Is Charlie ready for the Canine Good Citizen test?

Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Dear Carla,

We have the best dog in the world and would love to do therapy work with him. Charlie is a lab mix that we rescued last year. He loves everyone he meets including kids of all ages. I know there are programs where dogs can go into hospitals and schools, but don’t know how to get started. What do you recommend?

— Charlie’s proud owner

Dear proud owner,

Therapy work is a very rewarding activity to do with your dog and thankfully there are many wonderful programs in our area that welcome certified therapy dogs. The qualifications are different depending what you want to do. Tahoe Forest Hospital has a program for dogs to visit the Extended Care Facility and some inpatient units. Dogs must pass the Canine Good Citizen Test (CGC) which is developed and administered through the American Kennel Club. I conduct the test monthly at The Savvy Dog and there are several other certified CGC evaluators in the area. The TFHD program is coordinated through the Humane Society of Truckee- Tahoe and you can learn more by contacting them at

The HSTT also has a program for reading in the schools called RUFF. For literacy to improve, children must read out loud and dogs are the perfect audience because they listen without judgement! To participate in this program, dogs must pass a test given by The Delta Society. This test is similar to the CGC but evaluates both the handler and the dog. It also tests the dog’s ability to deal with stressors, such as people who move in strange ways and loud or unusual noises. The CGC is a pre-requisite for the Delta Society test.

You can find all CGC test items by searching for the CGC Test on the AKC web site, but here is a brief overview. No treats are allowed during the test.

1. Sit and Down on cue.

2. Stay on cue — handler must move 20 feet away and return to dog before releasing.

3. Walking on a loose leash with several turns.

4. The dog must be well groomed and allow the evaluator to handle ears, mouth, paws, and tail.

5. Accepting a friendly stranger without jumping or lunging.

6. Sitting politely for petting.

7. Accepting a friendly dog without jumping or lunging.

8. Reaction to a loud noise and/or other distraction.

9. Walking politely through a crowd.

10. Coming on cue.

11. Supervised separation where the dog is left with the evaluator for 3 minutes.

A few of these test items are things we don’t usually practice with our dogs, but most of them are cues you can learn in a basic manners class. If I know a student wants to take the CGC test, I will ask other students to help them work on things like dog approaches and accepting friendly petting.

I think you will find therapy work with Charlie to be rewarding and fun. Good luck.

— Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.