Training your dog to be an upstanding citizen is rewarding! A lot of organizations who help with training working dogs, such as service and therapy dogs, ask that you pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen course before moving into deeper levels of training.
The three main things when it comes to dog training is Distance, Duration, and Distractions. Most people become frustrated when training their dog because they ask their dogs to master two things (distance and duration, for example) at the same time, versus one at a time. Dogs are smart creatures but even they need a helping paw from time to time. Start by doing one thing at a time. For example, if you are teaching your dog to stay, tell them to stay and reward them quickly without walking away. Lengthen the amount of time they must wait before stepping away from your dog.
The canine good citizen test has multiple parts to test a variety of things.
As with any dog training, the best thing to do is practice, practice, practice. One of the best places to practice is where your dog will be taking the test. This will help to reduce the distractions your dog is facing because they will already be familiar with the area and won't feel the need to sniff every corner or bush during the test.
You should also ask friends who haven't met your dog to help you prepare for your testing as this is the best way to practice the crowd and grooming aspects of the test.
Bonus Tip! It is best to practice every day with your dog but keep training sessions short, (15-20 minutes at a time.) If your dog starts becoming overly tired they will stop paying attention which leads to frustration. Training is an excellent way to tire your dog and build a healthy bond.
You always want to set your dog up for success so after your dog is comfortable with the commands introduce some distractions such as practicing in a familiar environment with other dogs. What this does is help your dog to focus on you with distractions around. If your dog is able to pass a practice test with distractions, the real test will be easy-peasy as it is a controlled environment.
During the test, you are not allowed to use training assists such as gentle leaders, clickers, or treats. This does not mean you can't practice with them; especially if you are just starting out with your training! These tools were created to help your dog understand what you want from them when teaching them a new trick or task.
Bonus Tip! Using the Calming Chews before a training session (and before the test) can help your dog to be more focused which leads to better results.
Working hard to train your dog to have a successful Canine Good Citizen Test is a bonding experience for you and your dog. Remember that even smart dogs have an off day and that being patient and consistent with your training is the best approach.