Teaching your dog tricks can be a fun and rewarding experience for both parties involved. You get the gratification of having an obedient dog while your dog gets fed delicious treats. What could be a better arrangement? Keep in mind that most of these require basic obedience beforehand, so if your dog won’t sit, stay or listen to a word you say, it might be too early to worry about these fundamental tricks.
With your dog sitting down, say, “Shake hands,” just before you take his paw into your hand. Holding his paw, say, “Good dog!” Repeat this about 5 times. The dog may not respond to your instruction immediately, but after a few days of practice he should be catching on.
Once your dog seems to be raising his paw with you, you can begin to say, “Shake hands,” without taking his paw. If your dog doesn’t respond, continue the training. If he does and shakes on his own, then you just taught your dog a new trick! Way to go!
The trick to teaching your dog to speak is to get him very excited by asking him to play with his favorite ball or something similar. After a few seconds of not being given the ball, your dog will probably bark on his own, so as soon as this happens, say “Good dog! Speak!” and then play with him as a reward for the trick.
Over time, your dog will catch on that barking, or “speaking,” is a good behavior because of the positive reinforcement he gets from playing his favorite game. Once this happens, you’ll be able to tell your dog to speak at will! Just keep in mind that if your dog already has a barking problem, you might not want to teach him to “speak” if he doesn’t understand “quiet.”
Not all dogs will fetch naturally. Like any other trick, you need to give your dog some incentive to fetch at first, so take a tennis ball and fill it with treats, show your dog that there are treats inside and then throw it. Your dog should be more than willing to fetch the ball with the treats inside, but you should run along with her to give her the treats and say, “Good dog!” for a bit of reinforcement.
Now that your dog knows how to get the treat at the end of the fetch, you can begin to throw out balls without treats inside of them. The dog should continue to fetch, but will be disappointed at first and may stop fetching once the treats dry up. Continue training the dog to fetch with the treat-filled ball until one day when he no longer needs the treats to fetch!
4. Play Dead
First get your dog to lie on his tummy. You can usually do this by gently guiding his back downward and his tummy to the ground. Roll him over onto his back and say, “Play dead,” while making sure his head is against the ground. Encourage your dog to stay in the position for a couple of seconds until you say, “Wake up!” When your dog gets up give him his reward.
Remember to never give your dog the treat while lying down, although it is a good idea to use the treat to lure him into each step. As with the other tricks, this will take some practice. Eventually your dog will catch on and “play dead,” so be patient!
This one is contingent on your dog knowing how to shake hands, so make sure she knows that trick first. To start face your dog and hold your hand out like you’re going to shake hands. Instead of grabbing her paw when she lifts it, pull back your hand and say, “Wave!” Give your dog a treat.
This process will ensure that your dog understands that waving is different from shaking. Don’t be discouraged if your dog doesn’t raise her paw very high right away – this takes practice and can be encouraged by you waving along with her!
With all of these tricks, we can’t stress enough how important patience and positive reinforcement are to the process. Your dog won’t respond well to your frustration and will become downright confused, and you shouldn’t love your dog any less because she won’t wave on command every time.
Until next time, happy training!