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Teaching Your Dog Tricks

By Brandi Barker
Updated: 2010-02-09 9:53 PM 2809 Views    Category: Training
 
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Tricks are a fun way to revive your training program and enhance your relationship with your dog.   When introducing a new trick, it is amazing how we humans lighten our mood and body language. Tricks are a great way to recharge your dog’s brain and body.


Play dead To start this trick, you want to make sure your dog is fairly relaxed and has a reliable “down”.   Once your dog is calmly lying down, wait for a shift in hips.   If your dog lies on the left hip, place the treat at her nose and very slowly draw an imaginary line with a treat lure or your “touch” along the right jaw line. Keep your hand low so your dog follows and lays her head on the ground, cue “play dead” as soon as your dog is lying stationary on the left side.   Repeat “down”, “play dead” and lure into the lying position a couple times, “yes” and treat for non-movement .   Next, say “down”, “play dead” and point your finger to the ground before luring.   If your dog responds, say “yes” and give a treat.   With practice, you can add more duration so your dog will “play dead” until you release her.   You can get creative with this trick by saying “bang, down” then “bang, play dead” then fading “down” and “play dead” so your dog drops into a down and lying position in response to “bang, bang”.   Cute party trick!


Fetch   Keep in mind you are asking your dog for multiple behaviors with this game: run away; pick up a toy; carry the toy to you and drop.   Some dogs catch on to this very quickly while others need you to break it up into multiple steps.   Start with a favorite toy and move it around a bit to get your dog excited but keep it low so you do not encourage jumping.   Toss or roll the ball a couple feet away ONLY.  


Do not move from your original position, you want your dog walk or run to the toy all on his or her own.   Say “yes” if your dog walks towards it.   Continue to give verbal praise for every step your dog takes to the toy.   If your dog touches the toy or picks it up, continue giving feedback.   If your dog takes a step towards you with the toy in their mouth, increase the volume of your verbal praise so your dog knows she is on the right track.   Some dogs will drop the toy a couple feet away from you. If that occurs, pick the toy up and put it away.   You do not want to get in the habit of playing fetch for your dog.   Try again until your dog understands the game continues when the toy is brought to you.


Some dogs get so excited with this game that they run right past you with their toy. Do not chase your dog.   Next time you work on your fetch game, have a second toy handy to squeak or move about to get your dog to drop their first toy directly in front of you.  


For dogs that do not catch onto this right away, repeat each step every day until your dog is reliably responding to that step. Then, only praise for response to the next step.   For example, this week’s goal may be to praise for walking towards the toy; next week you say nothing for walking towards it but wait for your dog to touch it.   Tons of praise when that occurs then only praise for picking up the toy.    Remember, your dog may not understand all the steps in the process, so help her along by giving feedback for every behavior in this game.


Speak The easiest way to teach this trick is to anticipate what causes your dog to bark.   Some dogs LOVE to hear themselves bark so please keep in mind that if you reinforce this behavior, your dog will enjoy barking even more.   One of my favorite ways to cue this is by making a loud noise that does not often occur such as knocking on the refrigerator or making silly noise.   This helps prevent unwanted barking with visitors, passersby or at meal times.   Be ready with some treats, and say “speak” before you pound on the refrigerator. Once your dog barks say “yes” and treat.    When your dog is responding nicely to the knock and verbal cue, simply say “speak” and give happy verbal praise for barking.   You can then cue “shush” and heavily reinforce for ceasing of barking so your dog becomes silent when you are ready; great way to train your dog to quiet on command.


Beg  Start with your dog in a “sit” position and either use a treat or your “touch” starting at the nose and draw it upwards so your dog’s front two paws lift into the air.   Cue “beg”, say “yes” then treat.   Do this a few times.   Next, require your dog to maintain the position a little longer, only rewarding if she remains in the position for 2-3 seconds.   Once your dog is holding the “beg” position for a few seconds, fade your hand cue by requesting “beg” and giving your dog a moment to consider what you are asking.   If your dog raises her forequarters in air, say “yes” and treat.  This trick is a little more difficult for large dogs, it is helpful to use a couch or wall to support your large dog’s back.  


Wave You will need a basic “shake” to teach your dog to “wave”.   Get your dog into a “sit” and simply hold a treat in a closed fist right at the nose.  You want your dog to sniff at your hand to get the treat then resort to using the paw when sniffing is unsuccessful.  When that occurs, cue “shake”, say “yes” and give the treat.  This trick is best suited for dogs that have already been trained to take treats gently from human hands.  


Once your dog reliably responds to “shake” when you present your hand, introduce your new cue “wave” then present your hand. Do this a few times, then say “wave” and only briefly show your hand.  Be quick with the treat so your dog does not get frustrated with the new expectation.  Do this a few times until your dog is pawing at the air with just a quick flash of your hand.  Lastly, say “wave” and praise and treat your dog for pawing at the air without your hand to cue the behavior.

 

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With the last name “Barker”, Brandi was destined to work with dogs! A lifelong animal lover; she formally began training dogs in 2001 when she completed her apprenticeship at the Anti-Cruelty Society. In the classroom, she honed her interpretation of canine body language, developed a toolbox of effective behavior modification techniques and fine-tuned her communication skills with dogs and people while only using reward-based techniques. Brandi completed her Master's degree at DePaul University in Developing Behavior Management Practices to Enhance Understanding in Human/Animal Relationships and is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Brandi's unique achievements gave her a solid foundation in animal learning theory, ethology and operant and classical conditioning. She uses this knowledge in conjunction with the active listening, relationship development and creative problem solving skills she acquired from a decade in the corporate world. Brandi is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and her philosophy incorporates attainable goals into every day life with a lot of patience, fairness and fun…for humans and dogs.
 
 
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