How to prepare your dog to pass the Advanced Canine Good Citizen Test (CGC-A)

two dogs in front of plush toys shaped like diplomas

There are a total of 3 Canine Good Citizen titles that asses your dog’s basic obedience. Any dog of any age can take the tests to get the titles – Some handlers choose to test their dogs as a way of checking in on progress, and the test may be taken again at a later date if the dog does not pass. The CGC tests are split up into three levels: CGC, CGC-U, CGC-A. The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is the first step and evaluates basic obedience. The Canine Good Citizen Urban test (CGCU) evaluates obedience in an urban environment. In this post, we will be focusing on the Canine Good Citizen Advanced test also known as the AKC Community Canine Test (CGCA). If you are starting from the beginning, see our post about how to pass the CGC test first.

How is the CGC test different from the CGCA Test?

The CGC test is a pre-requisite to taking the CGCA test. The CGCA takes the basics from the CGC and applies them to more complex scenarios. The CGCA test is administered in a busy area with other dogs and many distractions.

Why would you test your dog?

Unless you are in a Therapy Dog program, there’s no requirement to take the CGC test. The only reason to test your dog is for your own enjoyment or to confirm training. Calvin passed the CGC, CGCU, and CGCA series in 2018 and Samson will be tested soon! There are a few reasons that we choose to test our dogs. Again, these are just our personal reasons and we are lucky to have easy access to evaluators:
1. Therapy dog organizations frequently require testing: Calvin is a therapy dog which means that he visits hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. The SPCA and many other Therapy Dog organizations require the dogs to pass the CGC and CGCA tests before being fully certified for visits (for liability reasons, therapy dogs do get formally certified by organizations).
2. Task trained service dogs should and must be held to the highest standards: While Calvin is trained to help others by providing comfort, he is also formally task trained to help his own humans. Samson is still in training but will take on the role officially within the next year. We believe that any working dog should be held to just as high a standard as dogs who have been through formal programs and tested/evaluated for multiple years. Any working dog should have absolutely no issue passing the entire CGC, CGCU, and CGCA series of tests – at the core, these tests really just evaluate basic obedience. Note: the CGC titles are NOT required for working dogs and there are many legitimate reasons that a handler may not title their dogs (I.e access to evaluators); titling Calvin was just personal preference and we intend to have Samson titled soon.
3. It’s hard to judge our own dogs: all dogs are great and so it’s very hard for us to conduct an unbiased assessment of our own dogs. Having someone else judge your dog’s obedience by following a set of objective standards is a great way to confirm a dog’s training. We wanted to make sure our dogs could pass the test items to confirm that they were trained and to highlight where we could work harder. The CGCA is a great goal to work towards with your pup.

two dogs laying down wearing sunflower bandanas

Can I use training tools on the CGCA Test?

Even though they are great for learning, training tools (prongs, gentle leaders, e-collars) cannot be used during any of the CGC tests. The test evaluates how the dog listens to voice commands, not how well they behave with corrective tools. Although treat rewards are not allowed, praise is encouraged and the handler can speak to their dog as much as they would like while completing test items.

What is on the CGCA Test (Test Items)?

There are 10 test items on the CGCA test and the dog must successfully complete each one for the CGCA title.

Test Item 1: Dog stands, sits or lies down and waits under control. This situation may present itself in a few ways – While the handler is filling out paper work at the registration table, while the group of handlers are standing in a crowd, while the handler sits down and eats food ect.

Dog Cannot:
-Start begging for attention from passersby
-Bark or act uncomfortable while it waits
-Beg or become agitated

How to Prepare:
-Prepare at pet friendly stores. Have your dog sit quietly by your side while you check out
-Teach your dog the “under” command. If you are sitting down for this test item, the “under” command makes it easier to position them

Test Item 2: Left turn, right turn, slow, fast, stop at a heel through a distracting environment (generally outdoors) with a loose leash

Test Item 3: Walking through a crowd. Dog will walk at your side through a crowd on a busy sidewalk, through a bunch of people, or at a fair ect.

Test Item 4: Walking past multiple dogs. This can be done with Test Item 3 if dogs are included in the crowd.

Dog Cannot:
-Pull on the leash, walk ahead of you, the leash must be slack by your side
-Show any signs of reactivity to other dogs or humans
-Get distracted

How to Prepare:
-Train a strong “leave it” to ignore people, dogs, food, sounds, and other distractions while outside
-Don’t let your dog walk ahead of you while walking
-Don’t let your dog greet dogs while on leash or ensure they have a strong “leave it” while passing dogs

Test Item 5: Sit-Stay in a crowd with other dogs. All handlers taking the test with start to have a conversation while their dogs are in a sit-stay on their left sides. This is to ensure that dog can settle in a crowd with dogs around in close proximity.

Dog Cannot:
-Pull towards other dogs
-Show excitement or reactivity to the other dogs
-Excessively fidget or act uncomfortable

How to Prepare:
-Train an auto-sit on walks with your dog
-Practice having conversations with other handlers while their dogs are present and have the dogs ignore each other

Test Item 6: Stranger approaches dog while carrying something. Item is placed on the floor and stranger then asks to pet the dog.

Dog Cannot:
-Show any reactivity
-React to the item being placed on the ground
-Sniff the item
-Jump up on the stranger

How to Prepare:
-Train a command for your dog to sit at your heel. We use the command “finish” where the dogs position themselves in a sit on our left side
-Familiarize your dog with medical equipment, bags of different sizes, hates, canes ect
-Don’t let your dog automatically greet humans. Have a release command such as “ok” or “say hello”

Test Item 7: Walk by food and “leave it.” Evaluator places food in a dish for handler and dog to walk by. Dog must ignore the food.

Dog Cannot:
-Pull towards the food while walking by

How to Prepare:
-Practice walking by food on the street
-Solid leave it

Test Item 8: Handler leaves dog in a down or a sit stay and walks 20 feet away. Handler receives a bag or item from the evaluator and then walks back to the dog while still holding the item. Dog must remain in a stay.

Dog Cannot:
-Break the stay
-Jump on the item or try to take the item

How to Prepare:
-Practice “stay” with distance, duration, and distractions
-Practice “stay” while circling around your dog
-Practice “stay” while throwing a ball past your dog
-Practice “stay” for long periods of time
-Practice “stay” with dogs as a distraction

Test Item 9: Handler walks 20 feet from dog and recalls the dog while distractions are present.

Dog Cannot:
-Go to the distraction
-Fail to get to the handler

How to Prepare:
-Reward your dog for recall in various scenarios

Test Item 10: Controlled entry through a doorway by having the dog wait at the doorway while the handler goes through. We chose to have our dog wait but the test also recognizes walking through a doorway with the dog at a heel or sending the dog through the doorway first and having them wait at the other side. The evaluator is testing to make sure the dog follows directions at doorways but a handler may choose what method to use as long as the dog follows the verbal command for that method.

Dog Cannot:
-Forge ahead of handler
-Ignore handler’s command

How to Prepare:
-Practice at home and outside with every doorway

See the official CGCA evaluator checklist here

Happy Testing, 
Your Pal Cal

dogs wearing matching green sweaters

 

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