“Tricks are like puzzles for dogs; teaching your dog new tricks not only challenges his mind, but enhances his focus and intelligence,” explains Kyra Sundance, California-based stunt dog show performer and trainer and New York Times bestselling author of 101 Dog Tricks. ” The process of challenging your dog to achieve an object– and subsequently working toward that goal together– is a bonding experience for both of you.”
Whether you really want to teach Rover to retrieve your newspaper from the end of the driveway– or to simply come when called– there are definitely some tricks to the trade. “Try to follow the mantra: ‘cue, action, reward’ … and remember that timing is everything, because that reward must be given at the exact moment your dog delivers the action you’re looking for,” explains Chrissy Joy, a trainer at BFF Pet Services in Maryland whose dog, Beasley, is the 2018 National Stunt Dog Winner.
Along with keeping training sessions short and minimizing distractions as much as possible, Joy notes that your four-legged friend is going to need a ton of positive reinforcement during the learning process. That means plenty of verbal praise (” good girl!”), head scratches and, of course, yummy treats.
” One of the most common mistakes people make is trying to use dog kibble or being too stingy with treats, but in the learning phase, you really want to use the good stuff– chicken, cheese, ham– or anything your dog would really enjoy will keep him motivated to learn,” Sundance adds.
Really want to know how to teach a dog tricks? Here are some fun tricks to teach your dog at home:
Teach a Dog to Spin in a Circle
According to Joy, a dog’s drive to hunt makes spinning in circles a trick that any dog can learn. “You can use your dog’s natural inclination to rely on his nose to find prey into luring him to move in all sorts of ways,” she explains.
Let your dog sniff out a treat in your hand.
Move your arm in a wide circle around the dog as you give the cue, “spin.”.
Encourage your dog to follow his nose to spin in a circle, and reward him with the treat.
Once your dog realizes this trick, graduate to only using the word “spin” or making a circular hand or arm gesture to elicit the behavior. (You can also teach a follow-up command like “rewind” or “reverse” and train your dog to spin in the opposite direction.).
Teach a Dog to Crawl Through a Tunnel.Dog Teach A Dog How To Sit
You never even need a tunnel for this trick!
Do not worry, you usually do not actually need a tunnel for this trick– a row of office chairs works just fine. “It’s a really fun trick but also a great canine conditioning exercise,” Sundance says.
Use a treat to lure your dog to get down on his belly and crawl under a seat (it should look like army crawling), afterwards reward.
Add an additional seat and repeat the first step.
Keep adding office chairs and gradually move the treat even farther away from the end of the row of chairs so your dog learns to crawl completely through the “tunnel” to earn his treat.
Teach a Dog to Shake Hands (or High-Five).
Teaching your dog to high-five is fairly simple!
Is there anything more adorable than a handshake (or a high-five) from your best pal? This trick requires that your dog already knows “sit”.
Ask your dog to “sit”.
Gently tickle the back of her leg until she lifts her paw, while using commands like “give paw” or “shake.”.
Reach for her paw and reward with a treat for completing the handshake. The same steps can be applied for a “high-five” command; hide a treat in your fist and try to get your dog to paw at your hand while using the “give a high-five” cue, eventually opening up your fist and rewarding your dog for pawing your open palm.
Teach a Dog to Roll Over.
When your dog can follow the cue for “down,” you can advance to the “roll over” command. Just try to keep your hands off your pooch when teaching this one. “We instinctively want to teach our dogs by physically manipulating them, but when a dog gives up his initiative, it actually slows down the learning process,” Sundance explains. “Instead, always use treats, toys or other rewards to lure your dog into the correct body positions on his own.”.
Apply your dog in the “down” position.
Using a treat, guide your dog’s nose over his shoulder to encourage him to displace his weight to seek out the treat, while giving the cue “roll over.”.
Continue the motion until his body fully rolls over, subsequently give the reward.
Teach a Dog to Act Shy.
” One of Beasley’s more unique and amusing tricks is acting shy by covering his eyes … it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser,” Joy says.
Place a small piece of masking tape on your dog’s nose.
A lot of dogs will immediately attempt to bat off the tape with their paw; as the dog brings her paw to her nose, use a cue like “good shy” and reward the behavior.
Repeat until your dog comprehends the command without using tape and will react to the word “shy” (such as “Never be shy”).
Teach a Dog to Retrieve a Drink From the Cooler.
Teaching a dog to get a drink from the fridge is a little more intricate– but it can be done!
Even though this is definitely a more advanced trick, the use of an especially tasty treat and a lot of patience and repetition can make it happen. Your dog should already know the commands for “fetch” and “drop,” and you may wish to first use those commands to teach your dog to play fetch with an empty can of soda.
Tie a dish towel on the handle of the freezer or fridge door with a knot at the end (Sundance notes it’s best to leave the door open slightly when first exposing this trick to your dog). Suggest your chosen cue, like “bring me a soda.”.
