Trick Dog

A woman handler with a Golden Retrieverdog at a Trick Dog competition.
Phyllis Ensley Photography


About Trick Dog

Trick Dog is a fun and creative canine sport that focuses on a variety of tricks performed by dogs, guided by their handlers. Trick Dog highlights the intelligence, trainability, and versatility of individual dogs, providing an enjoyable and enriching experience for both dogs and their owners. It emphasizes not only the ability to perform simple (and not so simple) tricks, it also celebrates the learning process, strengthening the bond between the participants while fostering a deeper understanding of the human-canine connection.

The essence of Trick Dog lies in positive reinforcement and bond-building. Handlers engage with their dogs in a way that encourages and rewards desirable behaviors, turning the learning process into a fun and rewarding experience. This approach provides mental stimulation that supports the emotional well-being of the dogs, as it allows them to learn at their own pace and enjoy the process.

Trick Dog titles are structured to cater to various skill levels. Categories range from novice, featuring basic commands, to expert, which includes more intricate and complex sequences. This tiered structure enables dogs and handlers of different experience levels to participate and progress at their own pace.

Competitive Format & Judging

In Trick Dog, dog and handler teams are assessed based on the number and complexity of tricks performed. These tricks are carefully selected to showcase the dog’s intelligence and dexterity, and the effectiveness of the handler’s training methods. Higher levels require advanced skills and combinations of behaviors, pushing teams to continually develop and refine their repertoire.

Judges in Trick Dog competitions look for precision in execution, responsiveness of the dog to the handler’s cues, and the overall harmony between the two. Creativity and originality in routine composition are highly valued, providing an avenue for handlers to express their unique training styles and for dogs to display their individual personalities and strengths.

History & Evolution of Trick Dog Sport

Originally demonstrated through circus acts and entertainment performances, the concept of teaching dogs tricks has evolved significantly. The late 20th and early 21st centuries saw a shift towards a more structured and positive approach to trick training, reflecting the growing interest in canine psychology and a greater understanding of the human-canine bond.

Organizations such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) played a pivotal role in shaping Trick Dog as a formal activity. By establishing structured programs and offering titles, these organizations provided a platform for standardized training and recognition of achievements in the sport.

Trick Dog Today

Today, Trick Dog is a popular and inclusive activity within the community of recognized canine sports. Its appeal extends beyond competitive circles, serving as an excellent tool for behavioral training that naturally strengthens the connection between each dog and its handler. Trick Dog is now embraced by dog people from all walks of life and has become a fixture at many canine events. It serves as a platform for demonstrating every dog’s diverse range of abilities, as well as the dedication and creativity of its favorite person.

As Trick Dog evolves as a companion event, it will continue to play a vital role in showcasing the capabilities of dogs and the effectiveness of positive training methods. And as new dog owners and experienced trainers become inspired to explore new and innovative ways to engage with their canine companions, the fun aspect of training dogs is sure to be demonstrated through a never-ending array of exciting and innovative tricks.