What type of tricks can I train my dog to do?
24th July, 2019
Teaching your dog to do tricks and commands is one of the best bonding experiences you can have with your pet.
As the RSCPA tells us, good training sessions can improve a pup’s quality of life. It can also keep you both active, beat boredom and give you greater control over your pet’s safety when you’re out and about on walkies.
What type of tricks can I train my dog to do?
Training your dog to perform tricks not only provides a fun and engaging activity for both you and your pet, but it also helps to stimulate their mental and physical capabilities. Regarding dog tricks, the list is extensive and dependent largely on your dog's breed, age, and temperament.
For beginners, simple commands such as sit, stay, and lay down are usually the first steps in trick training. As your dog masters these commands, you can progressively introduce more complex tricks like roll over, shake paws, play dead or even fetch specific items.
High-energy dogs might enjoy learning tricks that involve more physical exertion, such as jumping through hoops or weaving through poles. For dogs that are more mentally stimulated, fun dog tricks like identifying toys by name or sorting objects by colour or size can be a rewarding challenge.
Remember, consistent positive reinforcement is key in any kind of dog training. Always reward your dog with praise, a dog treat or playtime when they successfully perform a dog trick. With patience and persistence, your four-legged friend will soon be impressing family and friends with their new tricks.
Mastering the basic commands
Before you get on to teaching your puppy (or old dog!) new tricks, you’ll need to get the basics nailed down. Remember, even these basic commands are like tricks to your pooch, even though they will be taught primarily for their own safety.
Having a good grasp of the basic commands means you’ll have a canine companion that is calmer, happier and well behaved, as the Blue Cross explains.
Reward is the key motivator for your dog training. If it gets rewarded for a certain action, it’s much more likely to repeat it – and this positive reinforcement with a treat or affection is the quickest way your dog will learn any new trick or skill.
Some of the basic commands that you should teach their dog include:
Sit – Crucial for when you’re out walking with your dog and you need it to wait on the pavement before crossing. It’s also better for your dog to sit when they meet new people, rather than jumping up, especially when being introduced to children.
Stay – This essential command will help keep your dog out of trouble, either keeping them away from other dogs or stopping them from running into traffic.
Come – You must be able to call your dog back to you when you’re out and about, and that means mastering the Come command. Expert dog trainer and author Brandon McMillan says that teaching a dog to come to you is easiest after they’ve mastered the skill to stay, so always teach your dog these commands in that order.
No – To be used whenever you want your dog to drop something or be warned away from danger. This should make them stop whatever they’re doing immediately.
Off – If you don’t want your furniture ruined by your dog, Off is a key command to have at your disposal. McMillan recommends turning your back on your dog when they jump up to ensure you’re not giving the bad behaviour any attention.
Heel – Walking with your dog should be a pleasure not a chore, so the Heel command is definitely one to practice, especially if you have a large or boisterous pup that is hard to control in public.
4 fun tricks to teach your dog
Once you’ve got the basic commands under your belt, it’s time to have some fun! Teaching your dog some simple and fun tricks is not only fun for you, but it also helps with their mental agility – and of course they get rewarded with a sweet treat when they get it right!
Shaking hands (or paws) is the perfectly polite way to greet friends and family and shouldn’t take very long to master if you practice for about five minutes every day. As with most tricks, you need to use a treat as positive reinforcement.
Show your pup the treat in your hand, then close your fist and place it next to your dog’s paw just a few inches off the ground. When he lifts his paw to touch your hand with the treat inside, reward him and catch his paw with your other hand.
Repeat the process, rewarding as you go, adding in the word ‘Shake’ later on as you take his paw. Keep repeating the process until you can eventually do it without any treats.
Imagine your partner coming home from work and being greeted with a little waving puppy in the window! The waving trick is relatively easy dog trick to teach with the positive reinforcement method using your pooch’s favourite toy or treat. Check out this video from the RSPCA that shows you exactly how to master this trick, step by step.
Learning the ‘lie down’ command beforehand will help your dog learn the ‘play dead’ trick. As The Spruce Pets explains, you should hold a treat close to your dog’s nose and then move it to the side so he has to roll over to get it. Reward and repeat as necessary, adding in a fun word like ‘bang!’ when your dog has got the hang of it.
Take a bow
This trick is actually something dogs naturally will do. When they stretch, dogs tend to go into the ‘downward dog’ position, so all you need to do is say ‘take a bow!’ and then reinforce the behaviour with a treat when you see them doing it.
Eventually, you should be able to say the command word without the tasty treats and your dog should go into this bow position on command.
Find the phone
If you regularly misplace your phone, this trick could be a real timesaver – if you think your pooch is gentle enough! Make sure you protect the phone with some sort of cover before introducing it to your dog.
Place it a few inches away from you, but in plain sight, and ask him to fetch, saying ‘yes’ as positive reinforcement the closer he gets. When the dog touches the phone, acknowledge the action with the words ‘find the phone’ and then reward the dog when he brings it back.
Repeat the game moving the phone further and further away each time.
What is the hardest thing to train a dog to do?
Training a dog can be an arduous but rewarding journey, with different tasks posing varying levels of difficulty. However, according to many professional dog trainers and behaviourists, the hardest thing to train a dog to do is achieving reliable recall, particularly in distraction-rich environments. Recall refers to a dog's ability to come when called, regardless of what they are doing or what distractions exist in their environment.
This task can be incredibly challenging for multiple reasons. Firstly, dogs are naturally curious creatures and their instinct to explore and chase can easily override any dog training when they are highly stimulated. Secondly, recall often involves teaching a dog to leave something that the dog loves, finds exciting or interesting and come back to you, which can be a tough sell for many dogs.
Dog training recall requires patience, consistency and a deep understanding of positive reinforcement techniques. It is not impossible, but it is a task that demands time and commitment from the trainer. Undeniably, it is the hardest thing to train a dog to do but when accomplished, it brings about a significant improvement in a dog's safety and the overall quality of their life.
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