Insert a piece of hot dog or another delectable treat into the knot at the end so the dog is attracted to the towel and learns to pull on it to retrieve his treat. Repeat command and reward with praise and additional treats for pulling on the towel and opening the door.
Use the command for “fetch” while pointing to the soda can. If needed, place the can in the dog’s mouth while using the cue, and reward with a treat.
Use the “drop” command to encourage your dog to place the drink into your hand. Reward this action with treats and praise. Continue moving further away from the refrigerator while giving these commands.
To teach the dog to close the family fridge door, dangle a treat in a position that will prompt your dog to get on his hind legs and place his front paws on the door, while using a command like “close it.”.
Train A Stubborn Dog.
What’s happening when your dog seemingly disregards you, and what can you do about it?
We ask and expect a lot of our dogs, sometimes even expecting a new dog in the home to recognize all of the house rules and boundaries on the first day!
Even with our language skills, you or I would need time to settle in to a new environment. Dogs need time to settle in as well. It doesn’t mean they can do excess things like knocking trash cans over– it means we need to be patient as we begin showing the dog his new home.
Step 1: Be patient when training a new (or old) dog new skills.
Realize that dogs really do need training. They never arrive already realizing our human-made house rules.
Step 2: Provide
extraordinarily clear communication skills.
Let’s take a dog continually jumping on people in the home. If one pet parent consistently asks for an incompatible behavior– let’s say a sit– and often rewards that sit, the dog will begin to sit and will cease jumping if he gets zero out of it.Dog Teach A Dog How To Sit
But after that when the other pet parent comes home from work, he or she enjoys the dog jumping up to say hello and inadvertently reinforces that behavior by playing with the dog, perhaps even patting him on the sides and talking joyfully to him. This dog is getting very mixed information.
Some dogs are good at weaving their way through people in the same home reinforcing a behavior one day and other people correcting that same behavior another day. Most dogs are simply confused because we haven’t communicated the behavior we do wish clearly enough. Agree on your house rules before you bring a dog into your home, and then all work together to reinforce the behavior really wanted.
Step 3: Repetition, repetition, repetition.
I train new skills at home first because it’s a quiet, private space exactly where I can control what’s happening in the environment. Imagine a young elementary school student trying to learn math problems with other kids running around the playground, chasing each other and laughing. It’s hard to focus.
You can set your training sessions up for success by first teaching your dog in a calm setting. Once you have reinforced your dog’s new skill with terrific food many, many times in the home, and once he’s giving you the asked-for behavior 90 percent of the time in that environment, and then take it to the backyard or front porch (on leash in unfenced areas).
Be aware of your dog’s incredibly powerful nose that kicks into high gear outside or in new environments. You could first do a sniffing nose walk around your backyard and at that time begin the training session. Or, ask for something the dog knows well, such as a sit and just after he sits, tell him “Let’s go explore!” and walk or run around the yard.
Step 4: Realize that some things are harder than others for dogs.
Dogs do what works– for them. Therefore, it’s in our own best interest to have the behaviors we desire for our dog work best for them as well. Two skills that seem hardest for dog parents to teach consistently are “leave it” and a solid recall. Both skills are vital and can even be life saving.
What is associated from the dog’s point of view in these two skills? His nose. It takes him right to that delicious piece of hamburger meat you accidentally dropped on the kitchen floor. And his nose is leading him to run away from you at a dead run while he chases the scent of the wild rabbit that hopped through his yard.
Instead of fighting that powerful nose, work with it. For example, when teaching “leave it,” ask your dog to leave a boring piece of kibble. The second he removes his nose from it, mark with a “Yes!” and give him a much better-smelling meat reward. A dog can learn to leave things once he comprehends that doing so will get him a much better reward.
Teaching even a stubborn dog a good recall.
Realize– treats like meat and cheese go a long way when training a stubborn dog! Photography © mdmilliman|Getty Images.
Entire books and DVDs have been created to help dog parents teach a solid recall, something all dogs should know. While we tend not to have the space here to delve deep into this cue, I can give you some quick pointers.
Prepare teaching a recall off leash inside your home. Use your cue word to call your dog in for meals. Use your cue to call your dog for a walk. Reinforce recalls with truly excellent meat or cheese reinforcers when your dog does come to you. Call your dog five to 10 times a day in your home and back up as he comes bounding to you to engage him even more.
Ovation and treat, praise and treat. When he is super worked up to come to you, take it outside to your backyard or other calm, fenced location. Do not punish a dog who is coming to you, even if it took him longer than you longed.
The final word on teaching a stubborn dog or a dog who outwardly doesn’t hear.
All in all, it’s far more likely that we need to take a step back in our own communication skills than it is that a dog is purposefully ignoring us. We have the bigger brain (and thumbs!), so let’s work to employ that intelligence and set our dogs up to succeed.
Still need help training a stubborn dog?
What if you have done all the recommended steps above and Fido STILL overlooks you? Here are some other things to consider:.
