Teaching your dog to do tricks is great fun for both of you, and not only that but it also helps resolve a lot of problems that you can get with destructive dogs, as it stimulates the brain, and relieves the boredom that can sometimes lead to them to being destructive. By finding things to keep your dog occupied they will be less likely to look for other ways to amuse themselves which can sometimes be at the sake of your furniture and personal belongings.
Teaching your dog tricks can be very rewarding for you both, and once you start learning the basics you can move onto lots of different tricks. Today I am going to share with you a few simple tricks to teach your dog to get started.
What you will need
When teaching your dog tricks you need to think about how you are going to reward your dog, where you are going to train them and how long the training sessions are going to be.
When training or teaching a dog something a high reward treat is the best, I know from experience if I try to give one of my dogs a piece of their dried kibble as a treat it is not going to have the same effect as a piece of chicken or sausage. I also make a lot of homemade treats for my dogs so I tend to use those for training. One thing I will say is make sure whatever you give them is taken into account in their daily food allowance, otherwise your well-trained dog will also become your overweight dog. If your dog has two or 3 meal’s a day normally maybe take one of the meal’s food allowance to use for training treats.
Where you train your dog is also important, you need to find somewhere quiet without any distractions, when teaching your dog tricks, and also depending on the tricks you are teaching you will need to think about the space you will need. So if you are teaching your dog to give you its paw you won’t need much space but for something like rollover or fetch you will need more room to manoeuvre.
The length of time you spend teaching your dog a trick is important too, do not make the session too long as your dog will become bored and lose focus, this will just end up becoming frustrating for the both of you. There is no set time to spend on teaching your dog tricks and some may pick them up quicker than others, I generally recommend spending around 10-15 minutes at a time, and do this a few times a day. The same as when we are learning anything ourselves repetition is the best way to memorise things. So a few short sessions a day going over the same trick even if you think your dog has got it memorised is the best way to train.
And lastly, praise your dog, this is very important, your dog always wants to please you, so when they do something good or correct always give them lots of praise, be over the top with it, this is a great tip to use if you do not have a completely quiet area to train in, by being over the top with the praise and fuss especially when you see potential things that could distract your dog will help keep them focused on you and what you are doing.
Making a start
OK so you have your dog’s favourite treats, you have found an area where you can train them with enough room and free of distraction, you have decided you are going to make the first session around 10 minutes long so that your dog will not get bored, and you have remembered to give them lots of praise and a reward whenever they get something right. So to start with here are 3 simple tricks you can teach your dog, and once they are mastered you will be able to move on to others.
‘Shake a paw’
The first trick is probably the easiest trick to teach your dog, if you are starting to teach your dog tricks you should already have the basic training commands down like sit, stay and down etc.
The first thing you need to do is get your dog to sit, for this one you can maybe crouch or kneel in front of your dog if you find it easier, then say the word ‘paw’ whilst you take your dogs paw in your hand, and then give the dog a treat, repeat this a few times, then when you do it leave a short break before you take your dogs paw, so say ‘paw’ hold you hand out in front of your dog count to one then take the paw in your hand and reward, then after a few times count to two then take the paw in your hand, you should find that your dog is starting to bring their paw up to your hand as you say the word ‘paw’ themselves without you having to take it, when they do this make a fuss of them but do not get them overexcited, as this can lose focus, if they go back to not responding themselves when you say ‘paw’ slow it down again. After a few sessions most dogs pick this trick up quite easily and will do it eventually without needing any treats.
If you have already taught the ‘shake a paw’ trick then the ‘high five’ trick is just a progression of that. Raise your hand slightly higher than you did for the paw trick. Your dog will think you want to do the paw trick and will reach up to put their paw in your hand when they do turn your palm to face them so their paw touches your hand instead of resting in your hand, and as the paw touches say “high five” and give your dog a treat and praise them. Once your dog has mastered the ‘shake a paw’ trick this one will be really easy for them to learn and with just a few sessions they will be doing it just from a hand signal rather than voice control.
‘Jumping through hoops’
This trick will have your dog jumping through a hoop, it is slightly more complicated but still a pretty easy trick to teach your dog. Before you start you just need treats and a hula hoop, make sure when you start the trick you hold the hoop very close to the floor until your dog gets used to it.
Start by getting your dog to sit on one side of a hula hoop, while you stand to the side of it with your free hand the other side of the hoop from your dog with a treat visible in it. Make sure your dogs attention is on your hand on the other side of the hoop and give your dog the command you use to release them from the sit command to come to get the treat, at first they may attempt to go around or under the hoop, and if this happens just get them to sit and start again, your dog will soon learn that if they want the treat they will only get it if they go through the hoop, when they do say hoopla or whatever command you want to use and give them the treat. They will soon start going through the hoop on the command of hoopla when they realise they will get the treat. As your dog gets used to doing the trick slowly raise the hoop so that eventually they start jumping through it instead of just stepping through. Just remember to take it slowly and do not push your dog to jump at a height they are not comfortable with, as you do not want any injuries occurring.
Lastly have fun
Teaching your dog tricks can be a great way to have fun and bond with them. Start off with these simple tricks and then move on to others such as ‘rollover’, ‘play dead’ etc I will be putting up some more advanced tricks in the future so keep an eye out if you want to know more, also let us know if there are any tricks that you would like us to go through or any you have taught your own dogs, we would love to hear all about them.