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People have always taught their dogs different behaviors, especially since the early 1900s when movie and television dogs like “Toto” (Wizard of Oz), “Lassie,” and “Rin Tin Tin” stole the hearts of viewers. Now, dog tricks aren’t just a fun activity. AKC Trick Dog has become a competitive sport that dogs and handlers can participate in together and earn AKC Titles. From Novice through Elite Performer, AKC Trick Dog is a fun and accessible dog sport for dogs and people. But it can be hard to know how to get started without understanding the terms and rules.

If you’re ready to get started, check out this guide to AKC Trick Dog terms & lingo to get you ready to get started with your dog.

Elite Trick Dog; 2018 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin.
©American Kennel Club and HOTdog
Elite Trick Dog; 2018 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin.


To earn the Advanced AKC Trick Dog Title, dogs must have earned their Novice and Intermediate AKC Trick Dog Titles. For the Advanced title, dogs must complete ten Advanced tricks. No more than two of these ten tricks can be Handler’s Choice tricks. Dog owners cannot submit tricks for Advanced AKC Trick Dog that they previously submitted for other titles.

Advanced tricks include shake, bow, curtsy, walk backwards, and more. To be eligible for the AKC Trick Dog Advanced Title, your dog must have been observed by a CGC Evaluator doing 10 tricks from the list of accepted Advanced tricks, and must have previously earned the Novice and Intermediate Trick Dog Titles. CGC is not required.


Each AKC Trick Title level (Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Performer, Elite Performer) has a trick checklist. This checklist tells the dog owner what tricks their dog needs to do to earn each title level. The checklist is then filled out and signed by the CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Evaluator judging that trick level.

Elite Performer

Elite Performer is the highest AKC Trick Dog Title. To earn this title, a dog and handler must have earned the four previous titles. Then, the dog and handler team must perform ten tricks from the list of acceptable Elite Performer tricks. Five of those tricks must be from the Performer level of difficulty, and at least five must involve props. For the Elite Performer title, those props cannot include agility or obedience equipment. Handlers cannot use lures in Elite Performer and must submit the script/story for their routine along with their submission. An audience for the performance is not required.


AKC Trick Dog titles are judged or evaluated by an AKC-approved CGC Evaluator. Evaluators for AKC Trick Dog can review AKC Trick Dog titles either in person privately, in conjunction with an organized dog show or dog club event, or virtually. The AKC maintains a listing of approved CGC Evaluators that you can use to find an evaluator in your local area.


Intermediate is the second level of AKC Trick Dog Titles. To earn the Intermediate AKC Trick Dog Title, a dog must have earned the Novice AKC Trick Dog Title and demonstrate ten Intermediate level tricks that were not previously submitted for Novice. These tricks must come from the list of accepted Intermediate tricks.

Tanya Lee

Handler’s Choice

Handler’s Choice tricks refer to trick skills that aren’t officially on the AKC Trick Dog list for that title level. At the evaluator’s discretion, those off-list tricks can be written in as a handler’s choice skill, assuming it’s at an appropriate difficulty level.


Lure or luring is a dog training term that refers to a dog’s owner/handler using dog toys or dog treat to get their dog’s attention and get them to move their body in a particular direction to perform a specific behavior. Luring is a technique that handlers can utilize to teach a variety of tricks. At the higher trick title levels, you’ll want to fade the lure, so your dog can do the trick skill independently.

National Competition

The AKC hosts the AKC National AKC Trick Dog Competition. This competition is virtual and participants enter via video submission. Dog and handler teams are eligible to enter if they have earned their Elite Performer title. Each routine submitted should tell a story and involve props. Prizes are awarded for overall winners, winners in individual breeds, and awards for junior handlers.


Novice is the first AKC Trick Title level. To earn the Novice AKC Trick Dog Title dogs need to perform 10 Novice tricks, unless they have previously earned a CGC title. Then, the dog only needs to perform five additional tricks to earn the title. Tricks must come from the list of accepted Novice tricks.

Participant Guide

The participant and evaluator guide for the AKC Trick Dog program is essentially the rule book or guidebook for the program. The participant guide includes instructions for both participants and evaluators about the requirements for participation in the program at each titling level.

J. Palsa Photography.
American Kennel Club 2021 Trick Dog competition winner Miniature Poodle Eli, owned by Leslie Gelesh, of Akron, Ohio.


AKC Trick Dog Performer is the fourth title level of the AKC Trick Dog program. To earn this title, dogs must have earned Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced AKC Trick Dog titles. Then, dogs perform ten tricks that are at the Intermediate, Advanced or Performer level that have not previously been submitted for other titles. At least three of the tricks must be at the Performer level, and at least three must involve props. Handlers cannot use any agility or obedience equipment as a prop.


Props are any objects your dog uses or interacts with to do a trick. This can look like items they hold, carry, jump over, or otherwise engage with while doing a trick. Equipment from other sports like Obedience and Agility aren’t allowed at the higher trick levels.


A routine, or trick routine, is when multiple tricks are put together in an entertaining way. In AKC Trick Dog, routine usually refers to the performance done by dogs and handlers at the Elite Performer level of titling. In Elite Performer, dogs and handlers need to put together a routine that tells a story as they perform a series of tricks.

Title Application Form

After an evaluator signs off on a dog completing the required tricks to earn a specific level of AKC Trick Dog Title, the dog’s owner must complete a Title Application Form and submit that documentation to the AKC for the title to be processed. This form ensures that all aspects of the title are ready to submit, including that a CGC Evaluator has approved the title, that the dog has an AKC, PAL, or Canine Partners Number, and that the trick title application fee is included.

HOTdog © 2018 American Kennel Club

Title Application Portal (TAP)

Instead of sending in your dog’s AKC Trick Title applications by mail, the Title Application Portal (TAP) system is an easy way for dog owners to submit their dog’s AKC Trick Dog Title applications quickly online.


Dogs who complete the AKC Trick Dog program earn AKC Trick Dog titles. These are official titles (Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Performer, Elite Performer) that become part of a dog’s registered name.

Virtual Evaluation

Dogs can earn AKC Trick Dog titles in person or via virtual evaluation. For a virtual evaluation, a dog’s owner sends a video of their dog performing the necessary tricks for a specific AKC Trick Dog title level to a CGC Evaluator. The evaluator then judges the dog/handler performance. When a dog has passed a specific title level, an evaluator will complete and sign the checklist. That checklist goes back to the handler who then submits it to AKC. The AKC’s listing of approved CGC Evaluators includes information on evaluators who are testing virtually.