Dog Behavior & Training

Becoming A Canine Good Citizen

Charlie holding his ribbon for completing the American Kennel Club CGC certification course!
Written by Rachael Sando

As many of you know, Charlie is a perpetual student.

Studying for Class

When we first got him,he had a few behaviors that we wanted to work on. It is important to us that our boys are not a nuisance to others and this is a commitment we have taken seriously and addressed through training and plenty of exercise!

Charlie is a new graduate of Paws-I-Tive Behavior teen puppy class!

We began our adventures in Teen Puppy Class at Pawsitive Behavior.

Charlie posing with his diploma after passing his Intermediate Manners class at Lollypop Farm

Next, we moved on to Intermediate Manners at Lollypop Farm-Humane Society of Rochester. After finishing this class, we were encouraged to continue our work and move on the the AKC-Canine Good Citizen class. Charlie had come a long way since starting school, but thinking about where Harley was when he took his CGC class, I wasn’t convinced that he was ready!

Golden Retriever

We decided to go for it and embarked on another 6-week CGC Course at Lollypop Farm!

What is the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Certification?

American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen logo

The CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Certificate was started in 1989 by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and was designed to reward well-mannered dogs and their responsible owners!


Hmm….What do I have to do to be a CGC?

What does the AKC consider a “well mannered dog”?

A dog who has earned his CGC must demonstrate the following behaviors:

  1. Accepting a Friendly Stranger-The dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach and engage in conversation with the handler.
  2. Sitting Politely for Petting-The dog allows a friendly stranger to pet it.
  3. Appearance and Grooming-The dog is well cared for, clean, and groomed. He allows someone to examine his ears, paws, and lightly brush his coat.
  4. Out for a Walk/ Loose Leash Walking – The handler is in control of the dog when out for a walk. The dog is attentive and responds to changes in direction, and stops.
  5. Walking Through a Crowd-The dog demonstrates the ability to move politely through a crowd demonstrating some interest in others without over-exuberance or shyness.
  6. Sit and Down on Command-Sit, Lay Down, and Stay!!
  7. Coming when Called-The dog will come when called by the handler
  8. Reaction to Another Dog-The dog demonstrates the ability to behave politely around other dogs, showing no more than a casual interest.
  9. Reaction to Distractions-The dog is able to handle auditory and visual distractions demonstrating nothing more than casual interest or a slight startle in response.
  10. Supervised Separation-The dog demonstrates that he/she can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners.

So, How Did He Do?

Mom, I am not being naughty, I read with my mouth!

Before I say how he did, I have a confession. Between weeks 1-4 I publicly gave him a 6% chance of passing. In the last couple of weeks my big boy put in lots of work and things just seemed to “click”.

Without further adieu…

Charlie holding his ribbon for completing the American Kennel Club CGC certification course!

Announcing Charlie R. Sando – Canine Good Citizen!

Charlie did amazing!!!!

Though he had a case of the wiggle butts that night, his attention was spot on, and he performed flawlessly! What a good boy!!!

Charlie with his new Canine Good Citizen ribbon! After lots of hard work he passed!

Charlie proudly displaying his Canine Good Citizen Ribbon! After lots of hard work he has received his certification! On to the TDI!

Max, it is not FELINE good citizen! You are too naughty to earn that!

Does that mean we are done?-NO WAY! We think that doing behavior classes with Charlie is such an important part of our relationship with him! Perhaps the most obvious way is that Charlie and I have a common language. I give him direction and show him the right way to behave instead of scolding him or disciplining him (most of the time). Most importantly, the commitment we have made to training is helping our smart but energetic/wiggle-butt, Charlie, grow from a crazy silly puppy into a companion and best friend. As an added bonus, the classes provide Kev and I with alone time with the boys which we/they love.

What’s Next in Charlie’s Training?

We would like to pursue therapy training with Charlie in the future, but until then, we want to keep him active and learning. Recently, we asked Charlie if he would like to try out agility classes. He wasn’t really sure what that meant, so I pulled up a video for our television watching puppy.

Watch below. Do you think Charlie is interested in AGILITY?

About the author

Rachael Sando

Rachael is a School Psychologist with degrees from the University of Rochester and RIT. Though a lifelong dog lover, this passion has taken on a new direction through the utilization of therapy animals in her day job. Charlie, our Golden Retriever, works with Rachael as a school therapy dog in a local primary school where he brings comfort and support to students and staff on a daily basis.


  • Yay, congrats!! I’m working with Atka toward therapy as well 🙂 If I can find a good agility instructor, I want to get Mauja involved in that. I’ve only found one agility place in our town and the trainer laughed at me for wanting to try a pyr in agility. Sigh. Seems like you have a great training facility!

    • Thanks so much!! We think it would be awesome for Mauja to do agility!!! I hope you find someone. We have worked with out local humane society for most of our classes and love it!

  • That is so awesome! Congratulations!!

    I’m pretty sure Zoe would pass the CGC but I know that Phoenix never will. She is still very scared of strangers reaching towards her, let alone touching her.

    • Poor Pheonix…I just know that it must be hard to be scared a lot of the time! Its such a nice thing to take classes with the dogs, its great bonding! Maybe you could find something a little more cozy for her!

  • Congratulation Charlie! You are such an amazing pup! I dream of the day that QQ/Chyler can achieve what you achieved. QQ is way to reactive around strange people/dogs and Chyler is still very skittish and shy.

    • Thank Yilise!! Maybe your pups are not ready for CGC but we would definitely recommend taking some sort of class with them, it is such a great bonding experience!!

  • Congratulation Charlie! You are such an amazing pup! I dream of the day that QQ/Chyler can achieve what you achieved. QQ is way too reactive around strange people/dogs and Chyler is still very skittish and shy.

  • Welcome to the club! Now you have the paper, you can forget that nonsense and do what you want! Bailie had to take the test a second time, but I passed my first try with no practice or class. Mom was real proud! Now we have our titles framed on our office wall. Good luck and hope you don’t have too much studying ahead.

  • Yay! Good job Charlie!
    I am definitely in the “over-exuberance” category…
    My doggy school has agility equipment and I LOVE running up and down the A-frame. The other things, I do not care for at all. Especially the jumps! Why jump, when you can run around it? And the tunnel. Not going in there!

  • Congrats to Charlie! Job well done! We have 3 Goldens & a Pom, the 2 youngest have their S.T.A.R & 1 of those 2 has his CGC & will hopefully soon have his CGCA

  • What an inspiring story! I’m still working on my leash skills but I hope to achieve CGC in the next year. I have a way to go…. but your story gives me hope! Thank you!