The AKC Canine Good Citizen Award is only given to dogs that can perform these ten tasks on command. Could your dog pass the test and earn the gold?


Every year thousands of dogs are unnecessarily euthanized because of behavior issues. What a tragedy! Dogs are smart and always looking to the leaders of the pack (aka, you, their owners) for clues as to how they should behave. Read through this list of AKC Canine Good Citizen Award commands that every good dog should know to be a responsible and enjoyable member of the community, and then use the attached training tips or contact information for local trainers to give your dog the gift of learning and good manners.


Accept a Friendly Stranger


Dogs can read subtle hints in our body language that allow them to understand if we are fearful or welcoming of a stranger. Your dog should be able to respond in kind. When socializing your dog with other dogs or people, carry a bag of yummy treats with you. Offer friends, people in uniform, children, and men and women of all races, sizes and shapes a chance to give your pet one of the treats. It will help your dog to understand that these different people are friendly.  More on this AKC Good Citizen Award requirement by the Retriever Pro.




Sit is an easy command to teach. Hold a treat above and in front of your dog. Push the treat further above and behind the dog’s head so that he must sit in order to stay focused on it. Say the word ‘sit’ when your dog does so and reward with him with the treat.


Sit Politely for Petting and Grooming


Get your dog in the habit of having his or her feet, ears, tail and mouth touched. As with all of your training, a tasty, soft treat reinforces good behavior. Start slowly, speak softly and acknowledge behavior with ‘good’, ‘good boy’, ‘good girl’, etc. If you plan on trimming your dog’s toenails, get a lesson first! Too many dogs have (rightfully) learned that having their feet touched means imminent pain by some untrained toenail clipper!


Lie Down


Hold a treat in your hand and move it close to the floor so that your dog must crouch…and hopefully lie down…in order to reach and smell it. At the point when your dog lies down, say the command, and reward with the treat.





Stay is also a relatively easy command to teach. Give your pet the sit command and use a treat in hand to hold their attention. Hold your other hand out to signal ‘stop’ or ‘stay’. Slowly back away from your pet and repeat the word ‘stay’. After a few moments, reward your dog for understanding the command with both the treat and verbal praise. Once your dog seems to understand the basics, extend the length of time and the distance that you step away from him. At the end of each exercise provide the verbal praise and the treat.




Once you have the stay command down, invite your pet to come to you to receive the treat by opening your hand, revealing the treat, and saying the command ‘come’. You may crouch to lower the treat closer to the dog’s height when you say the word ‘come’ as a way of helping him understand.



Leash Walking Through Crowds


Use gentle leaders to keep rambunctious pups like hunting dogs and retrievers more fully in control. Short leashes work best. Teach your pet to ‘heel’ to you as a way of keeping him or her next to your side. Reward good behavior. Stop for a sit break if your pet begins to pull or take over the walk.



Accept Other Dogs


If you have a young dog, make use of puppy play groups that are under the supervision of an experienced dog trainer. Puppy play groups introduce young dogs to how other dogs react to aggression, submission and dominance and help them to understand that other dogs are not a threat. If you have adopted or rescued a dog, work closely with the adoption/rescue center to address any aggressive tendencies that have been identified. It’s extremely important for your lifestyle and the wellbeing of other dogs in your community that your dog learns how to interact with other pets in a non-threatening manner. If you have a small dog, resist carrying him or her in your arms. The added height teaches your dog that it has power and dominance and can lead to unneeded aggression.



Can Deal with Distractions


Most dogs are food motivated. Hold your pet in thrall with the prospect of something delicious like a small piece of cheese or cooked chicken.   While your dog’s attention is consumed by the treat, have a helper make loud noises or talk loudly. Reward your dog with praise for staying focused on walking and paying attention to the treat, and then give your pet the treat.


Stay With a Trusted Friend While the Owner Leaves


Separation anxiety is awful for everyone involved. Homes get destroyed, pets can soil the home or themselves, neighbors are annoyed with howling and barking…the list goes on.   Build on the Accept a Friendly Stranger, Sit, and Stay command to introduce your pet to accepting the lead of a trusted friend and remaining with the friend until you depart. As your dog acclimates to the commands, extend the time that you are absent.


A Word About ‘Clickers’


Many trainers advocate the use of a clicker. Clickers make a sound like a …well…like a click! Trainers click the device at the precise moment when the dog performs the desired command. Play off your dog’s strengths. All dogs jump, run, lie down, sit, roll over, raise their paw, etc. By paying attention to what your dog would naturally like to do, calling their attention to that behavior with a clicker, and then rewarding the behavior, owners can quickly teach their dogs to do all sorts of things.



Contact a Canine Good Citizen Award testing center near you.

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