Ten Tricks to Teach Your Dog

Basic obedience is foundational to training your dog’s character early and having proper control over him. Once this has been established, teaching your dog a few tricks can be fun and rewarding for both pet and owner as he receives treats and praise for his efforts and you feel a sense of pride over having a hand in his accomplishments. Reciting the tricks regularly will help your dog not to get rusty as well as keep him mentally stimulated which can be a great outlet especially in the  cold weather months.

1. SIT

This is usually one of the first things people teach their dogs, and forms part of basic obedience training. It can also be one of the most useful things to teach your pet. A sitting dog will be less frightening for those nervous of dogs; it’s an alternative action to jumping up when meeting people (and one he can be rewarded for!); always asking him to ‘Sit’ before crossing a road will ensure he pauses rather than stepping straight out into passing traffic; and even if he doesn’t have a great stay or recall, a well-established and ingrained sit can drop him on the spot in an emergency.

The sit is very easy to teach. Hold a tasty treat in your hand just in front of your dog’s nose and allow him to smell it but not eat it. Very slowly bring the treat up and back over his head; as his nose comes up following the treat, his back end will lower until he’s sitting. Once he’s sitting, praise and reward him. Practice at every opportunity — not just during training sessions, but asking him to ‘Sit’ before having his collar and lead put on, or before getting his dinner (which then also becomes the reward). As he gets the idea, phase out holding a treat in your hand (but not the praise and reward), and gradually begin to make your hand signal more subtle. Attach a verbal command, and practise both so he’ll respond promptly to either a gesture or your voice.

2. COMMANDO CRAWL

Ask your dog to lie down, and then holding a treat just in front of his nose, use it to lure him forwards in a commando crawl. Move the treat slowly and keep it close to the ground; praise and reward every small movement at first, gradually increasing the distance you ask him to go until he can wiggle along on his tummy. This can be a handy trick if you come across a barrier you can’t lift him over while out on a walk — he can crawl under it instead.

3. LEG WEAVE

This looks really impressive but is actually very simple to teach. Hold a small treat in each hand and stand with your feet spaced far enough apart so that your dog can comfortably pass through them. Start with your dog in front of you, and lure him through your legs by holding the treat in your right hand behind your right leg. Move it forward and around your right leg as he follows it. As he comes level with your knee, praise and reward, and then use the treat in your left hand to encourage him to move through your legs again, but this time luring him round to your left hand side.

Once he’s managing a single figure of eight with confidence, begin asking him to do one and a half, and then two continuous weaves, gradually increasing the number before rewarding. This is a great exercise for increasing coordination and agility, but does require a lot of concentration, so build it up in easy stages. As he starts finding it easier you’ll find he becomes faster, but don’t rush him while he’s still learning. As he grasps what you want him to do, you’ll find you’ll also be able to start straightening up and giving more subtle hand signals.

4. TAKE A BOW

While your dog is standing facing you, take a small treat in one hand and place it right in front of his nose. Very slowly lower the treat towards the ground just between his front paws; as his nose follows it his front end will go downwards while his back end stays in the air, making it look as though he’s taking a bow. Praise and reward him. Gradually increase the time he stays in the bow, and also begin moving your hand less, but continue to bend forwards — this becomes your cue, but to anyone watching it will look as though you’re politely bowing to each other.

5. ROLL OVER

Ask your dog to lie down, and then use a treat to lure him into lying on his side by placing it just in front of his nose and bringing it slowly round towards his shoulder. When he’s comfortable about doing this, bring your hand round a bit further towards his spine, and as his nose follows the treat take it a bit further still until he rolls right over. Once he’s confident with rolling over you can attach a cue word just before he goes over so he begins to associate it with the action.

6.PLAY DEAD

Have your dog lie down on his tummy. As you gently roll him over on his side, say, “Take a nap.” While he is lying on his side, keeping his head on the floor, say, “Take a nap.” Don’t give him a treat. Encourage him to stay there for a couple of seconds. Then say, “Ok” or “Wake up!”, let him stand up, and give him his reward.You can use the treat to lure your dog into a lying down position. Don’t give your a dog a reward while he is lying down. Give him a treat after he has completed the trick.

7. CATCH

Learning to catch a treat isn’t always as easy for your dog as you might think, and it can take time for him to perfect the necessary coordination, so be patient with him if he fluffs it at first. Make your throws easy to start with, throwing upwards and towards his mouth — it helps if you use slightly larger treats rather than tiny ones. If he doesn’t make much of an effort, but just lets the treat bounce off his nose and on to the floor, be ready to beat him to it and pick it up before he can eat it so he doesn’t end up getting a reward for doing nothing. As he starts to get better at catching the treat, you can begin to use smaller ones and to throw them a little to the side to make it more challenging.

8. BALANCE THE TREAT

This requires a huge amount of self-control from your dog as well as the ability to stay motionless until you release him. Ask him to sit and gently support his chin with one hand so his nose is parallel to the ground while you place a biscuit on top of it. Use a treat which is a bit boring rather than super-tempting. To start with, gently hold the biscuit in place for a second, then remove it, and praise and reward him.

Gradually increase the time you hold the treat there, then progress to letting go of it and increasing the time you can do that, and then to briefly removing your hand from beneath his chin. Build up the time he can manage to keep it balanced on his nose, and either finish the trick by telling him ‘OK’ so he can tilt his head and let the biscuit fall to the floor, or if he’s good at catching, say ‘Catch’ to encourage him to flip the treat in the air and catch it.

9. WIPE YOUR FACE

Make it look as though your dog is cleaning his face by gently sticking a Post-it note to the top of his muzzle. Most dogs will bring a paw up to wipe the annoying piece of paper off. When he does, praise and reward him and repeat, using another Post-it if he’s dislodged the first one. Once he’s consistently bringing his paw up to wipe his face, attach a cue word, and keep practicing until he’s made the association and you can do away with the Post-its. Don’t use anything stickier than a Post-it note as it will stick too firmly to his fur and will hurt him when he tries to remove it.

10. SHAKE HANDS

Start by having your dog sit. Say, “Shake hands,” and take his paw with your hand. Hold his paw and say, “Good dog!” Let go of his paw. Do this a few times every day.After a while, say, “Shake hands,” but don’t take his paw. See if he raises his paw by himself. If not, keep showing him what to do by saying, “Shake hands,” and taking his paw with your hand. Your dog is not slow; he is just learning!

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