Teaching tricks is great for dogs. It provides them with both mental and physical stimulation and helps create a stronger working relationship between the dog and the handler.

To start: want better basic obedience skills? Teach some tricks. The more things you teach your dog, the better he gets at learning. The more often you ask for behaviors, the better she gets at offering them.

Tricks can be easier and more rewarding to teach because we place less pressure on ourselves and our dogs.  When we teach “down” or “stay”, it feels important and serious.  When we teach “spin” or “roll over”, it just feels like fun. The extra pressure of “obedience commands” stresses us out, and can make us frustrated or angry when the dog doesn’t get it right. The truth: your dog doesn’t know the difference!  To your dog, it’s all just tricks.

What can you gain by teaching tricks?

  • Easier vet visits:  Just think how much easier your dog’s exam can be if you can ask him to “play dead” instead of holding him down on his side.
  • Cooperative care: Can you use “shake” or “give paw” to help with nail trims?  How about “go to your mat” to clean your dog’s muddy paws?
  • Work through distractions:  Uh oh, squirrel!  But your dog loves to “spin” and “sit pretty”.  Can your dog do a fun trick with you instead of focus on a distraction?
  • Closer relationship with your dog:  My own experience? The more often I train tricks, the more my dogs pay attention to me.  (They snuggle more, too.)
  • Build reliable response: The more you practice “fun” training exercises and play with your dog, the more likely your dog will comply with you in a “real life” scenarios where you might need immediate cooperation.
  • Every dog can play:  Young puppy? Old dog? Three legs? Blind? Deaf? Who cares!  Every dog can learn tricks.  Trick training is a stellar way to creatively engage and exercise senior dogs and dogs with disabilities.

Trick Dog Titles
You can earn Trick Dog titles and certificates with your dog, even from the comfort of your own home.

Do More With Your Dog awards titles and certificates for Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert and Champion Trick Dog.  Titles require witness by a Certified Trick Dog Instructor and can be done either in person or by video.  For the certificate, you can ask anyone to witness your tricks for you.

American Kennel Club offers Trick Dog Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Performer titles.  Tricks may be witnessed by any Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, except the Performer level, which are submitted by video.  All AKC-registered dogs are are eligible, and all mixes, non-registered dogs and non-AKC breeds may apply for an AKC PAL number if spayed or neutered (intact dogs are not eligible for this program unless they have AKC registration).

Involve your whole family!  Trick Dog Titles are a great way for kids of all ages to build a positive relationship with the family dog.

Kit Kat, our twelve-year-old mixed breed dog, shows off her Novice Trick Dog skills:

Want to try it?

  • First, look at the tricks on the application for Novice Trick Dog. You can probably check off more than you think!  When you’re ready to apply, you can submit your application online.
  • WOOFS! students:  Join us in Tricks class
    Class is a mix of group activities plus tricks and activities that you can select yourself.  Students often choose tricks to: help with another sport, make vet visits easier, be useful during therapy dog visits, earn titles, and of course, just to entertain!
  • Join our Facebook group: WOOFS! Dog Sports & Tricks
  • Do More With Your Dog offers free Facebook Spark Teams
    Each teams is led by a Certified Trick Dog Instructor. Groups include coaching and offer many how-to videos.

Erica Pytlovany is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CDTI) and Stunt Dog Judge though Do More With Your Dog, and a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. WOOFS! Dog Training Center is not directly affiliated with Do More With Your Dog or with the American Kennel Club.