AKC Trick Dog Training: Everything Aussie Owners Need To Know

By Anton Hout, author of The Guide to Aussie Training & Care

Trick dog training is an exciting option that the AKC (American Kennel Club) offers to all breeds. It can be a great way for you and your dog to bond and to take your obedience or agility training to the next level. This can be particularly attractive for Australian Shepherd owners as Aussie's love to learn new tricks and please their masters and are always up for a new challenge!

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So what exactly is an AKC trick dog and how can your dog achieve this status? As the name suggests, trick dogs learn a specific arsenal of tricks and perform them for an AKC approved CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Evaluator, either in-person or virtually via video. Once they pass their evaluation and you pay the fee, your dog will receive one of the AKC trick dog titles.

In order to be eligible for a trick dog title, your dog must have an AKC registration number, purebred alternative listing (PAL) or AKC Canine Partners number. Dogs can begin trick dog training as puppies but the earliest a dog will be considered for a title is 4 months old.

AKC Trick Dog Training: Everything Aussie Owners Need To Know - Photo: Woman at park with blue merle Australian Shepherd.

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There Are Five Levels of the AKC Trick Dog Title, Each With Its Own Eligibility Requirements

  • AKC Trick Dog Novice Title – this is the beginning level and requires your dog to be observed by the CGC evaluator doing 10 tricks from a list designated by the AKC. Tricks for the novice title can include: walking on a balance beam, crawling, barking on cue and giving a high five. If your dog has a CGC certificate or title on record with the AKC that can count for 5 of the tricks.
  • AKC Trick Dog Intermediate Title – eligible dogs must have the novice title and perform 10 tricks from the intermediate list, including opening and closing a door, jumping through the handler's circled arms, and waving hello and goodbye.
  • AKC Trick Dog Advanced Title – eligible dogs must have the intermediate title and perform 10 tricks from the advanced list, including playing dead, jumping into the handler's arms, walking on hind legs and navigating through weave poles.
  • AKC Trick Dog Performer – for this title, dog and handler must perform a short routine that includes 10 tricks, at least 3 of which must include props.
  • AKC Trick Dog Elite Performer – this is the highest level and requires dog and handler to perform a routine that has a story or script, includes 10 tricks from the advanced or performer level and uses at least 5 props.

In order to receive each successive AKC trick dog title, your dog must have first received all of the previous titles, so you have to start at the novice level and go up from there if you want to continue to progress through the ranks. This can add to the challenge of learning and performing for you and your dog, giving you both extra incentive to keep going.

The AKC also recognizes stunt titles from Do More With Your Dog! (DMWYD) at the Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert levels. DMWYD is the official sanctioning and organizing body for the sport of Dog Tricks and their titles can be grandfathered into the AKC titles at the equivalent level with your application and the necessary fees.

AKC Trick Dog Training: Everything Aussie Owners Need To Know - Photo: Woman teaches Australian Shepherd dog trick on snowy lane.

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How Did Trick Dog Training Get Started

Trick training first began in the 1920's with the popular movie dog Rin Tin Tin and continued in the 1940's with Lassie. Lassie's trainer, Rudd Weatherwax, wrote a trick dog training manual in the 1940's. From there the popularity of trick dog training continued to build until the Do More With Your Dog! program was created and, in 2017, the AKC trick dog program began.

The AKC recognized both the popularity and the importance of trick dog training as a way to engage more with your dog, get more exercise and encourage the desire to learn in dogs. By making learning fun with the use of tricks and treat based reinforcement, learning becomes exciting for dogs and they will be eager to do more while you get the benefit of showing off their skills.

Trick Dog Training Is Just the Beginning

Trick dog training can also have practical applications, such as learning to lean with both paws on the edge of a bed to be petted by a bed bound patient. Other tricks can be used to help in service situations, from picking items up off the floor to opening cupboards or retrieving everyday items for disabled owners. Aussies make great therapy dogs and service dogs too.

Of course any breed can learn to do tricks and go on to become an AKC trick dog but not surprisingly, this is an area that is particularly attractive for Australian Shepherd owners. Aussies are highly intelligent and eager to please, two characteristics that make them ideal for trick dog training.

Not only do Aussie's take well to training for AKC trick dog titles, but doing the kind of work involved in earning the titles can be good for them as a form of enrichment. Trick dog training will bring you and your four legged friend closer together as well as help keep him from become bored, listless or destructive by keeping his mind on learning new tricks and earning your praise for all of his hard work.

If you're looking for a great way to engage with your Australian Shepherd and you both love a good challenge, then trick dog training may just be for you. There are training classes and clubs all over the country, so check your local area for one near you. Before you know it, you and your dog will be on your way to earning glory in the AKC trick dog program.

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Trick dog training is an exciting option that the AKC offers to all breeds. It can be a great way for you and your dog to bond and to take your obedience training or agility training to the next level. #australianshepherd #aussie #dogtraining #puppytraining #aussielovers

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