Dog tricks are a great way to provide mental stimulation for your dog. Boredom can cause destructive behaviours like chewing, digging and barking.
We recommend all dogs be trained in the basic commands – sit, drop, come, stay and “leave it”. Most dog tricks build on the basic dog training commands.
Positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement means rewarding dog behaviours that you like. Take time to discover what kinds of rewards your dog really likes. It could be treats, praise, games, walks, toys or even car rides. When your dog does something you like, reward them for it.
What you need to teach dog tricks
To get started, you’ll need patience and a positive attitude, a stash of treats and a clicker or marker word.
The first step in teaching fetch is to figure out what your dog can comfortably hold in their mouth. It could be a ball or a plush toy.
Once you’ve figured this out, start by placing the item on the ground in front of you. Ask your dog to pick up the item and place your hand under it. Reward your dog when they put the item in your hand.
Next, you want your dog to understand they should pick up the item and bring it to you when you’re further away. Take a step back and ask your dog to bring the item to you. Reward them when they do.
Then move a few more steps back, encourage them and praise them when they move towards you. Reward them when they put to item in your hand.
Gradually increase the distance but be consistent when they get a reward.
Your dog must know how to “drop” or lie down to complete this trick.
Have your dog drop. Hold a treat by their nose and pull the treat from the tip of their nose towards their shoulder. If your dog turns their head to follow the treat, then continue to pull the treat around your dog’s shoulder so your dog will have to lie on their side to follow it.
Continue holding the treat close to your dog’s nose and pull it all the way around so it must roll all the way over to follow it. When your dog completes a full roll, mark, and reward them.
Your dog may not turn all the way around first go. If you need to, break it down into smaller parts.
With your dog lying down hold a treat by their nose and then pull the treat from the tip of its nose towards their shoulder. The moment your dog turns their head to follow the treat, praise or click and reward them. Eventually stop giving them a treat every time they turn their head and move on to the next part of the trick.
Add the “roll over!” command once your dog can consistently roll all the way over.
Your dog must know how to sit to complete this trick.
Have your dog sit. Hold a treat in one hand and show it to your dog. Close your fist.
Say “shake!” and wave your closed fist under your dog’s nose. As soon as your dog touches your hand with their paw, praise them and click or use a marker word, open your hand and give them the treat. Repeat and practice.
Over time, graduate to giving the treat from your other hand rather than the treat in your closed fist. Then stop using a treat in your closed fist altogether and reward them with your other hand every time they offer their paw.
Slowly decrease the number of times your dog receives a treat when they offer their paw. Soon you’ll only need to reward them occasionally to reinforce the behaviour.
When it comes to teaching dog tricks, here are some other important tips –
- One dog trick or command at time. This will help your dog stay focused. But if the training session is not going well, then switch to something they know and end the training session on a positive note.
- Avoid distractions. At first, train your dog in areas away from excessive noise or activity. Start somewhere quiet, like your living room, and work your way up to your yard, then an open space.
- Keep training sessions short. Maybe no more than 15 minutes. Puppies or easily distracted dogs may need even shorter sessions. If a training session is too long, your dog will get distracted or bored and start to make mistakes. Which brings us to our final point.
- Always end on a positive note. Every dog is different. And we all have our off days. If your dog can’t seem to focus or perform a desired behaviour, then switch to something they know for a few minutes before ending the training session. You want your training sessions to be fun and rewarding for your dog so they will love training with you.
This article is covering some very basic tricks if you want to learn more complex trick and create a problem solving genius. Check out our Shape, Solve & Roll Class here.