 10K settlement bonus occasionally. My dog started at 6 weeks old with socialization and basic obedience. I am glad Florida passed a law against fake service dogs this week. Now when I go out I hopefully won’t encounter an obnoxious fake team barking at us, or a person who wants to challenge me. I am quick to tell them to call the cops if they think I am a fake. I always win. If you really need your SD you would be up for any quality training. If the feds step in and develop a national exam it will probably follow AKC standards.

    • Claudia November 18, 2015

      Hello, we are trying to get our dog to be a Sd for my husband as he is 100% disabled Veteran for PTSD. We are located in South Florida, where do you attend the SD school or how what process did you go through for your sd? Our dog is prepping for the CGC test.

  • Ryder (@grrr_ryder) August 29, 2015

    Having a Service Dog isn’t and shouldn’t look easy. It truly is very confusing, there are so many websites with different interpretations of laws and training requirements, local police officers feel my civil rights, under the ADA are a federal law and not enforceable locally. I’m working on a CGC test and I agree, many things on the AKC test don’t apply and actually are counter-productive to the public access test I used for basic public access training that I obtained from

    As far as certification, the new revised ADA is clear about not needing documentation, t yet people still ask. USSDR, looks legitimate, and to get the # I went ahead and did it, when my puppy was 10 weeks old! He had no formal training at the time! Why not take the USSDR site a step further and require proof of passing the AKC CGC, IIADP Public Access tests to obtain a number and buy your gear? Either or both tests would at least ensure the MINIMUM training required.

    Then register and link your site with the ADA? Might take work, but it would really help to have fewer trusted sites to refer to as opposed to so many for profit sites passing out bad information.

  • sylvia February 12, 2016

    Being a trainer I feel all dogs before they become any type of service dog need to complete the three courses of behavioral classes to be able to achieve their CGC licensing. All dogs need to be reliable in any situation.

  • David McClung May 25, 2016

    Why must they complete a three course behavioral class to achieve their CGC Sylvia? The purpose of the CGC exam is to test the Dog to determine if they and their handler can fulfill the requirements to pass the CGC or CGC advanced. I trained my own dog and she has passed both AKA titles without putting her in any behavioral class. Maybe I misunderstood what you were trying to say..


  • Katie Honey June 13, 2016

    Okay I am new to this cgc test. My son has autism and I want to get him a service dog. I have an Australian Shepherd picked out and plan to do the cgc training and test. After the cgc test does that mean that the dog is a service animal? Any books websites or I for ation you can give would be greatly appreciated.


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