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Hit the Ground Running with Trick Dog Training

Behavior and Training  •   AKC Pet Insurance  •   Oct 13, 2020

Are you and your furry friend bored? Once your pet has learned the basic household cues, expand your arsenal by teaching them how to shake hands, play dead, or even nod their heads ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

Whether you need a way to keep your dog from bouncing off the walls or just want a new bonding activity for you and your four-legged friend, training tricks is an excellent way to stimulate their minds, burn off some energy, and strengthen the relationship between dog and owner. Not to mention, it can be a fantastic way to show off your dog’s intelligence to friends and family!

Getting Started with Trick Dog

To teach tricks, you need time, patience, a hungry dog, and plenty of treats. It doesn’t matter if your dog is 9 months or 10 years old, they will love learning new things while spending time with their favorite person. For dogs, trick training is mental and physical exercise. It should be a fun activity and never a chore! Trick training can be a form of play, and dogs learn best when having fun.

Start Small

Start with simple tricks or with something your dog may already be doing. Observe your pet’s daily behavior to see if they give you clues. For example, if he gives you his paw or put his head on your lap, praise and reward the behavior to start building his confidence and associate training with something enjoyable. Let them learn at their pace!

There are tricks for every type of dog: small, large, young, old, lazy, energetic. Make a habit of taking five to 10 minutes every day to practice no more than three tricks at a time as to not overwhelm them with new information. If you find teaching a trick is taking too long and your pet is just not getting it, break it into smaller steps and reward any advancements. Pets respond best to positive reinforcement, so always end on a happy note or when your dog nails what you’re training them to do.

AKC Official Trick Dog Titles

You can earn AKC titles through the AKC Trick Dog program. Dogs must be AKC registered or have an AKC Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) or AKC Canine Partner number. There are five titles that your dog can earn and  that will be listed on their title record: Novice Trick Dog (TKN), Intermediate Trick Dog (TKI), Advanced Trick Dog (TKA), Trick Dog Performer (TKP), and Trick Dog Elite Performer (TKE).

Each level has a dedicated list of 10 tricks the dog must perform for an AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluator in order to receive the title. Currently, AKC is offering the opportunity to earn Trick Dog titles virtually.

If your dog has a CGC certificate, they can do five tricks instead of the required 10 to earn the Novice Trick Dog title. For Trick Dog Performer, handlers must perform a short routine with at least 10 of the tricks previously learned. To earn the Trick Dog Elite Performer title, the dog must perform at least 10 tricks using five props, and there must be a story.

Resources For Training

You can download a list of tricks to teach your dog on the AKC website or pick up one of the many trick dog training books on the market. Kyra Sundance, founder of Do More with Your Dog!, has written a number of books including “101 Dog Tricks” that contains step-by-step instructions on a myriad of tricks. On the AKC Trick Dog webpage, you can find the list of tricks necessary to earn each title along with a series of videos demonstrating how to teach some of the tricks, including crawl, high-five, shake, and touch.

Find more information on trick dog training here: https://www.akc.org/sports/trick-dog/

Milena Barreto CDTI is a certified tricks instructor and a member of the AKC GoodDog! Helpline team. The GoodDog! Helpline instructors offer seven-day-a-week telephone support for dog owners who can talk to them one-on-one and receive training and behavioral advice. For more information: https://www.akc.org/products-services/akc-gooddog-helpline/

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