Magic happened at the 2022 AKC National Trick Dog Competition.
Muriel McMullen and her Australian Terrier, Maddie, took some inspiration from the Wizarding World of Hogwarts for a routine titled “Dogwarts School of Witchcraft.” From packing her bags to head off to Dogwarts to managing to transform her pet owl into a dragon, Maddie wowed judges with her magical routine, winning the 2022 AKC National Trick Dog Competition.
The virtual competition was the largest to date and drew 152 Elite Performer competitors from 35 states and Canada, and Turkey, and was judged by three AKC Trick Dog judges.
“This performance was such a joy to watch,” says Mary Burch, AKC Family Dog Director. “Maddie’s routine included advanced tricks such as walking backward on a beam, and she could perform tricks with her handler at a distance. Maddie’s eagerness and joy demonstrate the extraordinary bond that can result from training.”
Behind The Winning Routine
McMullen credits her grandchildren with the inspiration behind Maddie’s Hogwarts-themed routine. For fun last year, the pair did a Halloween-themed trick routine but she said that her “grandkids are all into Harry Potter so, I combined the two and the story developed into ‘Dogwarts School of Witchcraft'” for this routine.
The winning routine showcases Maddie’s trick skills, and her passion and enthusiasm for the sport. McMullen and Maddie spent many months preparing for this performance. “Maddie already knew many of the tricks, so we dusted off the ones she hadn’t done for quite a while and started practicing last fall,” she says.
While working on the routine McMullen would also think up new tricks and teach them to Maddie. Once her performance of the new skills was solid, McMullen would incorporate them into the larger story and the two practiced four to five times a week, sometimes twice a day, leading up to the final recorded performance.
Maddie loves to train and perform tricks and, according to McMullen, her favorite trick in the routine would change from day to day. “Sometimes, knocking the candy bowl over would be her favorite, or stacking the cups, or putting stuff sometimes whatever struck her fancy in the cauldron,” she says. “She also did love her wand tricks and pulling the sheet occasionally long before she was supposed to.”
The hardest trick for Maddie to master in the routine was walking backward on the plank and side-stepping over water, and McMullen confirmed there really was water that Maddie crossed. This is one of the features that brought the routine to the next level.
Getting Into Trick Training
Maddie has been doing tricks since she was a young puppy, but McMullen wanted to do something with her and after they finished basic obedience classes, so she signed up for trick training. “Her instructor said she was the best she had seen at trying to figure out what I wanted her to do. She loved the learning process and performing her tricks,” McMullen recalled.
When Maddie was one year old, she needed Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO) surgery, which is done to reduce the bone-on-bone contact of the hip by removing the femoral head and neck of the femur. The recovery process was long, but because of their background in trick training, McMullen was able to make healing fun for Maddie.
“A lot of rehab was needed to get Maddie functioning normally again, so I turned her exercises into tricks, and she loved doing them,” she says.
McMullen’s favorite part of doing tricks with Maddie is the incredibly close bond that they have developed over the years. “Sometimes it seems like she can read my mind, and sometimes I forget that she can’t,” she says. “I also love seeing how much joy and love she has learning new tricks and doing her old tricks.”
A Terrier’s Best-Kept Secret
McMullen hopes that Maddie’s National Trick Dog Competition win this year will encourage other people to consider the lesser-known Australian Terrier for their next dog. She calls the breed the “best-kept secret” in the dog world.
“These amazing little Terriers have huge personalities, are extremely smart and easy to train, they don’t shed much, they love kids, they are velcro dogs, you can do just about anything with an Australian Terrier, and they are so stinking cute to boot,” she explains.
Retiring On Top
In addition to trick training, McMullen and Maddie have participated in a variety of sports. Maddie has titled in Obedience, with High In Trials, Rally with Triple Q’s, Scent Work, and Barn Hunt. Maddie has also done modeling work for dog accessories and is a Therapy Dog. Although they have been very successful in a variety of activities, tricks are Maddie’s absolute favorite thing to do.
Maddie just turned 10 on October 6 and will be retiring this year. Her advanced age makes this win even more meaningful to McMullen who describes herself as being “on cloud nine” with Maddie’s win. This was the team’s third year entering the competition having previously entered in 2019 and 2021 (in 2020 Maddie was recovering from an iliopsoas injury and wasn’t able to compete).
In 2019, the team finished the National Trick Dog Competition in the top 20, and in 2021, they were semifinalists. “Winning this year is especially sweet because this is Maddie’s last year of competing,” McMullen says. “She is showing her age a little bit. I am just thrilled that she is retiring on top.”