Unique dog tricks are always a crowd-pleaser, but that’s not the only reason why you should consider training your dog to have their own arsenal of fun tricks. Read on to learn why training your pup to perform tricks can be beneficial to both you and your furry friend, as well as some easy training tricks that are sure to come in handy.
Why Encourage Mental Stimulation In Your Dog?
Learning tricks together can be a great way for your dog to get some much-needed mental stimulation. Creating a learning environment for your pup allows them to earn positive reinforcement in the form of treats or praise. It may also help your dog grasp important skills to use in day-to-day life (not just for impressing company).1
Not only that, but trick training also offers:
- A chance to bond, as you develop deeper patience with your dog and they learn the importance of obedience.
- An opportunity to hone your dog’s physical and mental health by stimulating their agility, confidence, and focus.
- A fun way for you to work off your dog’s seemingly-boundless energy, thus eliminating the boredom that could be at the root of bad behaviors (like shoe chewing or excessive barking).2
But before you start training your dog to do fancy, YouTube-worthy tricks, it’s important to cover the basics first. Make sure your dog has basic commands down: “sit,” “stay,” and “come” are some common ones. Build on the time and experience you spent potty training, house training, and leash training your pup.
The Power Of Positive Reinforcement: Ready Your Best Treats
Now, trick training can be a fairly straightforward process, but it does take a wellspring of patience and many practice sessions. Teaching your dog a new trick should follow a simple method: Cueing or commanding, letting your dog do the action, then rewarding — with a heavy emphasis on the reward part.
Dog trainers advise that trick training is not the time to scrimp on quality treats, as these really help contribute to keeping your dog motivated and eager to learn.3 Of course, you shouldn’t be short on verbal praise and belly rubs, either.
When you’re ready with your reinforcement, here’s how to get started.
Starting With The Basics: Easy Dog Tricks
The first step to having a fun dog who knows tons of cool tricks to show off to your friends and at the dog park? Mastering easy dog tricks. Here’s a shortlist of simple tricks and a how-to for each.
It’s always fun to watch your dog displaying good manners by shaking paws with guests. Here’s how to teach “shake” in a few simple steps:
- Position yourself comfortably across from your dog. Show that you have a treat ready.
- Build on your dog’s natural inclination to poke your hand to get at the treat. If they do this easily, say “Shake” and reward them immediately.
- If your dog needs more encouragement to move their paw or touch your hand, offer it. You can also try closing your hand around the treat to get them to poke or touch you.
- Always reward even the smallest effort with a treat.4
Fetch is an oldie but a goodie. Teaching your pup to play fetch is also a good basic skill to learn, as you can build on the skill later by training your dog to fetch specific items. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Start by choosing the right toy for your pup to play fetch. Your dog might have a preference for (or aversion to) putting certain toys in their mouths, or they might not show an interest in toys at all. This is fine — just be patient in framing or shaping the skill of fetch.
- Once you’ve selected a toy, the first step is to get your dog to look at it on command. Use a marker word or a clicker. The moment your dog learns to look at the chosen toy or item reliably on command, reward with a special treat.
- Progress to getting your dog to nose or touch the toy. Do this by withholding the treat once they’ve gotten comfortable with just looking or staying close to the item. Build on your dog’s desire to get the treat — they may try to nudge the item with their nose or paw. Reward this behavior immediately, and continue to do so until your dog can consistently achieve this action.
- The next step: Withhold treats until your dog is able to mouth the toy and pick it up. Again, reward with lots of positive reinforcement and treats at even the slightest improvement.
- Encourage your dog to bring the toy to you. Start by stepping back once and encouraging and commanding them to fetch the toy and bring it to you. Reward them when they do.5
This trick should be fairly easy for your dog to learn. It involves letting your dog follow the scent of the treat in your hand.
- Palm a treat in your hand, and let your dog get a good whiff of it. Move your hand to the side so your pup has to turn their head.
- Slowly move your arm in a wide arc, letting your dog follow your hand. Supply lots of positive reinforcement as they do.
- Give your dog the treat once they complete the spin. Repeat several times until they get the movement. Then, introduce the command “spin.”6
Leveling Up: Unique Tricks To Impress Your Friends And Family
Once your pup has mastered some basic tricks, it’s time to up the ante by teaching them some of these more elaborate, truly awesome tricks. Your friends will be delighted by your pup’s brilliance (and yours, for teaching them).
Encourage your dog to crawl stealthily around the house with this funny trick.
- Command your dog to lie down. Hold a treat a few inches from his nose, close to the ground.
- Encourage them to crawl forward to sniff at the treat. Reward the forward movement with the treat, but don’t reward your dog if they stand up to take the treat.
- Keep moving further back until your pup can reliably crawl a few feet forward to get the treat.7
This trick is both impressive and handy in everyday situations, like when you need your dog to back away from open doors or unsafe areas.
- Command your dog to stay. Walk back a few steps, and then turn to face them.
- Walk slowly towards your dog, leaning forward a little. This should encourage your dog to instinctively back up a little. Encourage this behavior with treats.
- Once your dog gets the idea, start introducing your chosen command (“Back up”).
- Reward your dog with treats and lots of praise when he does back up, even a little.8
Bring In The Groceries
Encourage your dog to help with chores. Believe it or not, some bigger dogs can actually be trained to carry grocery bags into the house.
- You will need a leash, an empty grocery bag, a can or two of food, and lots of treats.
- Leash your dog and guide them to the back of your car. Encourage them to hold the empty grocery bag in their mouths. Reward them when they do.
- Next, add one can of food to the bag. Continue to encourage your dog and offer lots of praise if they continue to sit or stand while holding the bag in their mouths. Go easy, and let them get used to the weight.
- If your dog can reliably hold the bag in their mouth, encourage them to walk a few paces back to the house by guiding them with a leash. Reward any positive movement with a treat and lots of praise.
- Eventually, teach your dog to walk farther and farther to the house from the car carrying the grocery bag. Introduce your chosen command phrase.9
The First Step Is Mastering Your Patience
Whether you’re trying to get all basic commands down or already moving on to more challenging, viral video-worthy feats, patience is key to success. You and your dog will need a lot of time and energy to master trick training. Being patient and positive will get you there sooner. Focus on enjoying this bonding time you have with your furry friend.