What reinforcers are you utilizing and are they truly exciting for your dog? Some dogs, for example, will do anything for a chance to play fetch, so a ball outranks a piece of cheese.
Is the skill too new for the environment you are asking your dog to show?
Have you insufficiently trained the skill in a calm setting first?
If your dog is brushing off your cue, back up in his training to the last spot where exactly he was.
performing well, and start anew from that spot.
Some dogs do seemingly go a bit deaf as they go through adolescence. Keep with the program, and you will accept a nicely trained mature dog on the other side of the teenage years.
Teach Your Dog The Baiscs.
Having a trained dog isn’t the same as having a nutritious dog, but if your dog knows a few basic commands, it can be helpful when engaging in problem behaviors– existing ones or those that may form in the near future.
So just where do you start with dog obedience training? You could take a class, but it’s not necessary; you can do it yourself. With the right attitude, it can be fun for both you and your dog!
This is one of the easiest dog obedience commands to teach, so it’s a good one to start with.
Take a treat close to your dog’s nose.
Move your hand up, allowing his head to follow the treat and causing his bottom to lower.
Once he’s in sitting position, say “Sit,” give him the treat, and share affection.
Repeat this sequence a few times every day until your dog has it mastered. And then ask your dog to sit before mealtime, when leaving for walks, and during other situations just where you ‘d like him calm and seated.Dog Teach A Dog How To Sit
This command can help keep a dog out of trouble, bringing him back to you if you lose grip on the leash or accidentally leave the front door open.
Leave a leash and collar on your dog.
Go down to his level and say, “Come,” while gently pulling on the leash.
When he gets to you, reward him with affection and a treat.
Once he’s mastered it with the leash, remove it– and practice the command in a safe, enclosed area.
This can be one of the more tough commands in dog obedience training. Why? Because the position is a submissive posture. You can help by keeping training positive and relaxed, particularly with fearful or anxious dogs.
Find a particularly good smelling treat, and hold it in your closed fist.
Hold up your hand up to your dog’s snout. When he sniffs it, move your hand to the floor, so he follows.
At that point slide your hand along the ground in front of him to encourage his body to follow his head.
Once he’s in the down position, say “Down,” give him the treat, and share affection.
Repeat it every day. If your dog tries to sit up or lunges toward your hand, say “No” and take your hand away. Do not push him into a down position, and encourage every step your dog takes toward the right position. He’s working hard to figure it out!
Before attempting this one, make sure your dog is an expert at the “Sit” command.
Ask your dog to “Sit.”.
And then open the palm of your hand in front of you, and say “Stay.”.
Take a few steps back. Reward him with a treat and affection if he stays.
Gradually increase the number of steps you take before giving the treat.
Always reward your pup for staying set– even if it’s just for a few seconds.
This is an exercise in self-control for your dog, so do not be discouraged if it takes a while to master, particularly for puppies and high-energy dogs. They really want to be on the move and not just sitting there waiting.
This can help keep your dog safe when his curiosity gets the better of him, like if he smells something stimulating but possibly dangerous on the ground! The goal is to teach your pup that he gets something even better for disregarding the other item.
Place a treat in both hands.
Show him one enclosed fist with the treat inside, and say, “Leave it.”.
Let him lick, sniff, mouth, paw, and bark to try to get it– and ignore the behaviors.
Once he stops trying, give him the treat from the other hand.
Repeat until your dog moves away from that first fist when you say, “Leave it.”.
Next, only give your dog the treat when he moves away from that first fist and also looks up at you.
Once your dog consistently moves away from the first treat and gives you eye contact when you say the command, you’re ready to take it up a notch. For this, use two different treats– one that’s just all right and one that’s a particularly good smelling and tasty favorite for your pup.
Say “Leave it,” place the less attractive treat on the floor, and cover it with your hand.
Wait until your dog brushes off that treat and looks at you. At that time remove that treat from the floor, give him the better treat and share affection immediately.
Once he’s got it, place the less tasty treat on the floor … but do not completely cover it with your hand. Instead hold it a little bit above the treat. Over time, gradually move your hand a greater distance and farther away until your hand is about 6 inches above.
Now he’s ready to practice with you standing up! Follow the same steps, but if he tries to snatch the less tasty treat, cover it with your foot.
Don’t rush the process. Remember, you’re asking a lot of your dog. If you take it up a notch and he’s really struggling, go back to the previous phase.
Advising your dog to high-five is fairly simple! When your dog can follow the cue for “down,” you can advance to the “roll over” command. “We instinctively want to teach our dogs by physically manipulating them, but when a dog gives up his initiative, it actually slows down the learning process,” Sundance explains. Put forth your cue to call your dog for a walk. All in all, it’s far more likely that we need to take a step back in our own communication skills than it is that a dog is purposefully disregarding us.
There are so many great tricks you an teach a dog. Heres one Just To Get You Started