Trick training is a lot of fun and is a great way to enhance communication between you and your dog. From teaching your dog to 'wave' at you or give you a 'high five' to having the dog roll over on cue, the possibilities for dog tricks are almost endless. As with all training, though, make sure that your dog is healthy and has no medical issues before starting the training process.
If your dog is resistant to perform a trick, do not punish her. An action that might be cute for you to watch might be uncomfortable for your dog to perform.
All training should be fun for you and your dog and if you include your kids in the teaching process all interactions between your dog and children must be closely monitored at all times. Be patient as your dog learns and use treats that motivate your dog to learn. (Meaty treats work best!)
Targeting is really useful for many situations and is often the first step to teaching a dog other tricks that can be useful, especially for people that have service dogs that perform various jobs. Targeting also helps a dog that is nervous of people approaching or being touched by hands to accept a hand coming towards him. It can also be a great trick to get your dog to come to you when he or she is called.
- Dogs are naturally curious so start by presenting your hand to your dog. As your dog goes towards your hand and touches it with his nose, praise him and give him a food reward. Take your hand away, put it behind your back, wait a second or two and then present it again.
- Repeat this exercise until your dog is touching your hand on a regular basis. When he is good at this task start adding the word ‘touch’ as he goes to touch your hand with his nose and after many repetitions you will find that he will respond as soon as you ask him to ‘touch.’ Try with both hands so that he gets used to touching both.
- When he is reliably touching your hand, use it around the home. Call your dog to come to you and as he gets close, extend your hand and ask him to ‘touch.’ Every touch should be rewarded at this point, some with praise and other touches with a treat.
- When your dog is responding well in the home, take the exercise outside where there are more distractions. Gradually increase the distance between you so that he has to travel to touch your hand. This is an impressive ‘trick’ that has many training benefits.
Teaching your dog to 'dance' with you can also be a fun bonding and learning experience, and at its higher levels doggie dancing even has its own name: Canine Freestyle!
- Hold a treat just above your dog’s nose and wait for your dog to nuzzle the treat to get it. When this happens give her the treat.
- When you have done a few repetitions, hold your hand a little higher, which will make her stretch more to get the reward.
- When she is good at doing this, hold your hand higher so now your dog has to lift herself up a little higher to get the reward.
- Keep repeating while gradually holding the treat higher and higher until she is ‘standing’ on her back legs. Wait for a second and then reward. Withhold the reward a little more each time you repeat the action until your dog is ‘dancing’ on her hind legs.
- Please be aware that this can cause stress on your dog’s hips and knees so do not repeat often and only let her ‘dance’ for less than ten seconds at a time.
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