Every ESA Should Be a Canine Good Citizen (CGC)!

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pug with ribbons and trophies from akc canine good citizen test

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program is perfect for any person looking to adopt an emotional support dog. The Canine Good Citizen program serves to produce a well-mannered canine companion who will become a respected member of the community. To learn more about this excellent dog training program read on!

What is the Canine Good Citizen Test? 

Becoming a champion show dog is not all about how good you look, good doggie manners will also play a significant role!

The American Kennel Club (AKC) believes that for a dog to become a respected member of the community, they must display good behavior and manners. And so the AKC created the Canine Good Citizen program (CGC) to help dogs and their owners achieve these goals.

Dogs who wish to receive official credit for their excellent behavior must first pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test.  This test will consist of 10 skills which each dog must pass.

1. Accepting a friendly stranger.

2. Sitting politely for petting.

3. Appearance and grooming.

4. Walking on a loose lead.

5. Walking through a crowd.

6. Following commands: “sit” and “down” and “stay”.

7. Recall: Coming when called

8. Reaction to another dog.

9. Reaction to distraction (for example a passing cyclist).

10. Supervised separation.

Setting Your ESA Up for Success with the CGC Test! 

Unlike like service dogs and guide dogs, emotional support animals (ESAs) do not require training to qualify as an assistance animal.

However, unfortunately, today many people own ESAs who aren’t familiar with basic good behavior. Emotional support dogs can sometimes receive a bad rep for their poor behavior, which this is mostly because some ESA owners choose not to teach their dog manners.

To combat such negativity towards an emotional support dog, owners should take the responsibility to provide additional training. By participating in the AKC Canine Good Citizen program, you can set your emotional support dog up for success.

proud jack russell terrier with medal and trophy from akc cgc

ESAs Do Not Require Special Training, But They Need to Have Good Manners! 

As we mentioned above, only service, guide, and psychiatric service dogs require formal training to qualify as an assistance animal. Emotional support dogs do not need any training, and this is because their primary purpose is to comfort their owner. Nevertheless, you’ll find that not training your ESA can lead to big problems.

For instance, a poorly mannered ESA can be a hindrance to members of the public. Poorly mannered ESAs may also be denied reasonable accommodation.

As an ESA owner, you have to take the responsibility to teach members of the public that an emotional support animal can be just as well-behaved as a service animal.

As a responsible owner, you should aim to preserve the integrity and respect of animals who help people with mental illnesses.

ESA Expectations: If People or Their ESAs Break the Rules They Lose Their Privileges! 

All ESA owners are responsible for their assistant dogs’ manners. If you have a poorly trained emotional support dog, then you could lose your privileges.

The Laws That Protect ESAs, and Where the Protection Ends! 

In the United States, there are two laws which will protect an ESA owner from discrimination.

The first law, the Fair Housing Act (FHA), was created to ensure people with mental and physical disabilities are not discriminated against when seeking rental accommodation.

Under this law, if you own an emotional support animal, and if you provide a valid ESA letter, then a landlord or housing agency must lift any no-pet policy for your ESA. Additionally, landlords and housing agencies cannot charge you any pet fee as emotional support animals are assistance animals and not pets.

Now, there are sometimes exceptions to the laws that protect ESA owners from discrimination. In regards to the Fair Housing Act, a landlord or housing agency does have the right to reject your emotional support animal when an emotional support dog displays aggressive, disruptive or destructive behavior.

The second law, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), allows people with mental illnesses and physical disabilities to travel with their pet. Under the ACAA, an emotional support animal can travel in-cabin with their owner at no extra cost.

Like the FHA, there will be exceptions where an airline can deny the right for an ESA to fly with their owner. Dogs who display aggressive behavior, who bark consistently, or who disturb passengers will not be protected under the ACAA.

Why Every ESA Can Benefit From Completing the AKC Canine Good Citizen Courses!    

a group of emotional support dogs in an obedience training lesson

Our canine companions have been by aside for centuries, they’ve been there to provide us companionship, affection, and even comfort during times of need.

All dog owners will know and appreciate the importance a dog will have one a person’s life. However, people who aren’t a fan of dogs may not necessarily recognize their good nature.

The CGC program acts as a stepping stone for all dogs! ESAs who participate in this program will help regain the public’s respect for assistant dogs.

