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 legal requirement to take the CGC test. The only reason to test your dog is for your own enjoyment or to confirm training. We make all our dogs pass the CGC testing series to ensure that we are meeting some standard of training. 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 & Samson are therapy dogs which means that they 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 and tested by organizations).
2. Task trained service dogs should and must be held to the highest standards: While our dogs are trained to help others by providing comfort, they are also formally task trained. 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 our dogs is just personal preference.
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. 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


Easy Dog Training: 5 ways to incorporate training into your daily life

Dog training doesn’t have to take extra time out of your day. In fact, your puppy can learn the obedience basics of “sit, stay, come, leave it” right at home as part of your daily routine. It still is always good  to supplement basic dog training with additional time – we recommend at least 25 minutes of dedicated training per day. The routine on this post is not enough to fully train a dog so finding a professional dog trainer near your is still important. The ideas below are good for the extra busy days where there aren’t 25 minutes to spare. On those days, there are numerous ways you can make even simple dog training more complicated right at home.  Here are some ways to make basic commands even more challenging for your dog:

two cream retrievers wearing flower collars

golden retriever puppy wearing a flower collar

1. Train Your Dog to Wait Before Meals

Training your dog to wait before eating is one way to develop impulse control from the day you bring your puppy home. Training wait can be done at every meal so the “wait” command does not need to take any additional time from your busy day. Over time, teach your dog to wait longer before allowing them start eating.


  • Before your dog starts eating their meal, tell them to “wait.” Do not let them start their meal until you say “ok.” If your dog immediately tries to eat from the bowl, cover it with your hands. Wait a few seconds, then uncover the bowl and say “ok”
  • Have your dog “wait” before taking a treat so they do not grab the treat from your hand

Make It More Challenging:

  • Have your dog “wait” for 30 seconds before eating
  • Have your dog “wait” for 2 minutes before eating
  • Call your dog to come to you, requiring them to walk past their bowl and not eat their food yet.
  • Instead of saying “ok” as the first word, trick your dog by saying words such as “cat,” “dog,” “anything” to make sure that your dog knows that they can only eat when they hear “OK” not when they hear other words.  You cant your dog to be able to verbally discriminate the word “ok” from the other words so that they don’t begin eating as soon as they hear a human voice.

golden retriever puppy wearing a dr seuss bandana

retriever dogs wearing matching bandanas

2. Train Your Dog to Wait at Doorways, Gates, and Entryways

Teaching your dog to wait at doorways, gates, entryways, ect can start at home and then be applied to many situations. This is an important skill to learn for impulse control but also for safety.  If your dog waits at doors, it won’t bolt outside (and potentially into the street).  The same applies for having your dog wait before jumping out of the car.


  • Start at a closed door. Open the door, but make sure your dog doesn’t walk through (you may have to use your leg to keep him back). Once you step through ahead of your dog, turn around and release him with “ok.”
  • Always use a release word for your dog such as “ok,” “free,” or “release”

Make It More Challenging:

  • Tell your dog to wait and walk through an entry way (no door).
  • Tell your dog to wait before jumping out of the car
  • Add distance by walking further away before turning around and releasing your dog
  • Tell your dog to wait and walk through the doorway with your back to the dog instead of keeping your eyes on him the entire time

3. Train Your Dog to Leave Things Around the House

Teaching your dog to “leave it” is another potentially life saving skill that you can teach right at home. It is still imperative that you train “leave it” in different contexts outside but indoors is a good start.  There are plenty of ways to make “leave it” challenging indoors.


  • If your dog is new to the “leave it” command you can hold him on a leash to make sure that your dog doesn’t get to the item you are teaching “leave it” with.
  • Start with a low value item like a boring toy or kibble.  Drop the item next to your dog and say “leave it.” Do NOT let your dog get the item even after they have successfully left it.  Your dog has to learn that “leave it” means they don’t ever get the item. See here for the difference between “wait” and “leave it.”
  • Your dog will likely spend time looking at the item even after you say “leave it.” As soon as your dog looks back towards you, reward them with a treat and praise. Repeat the process and treat your dog each time they look back to you after the “leave it” command.

Make It More Challenging:

  • Train your dog to “leave it” without a leash attached
  • Train your dog to “leave it” with high value food thrown towards them
  • Add distance by telling your dog to leave it while they are stranding further away from you
  • Spread treats out around your floor. Recall your dog from across the room but have them “leave it” by avoiding the treats.  Do not let your dog get the treats after they get to you (pick them up and use them later)
  • Tell your dog to “leave it” with a plate of human food on the floor
  • Walk around the room with your dog while walking by treats on the floor. Do not let your dog get the treats
  • Throw around your dog’s favorite toy and tell them to “leave it.” Do not play with it after they leave it (put it away for later)

labrador retriever wearing a pink gingham bandana

puppy wearing a pink bowtie

4. Train Your Dog to Hold Longer Stays While You Eat Dinner or Watch TV


  • Command your dog to “stay” on a mat or towel about 5 feet from where you are eating. Tether them to a leash if they can’t hold their stay for an entire meal
  • Always use a release word for your dog such as “ok,” “free,” or “release”

Make It More Challenging:

  • Train your dog to stay on their bed for the entirety of your human meal including cleanup and washing dishes
  • Train your dog to stay during a meal without a bed or mat
  • Train your dog to stay on their bed while you brush your teeth
  • Train your dog to stay on their bed while you cook dinner
  • Train your dog to stay and then walk out of the room for a few minutes

5. Practice Calling Your Dog From Other Rooms

Recalling your dog is always more difficult outdoors with distractions so recall while at home is not enough to develop good recall in your dog. However, mastering recall at home is a good start. Recalling your dog while at home and then rewarding him with lots of treats and attention is also a great way to strengthen your bond. See the “how to teach your dog to come when called” post for more information on recall training.


  • Recall your dog with “come and make sure to reward with lots of treats and love when it gets to you

Make It More Challenging:

  • Call your dog from another room or another part of your home. Give them a lot of attention and treats when your dog comes to you
  • Call your dog over while they are busy chewing on a delicious chew or bone

Keep on Training,
Your Pal Cal