We all love those videos of dogs running through an agility course or doing other tricks like catching Frisbees.

You might think it would be cool to teach your dog to do these tricks. If you want your pup to be taken seriously, Fido needs to become an AKC trick dog.

What does this mean and how can your “good boi” (or girl) earn such a title? Here is your guide to AKC training.

What Is an AKC Trick Dog?

The first big question is to explain what earning an AKC tricks title means.

It’s much more than the ability to roll over or even catch a Frisbee in midair. In fact, there are five AKC Titles Fido can earn.

Level 1: Novice Trick Dog

The lowest level is the AKC Novice Trick Dog (TKN). There are two ways for dogs to earn this designation.

  • Perform 10 skills from the Novice list
  • Earn the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate or a title on record at AKC + 5 Novice tricks

Tricks include:

  • Walking on a balance beam
  • Barking on cue (speak)
  • Crawling on belly
  • Fetch
  • Find it (find a treat that is hidden under an object/cup)
  • Hand signals (Down, Sit or Come)
  • High five
  • Jump (through a low hoop or over a bar)
  • Hold (3 seconds)
  • Kiss
  • Shake hands
  • Spin in circle
  • Tunnel

The Canine Good Citizen designation is slightly different. The purpose is to teach dogs skills that focus on good doggy manners and obedience. The real goal is to forge stronger bonds between dogs and their humans.

10 CGC Skills:

  1. Accepts friendly stranger
  2. Sits politely for petting
  3. Appearance and Grooming
  4. Out for a Walk
  5. Walking through a crowd
  6. Sit, Down & Stay
  7. Coming when called
  8. Reaction to other dogs
  9. Reaction to distractions
  10. Supervised separation

Once a dog has successfully mastered either 10 TKN Skills or 5 Skills + CGC Skills, you can fill out an AKC trick dog application for the Novice level.

Level 2: Intermediate Trick Dog (TKI)

This second level builds on Novice skills but adds new ones. Dogs must first earn the Novice title and then master at least 10 Intermediate tricks. A CGC certificate is not required.

Tricks include:

  • Balance on ball
  • Catch
  • Close/Open drawer
  • Fetch it (from 20 feet away and deliver to hand)
  • Go find
  • Hand signals (Sit, Down, Come, Stand. Total of 3)
  • Jump through handler’s circled arms
  • Push button to make sound
  • Ring bell, doorbell mounted on wood
  • Rollover
  • The shell game (find it)
  • Sit pretty
  • Teeter totter
  • Wave goodbye/hello
  • Weave through poles

Intermediate handlers are not allowed to use lures in most cases. Food rewards are allowed, however.

Level 3: Advanced Trick Dog (TKA)

Level three means a dog has mastered Novice and Intermediate skills. They must then be able to perform 10 tricks from the Advanced Trick Dog list.

Tricks include:

  • Back up
  • Cover eyes
  • Dance/moonwalk
  • Identify toy by name
  • Lassie pose
  • Make your bed
  • Play dead
  • Retreat (crawl backward)
  • Retrieve
  • Say your prayers
  • Scent article (choose from 5)
  • Sing/Talk
  • Toys (drop in the box)
  • Walk on hind legs

You can have two “Handler’s Choice” tricks. The 10 tricks must not have been submitted for the other two previous titles.

Level 4: Trick Dog Performer (TKP)

To earn the Trick Dog Performer title, the dog should be able to perform a short routine that includes at least 10 tricks, including 3 that incorporate props. The tricks must be Intermediate, Advanced or Performer level.

Tricks include:

  • Carry stuffed animal on back
  • Figure 8 (without handler)
  • Jump through tissue hoop
  • Lift leg/pretend fire hydrant
  • Limping
  • Nod or shake head
  • Phone (hears ring and brings to phone to the owner)
  • Ring toss
  • Runs circles around human
  • Soccer
  • Wipe feet on the mat

Examples of props include: Barrel, shopping cart, baby stroller, phone, wagon, car or skateboard

There is no agility or obedience equipment at the Performer level, but you can use modified equipment you’ve designed yourself. At least 3 tricks should be at the Performer level.

Level 5: Trick Dog Elite Performer TKE

This TKE level requires a dog to perform a short routine that includes a story or script.

Other requirements:

  • Must incorporate at least 5 props
  • Total of 10 tricks from the Advanced or Performer levels
  • All 4 previous titles must be on the record

You can write out the story on a piece of paper or narrate it. The routine must be performed in front of an audience of at least 5 people. It can be any audience, from an elementary school class to Assisted Living Facility (ALF) residents.

How Can Your Dog Earn Titles?

Having your dog complete tricks at home is not enough.

Tricks must be performed in front of an approved AKC evaluator. You must also fill out an AKC Trick Dog Application, which should be submitted at the same time.

The other way you can earn titles is with Do More With Your Dog!™ (DMWYD) titles at Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Performer levels.

Who Is Eligible?

Nearly any dog can be eligible to earn an AKC Trick Title.

Your dog can become eligible by meeting 1 of 3 designations:

  1. AKC Registration Number – Number that is provided to dog owners with a registration certificate
  2. Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) – For purebred dogs that do not have a Registration Number
  3. AKC Canine Partners Number – This number can be given to either mixed breed or purebred dogs

To earn any of the titles, a dog must be observed by a CGC Evaluator. The Evaluator must verify the required number of tricks, starting with the Novice Level.

Dogs can be observed at events that take place across the country. There are more than 22,000 annual events so find one near you.

If you need more information about dog training or anything having to do with service dogs, there are resources that can help.

Train Your Dog To Become a Super Hero

You can train Fido to become an AKC trick dog. It takes time and diligence, but soon your best friend will be bow-wowing the crowd.

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