They Learn Good Manners  

ESAs who participate in the CGC program will behave better in public places. A well-behaved emotional support dog will thus be easier to handle in any situation.

They Get Tons of Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation!  

Dog training is not just all about dogs learning manners. It is also an excellent way for dogs to exercise their body and brain!

All dogs enjoy pleasing their owners, after all, they are pack animals.  The ability to learn and do new things for treats will keep your dogs’ mind fit!

Training your dog regularly also allows your pooch to maintain a healthy and active life.

It Will Strengthen the Bond Between You and Your Dog! 

Finally, training your dog one-on-one is a social exercise. It allows an ESA owner to strengthen their relationship with their furry friend!

By doing this, you not only develop a stronger and more trusting relationship with your emotional support dog but you also better your own mental health.

How it Works! 

So, you’ve just adopted a puppy who would make a great ESA! But, unfortunately, this little puppy is in dire need of some basic training, how do you get your puppy a Canine Good Citizen certificate?

Believe it or not, getting your ESA a CGC certificate is quite easy. To get started, you’ll need to enroll your dog in a basic dog training class. Alternatively, the AKC does offer a CGC behavior training class as well!

Now, teaching your dog the 10 CGC skills will be a lot of work. Training should be consistent; this means that even when a dog obedience training class ends for the day, owners should make the extra effort to practice the CGC skills with their dogs after hours. You get out what you put in!

Once you feel your dog has mastered the 10 CGC skills, then you can take the official test!

On the AKC website, you will find an AKC Approved CGC Evaluator in your region. Depending on your location, many of the AKC Canine Good Citizen tests will be occurring in local pet superstores, AKC dog shows, private dog training classes, and occasionally an evaluator may make a private appointment with you.


Once your pooch passes the test, your evaluator will provide paperwork for you to send to the American Kennel Club.

To get your pups official certificate all you’ll need to send in the paperwork! Some training schools will even do this for you!

cute dachshund puppy with award ribbon

One Step at a Time! 

The Canine Good Citizen program offers multiple awards to all the good doggies out there. The AKC classes these awards as Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

CGC Bronze 

The Canine Good Citizen Bronze Award is the very first award your ESA can get. According to the AKC, the goal of this test is to create a dog who:

  • Can walk properly on a leash.
  • Will be able to sit on command.
  • Can be touched, handled, groomed, and inspected while behaving well.
  • Come when called by their owner.

CGC Silver 

The Canine Good Citizen Silver Award takes dog training a step further. According to the AKC, the goal of this award is to create a dog who:

  • Will be able to great a stranger calmly. These dogs must learn to be controlled by their owner when greeting a person.
  • Will be able to walk by the road, on a lead, and under control.
  • The dog will be able to be let off leash and must come to their handler when called.
  • The dog should not act nervous and out of control when near a vehicle.

CGC Gold 

The Canine Good Citizen Gold Award will take your dog’s training a step further. This is an award very few dogs may be able to get, it is the second highest achievement in the AKC CGC scheme. The goal of this award is to produce a well-behaved pooch who:

  • Has passed all the 10-skills of the CGC program.
  • Will go to their dog bed on command.
  • Can walk freely, without a leash, by the side of the handler.
  • Will stop at an instant, when the handler tells them to.
  • Is able to be left alone (isolated) for a certain period of time. For example, the handler should be able to leave their dog in a room alone without the dog getting nervous.

CGC Platinum

Finally, the Canine Good Citizen Platinum award is the greatest achievement a dog can get. This grand championship title is often very difficult for an average dog to attain. Most often the winners of the Platinum award are the most well-behaved dog breeds who are a part of the AKC shows.

Unlike Most Dog Shows, Any Dog Can Take Part in the AKC CGC! 

Whether you own a purebred Poodle or a mixed breed mutt, any dog big or small, old or young can participate in the Canine Good Citizen program.

In addition, this dog training certification provides an excellent foundation for soon-to-be emotional support dogs.

So, what are you waiting for! Start training your pooch for the AKC Canine Good Citizen test!

If you are thinking about getting an ESA, simply take CertaPet’s simple free online pre-screening! If your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state. The LMHP will determine whether you qualify for an ESA and you could have your ESA letter in as little as 48 hrs!

Common Questions

What is the Canine Good Citizen program?

Why Should you get the Canine Good Citizen Certificate?

What are the benefits of training your dog for the  Canine Good Citizen test?

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