Trick Dog

Trick dog titles and competitions are the newest dog sport to spring up. While teaching dogs tricks is nothing new, it’s really within the last several years that major organizations are starting to realize this is an important aspect of dog training to encourage and support.


What: Tricks
Description: Teaching behaviors to your dog
Training: Can be taught completely at home
Time until ready: As little as 2 weeks
Age to start: Pretty much any age can start. Be aware of growth plates and don’t ask for repetitive jumping behaviors until the dogs are well over a year old.

For as long as humans and dogs have been together, we have taught our dog to perform tasks. Sometimes with a purpose, such as retrieving or herding. Other times just for fun, such as “shake”. Trick training is a great way to strengthen the bond you have with your dog and to improve your training in other areas. This is a great time to break out your clicker and those treats and work on some Operant Conditioning.

Basically any learned behavior can be considered a trick but trick dog titles typically focus on behaviors that you have taught to your dog that do not come naturally to them. Some behaviors come from Obedience training, others from Agility. However, most are just fun things that your dog knows how to do.

Several years ago, Kyra Sundance started a company called Do More With Your Dog. This was based on a series of books she had written with instructions on how to train your dog to do tricks. Do More With Your Dog started offering titles in Tricks and was, until recently, the only place where you could earn Trick titles that was a national organization.

In 2017, the American Kennel Club teamed up with Do More With Your Dog and started offering their own program of Trick titles. The Novice level of this title is relatively easy and even allows handlers to use food or toys as a lure to get their dog to perform tricks. Some critics, primarily those that enjoy competitive Obedience, feel that this is too easy and doesn’t really show that a dog has been trained in any way.

At Agile Dog, we have a different view of this Novice title. This is a great way for people to get started training their dogs. For someone that has never done any competitive dog sport and probably has no idea how to get started, this gives them an achievable goal. It is easier and less daunting than the Canine Good Citizen. Pretty much anyone that has taught their dog anything, and some that have not, can actually get a title on their dog. In this way, the American Kennel Club can encourage dog owners to spend more time and actively work with their dog. We see this as a stepping stone to some more formal dog training and sports such as Competitive Obedience or Rally.

At the beginning levels, the tricks that are allowed can be as simple as a sit or a down, basic skills that most dogs learn in the beginning training classes. Success at earning these titles is very high because of the basic nature of the tricks. The tricks must be witnessed by another person or a licensed evaluator. At the highest levels, the tricks must be recorded on video and sent in to the sanctioning organization for evaluation.

In order to get started training tricks, you don’t even need to take any classes, although it helps if you want to achieve the higher level titles. You simply need to spend time with your dog, encouraging and supporting many of the natural behaviors that they already exhibit. For example, most dogs will sit on their own when they want to, you can encourage that behavior with treats and add a word “sit” to it.

There are two national organizations that offer Trick Dog titles. Both offer several levels and provide lists of potential tricks, each requiring a video submission for the highest level.

AKC American Kennel Club All Dogs
DMWYD Do More With Your Dog All Dogs



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