🐶 $50 off dog DNA tests | Shop Now

🐱 $50 off cat DNA tests | Shop Now

Free US shipping & returns

Top 8 Dog Show Tricks
Dog Training

Top 8 Dog Show Tricks

In the world of dog shows, the bond between a handler and their partner is showcased through various skilled maneuvers and tricks that highlight the dog's obedience, agility, and charisma. But how to train your dog for the dog show? This article delves into the top canine tricks and training techniques that transform an ordinary pup into a show-stopping champion. From mastering the elegant gait to performing a flawless chin rest, these tricks are not only essential for the dog show ring but also foster a deeper connection between dog and handler.

Bait Train Your Dog

Bait training is a technique to keep a dog's attention and encourage them to stand correctly while judged. It involves using a treat or toy to guide the dog into the desired position. 

  1. Hold a treat or a favorite toy in front of your dog to capture their attention.

  2. Use the bait to guide your dog into the desired stance, moving it slowly over their head for a stack or alongside them to encourage straight standing.

  3. Reward immediately when your dog achieves the correct position.

  4. Practice this in short, positive sessions, gradually increasing the duration your dog can hold the stance.

1, 2, 3 Pattern Game

The 1, 2, 3 Pattern Game is a fun way to build your dog's attention and response to commands during a dog show. This game involves counting to three while holding a treat, allowing the dog to sniff it, and opening the hand on three. It is one of the easiest dog tricks to teach and it helps improve your dog's focus, especially in a distracting environment like a dog show, and strengthens their obedience skills.

  1. Hold a treat in your hand and let your dog know it’s there. Make sure you have your dog’s attention.

  2. Begin counting aloud, “1, 2, 3.” At first, you might want to do this slowly to build anticipation and understanding.

  3. As you say “three,” open your hand to reveal the treat. Allow your dog to take the treat from your open palm.

The Hand Target

The hand target is a versatile trick used in various aspects of dog show training. It involves teaching your dog to touch your hand with their nose on command. This can be used to guide your dog into different positions or through complex routines without physical manipulation. 

  1. Present your hand slightly in front of your dog’s nose.

  2. When they naturally investigate and touch it, reward them with a treat.

  3. Add a command like “touch” as they perform the action.

  4. Gradually increase the challenge by moving your hand to different positions, reinforcing the touch each time.

Practice Gaiting

Gaiting is the act of a dog moving at a pace that allows the judge to see their movement and structure. The key to successful gaiting is to train your dog to move steadily beside you, neither lagging nor pulling ahead. Remember, the goal is a dog that moves gracefully and confidently, a testament to their breed's characteristics.

  1. Start with a leash in a quiet, distraction-free area.

  2. Use a treat to get your dog's attention and encourage them to walk at your side.

  3. Begin walking, using the treat to maintain their focus and position. The treat should be held at a height and position that encourages your dog to move smoothly without jumping or straying.

  4. Gradually introduce distractions as your dog becomes more proficient, ensuring they can maintain their gait regardless of the environment.

  5. Practice regularly, gradually reducing the reliance on treats for motivation.

Hand Stack and Free Stack

Stacking refers to the way a dog is posed during a dog show. The hand stack is when the handler manually places the dog's paws in the correct position, while the free stack is when the dog assumes the position naturally. The specific position your dog should be in will vary by breed.

Hand Stack: Gently place each of your dog's paws where they should go, adjusting their body to show off their best features. Reward them for staying still.

Free Stack: Encourage your dog to take the correct stance on their own through bait and commands. Reward spontaneous stacking and gradually shape this behavior into perfection.

Practice both methods, rewarding your dog for maintaining the position. This training prepares dogs for the show ring and teaches them patience and attentiveness.


A spin is a crowd-pleasing trick dog that involves your dog turning around on command. While not a traditional dog show maneuver, it can be useful in certain situations. It is a fun trick that dogs love to learn, and it can help with the over-energizing anxious dog to release energy and warm up before the show. For more low-key dogs, it excites them and helps them feel more connected to the body.

  1. Hold a treat near your dog’s nose and slowly move your hand in a circle around their body, encouraging them to follow.

  2. As they complete the circle, reward them with the treat.

  3. Introduce the command “spin” as you begin the movement.

  4. With practice, they’ll spin with just the verbal cue.

Go to Mat/Settle

Teaching your dog to go to a mat and settle is invaluable, especially in the high-stress environment of a dog show. This trick dog instills calmness and offers your dog a designated 'safe space'.

  1. Place the mat in a quiet area and lead your dog to it with a treat.

  2. Encourage them to sit or lie down on the mat, then reward them.

  3. Use a command like “go to your mat” as you practice, gradually increasing the distance they must travel to reach the mat.

  4. Reward them for staying calmly on the mat, gradually increasing the duration.

Chin Rest

The chin rest is a trick that can help your dog remain still while being examined by judges. It involves teaching your dog to rest their chin in the palm of your hand or on a surface on command. This trick is beneficial for examinations and grooming, as it keeps the dog calm and stationary. 

  1. Hold your hand or a target stick under your dog's chin. Reward any voluntary contact.

  2. Once they’re making contact reliably, introduce a command like “chin” and begin to ask for longer durations.

  3. Reward for calm and sustained contact, gradually introducing distractions and different environments.


Incorporating these training techniques into your preparation for a dog show will enhance your dog's performance and deepen the bond between you and your canine companion. Training for a dog show requires patience, consistency, and a positive attitude, but the reward of seeing your dog excel in the ring is incomparable. 

This is the last part of our “Dog Tricks” series and you can get back to Part 1 and Part 2. Training makes both the owner and their companion very happy and it’s such a rewarding experience on both sides, so it makes total sense to train your dog properly while enjoying the process.

Frequently Asked Question

Why is my dog struggling to learn?

Your dog may be struggling to learn due to a variety of reasons, including lack of consistent training, underlying health issues, insufficient motivation, or not being the right fit for the specific task or behavior being taught. Consult a professional to find the best course of action for your dog.