Trick training, along with being flashy, stimulates the dog physically and mentally.
It also gives the owner something to do with his dog, and that increases the quality time spent between the two. So, there are a lot of reasons why we do it and that’s part of why I am talking about it today.
Now, let’s jump in, shall we? For those of you that have never trained a dog before don’t worry. I’m going to start off with some easy ones first:
1. The Wag
Okay, so: A very easy trick is “wag your tail.” If you say this to your dog excitedly, he’ll wag his tail. Now before you write this off as not being a trick, and instead being something the dog normally does, let me stop you.
You’re exactly right! But that’s what we want. We want the dog to do everything that they would naturally do… the only difference being that now we put all of these actions into our context. And those of you that have seen, or read, or listened to, or even watched in person some of our other lessons will get exactly what we are saying here: you will get there faster when you work with Mother Nature instead of against her.
2. The Basic Kiss
Another pretty simple trick is, “give me a kiss”.
Now, normally, all that’s necessary is to put your face near your dog and say “give me a kiss.” However, if your dog maybe doesn’t like to lick your face, you can stimulate this by putting a little pat of butter on your cheek and bending down.
Your dog will be very happy to learn to lick the butter off and then pick up the trick from there. So, you obviously want to pair that with the command (always use the same command, and I will mention that again later) of “give me a kiss,” and put your face down there. And then one of those times it won’t have the butter on it, but you will have engrained the behavior enough that you have it.
Does that make sense? All right, let’s move up from there.
3. The Lady’s Kiss
A second trick that you might try using “kiss” (the one we just learned) is “go kiss the lady.” Well, by using a pat of butter on a lady’s hand, through repetition, the dog learns to kiss the lady’s hand, but kiss everybody else on the face. So already we’re getting some distinction and some nuance here, so hopefully you can see where this is building.
Tricks are easy-not just these tricks, almost all tricks… if you know how. We’re still in the little leagues. We’re going to move up to the big leagues soon.
4. The Shake
Another easy trick is teaching your dog to shake hands, or “give me five.” By putting your hand in front of the dog, the dog will generally give you his paw. If he doesn’t, just by the act of you reaching for it or grabbing it, he’s going to learn to give you his paw. You can have the dog give you his right paw or left paw by lightly pulling to one side or another on the dog’s collar. That will shift his weight a little bit and he will put his free paw up to you.
So, what you need to do is, you need to again pair that with a command. So let’s say we’re doing the “give me your paw” or “give me five” (or whichever): put your hand out. If it works, awesome! Reward with a treat.
Try that several times before you move to the advanced of picking which one (left paw, right paw whichever command you want to use), and then, tilt them at first and then when you’ve worked up to this command far enough you won’t have to tilt them any further.
5. The Bark
Next, obviously is “speak,” because that’s a pretty easy one. Most dogs learn to speak very easily. It’s interesting but just telling them, “speak; speak” in a very excited voice will get results. Now with some, the added incentive of a piece of food gives them the idea. Unlike when we are doing obedience training, in tricks we use food incentives all the time.
Now, one of the interesting things I want to point out here, I know some of you guys are listening to this and you’re thinking, “man, these are really easy,” and “these aren’t really anything.” But let’s go back a second.
Let’s take “speak,” for example. Well let’s say you’re training in German because maybe you are working with a Protection dog. “Speak,” being a bark, is frightening to bad guys.
Now, of course you don’t say the word “speak” because if you say the word “speak” they’re going to think “oh, the dog’s doing a trick” and not “the dog wants to eat my face.” But, do you get the direction I’m going with this?
If the command were, say, “watch him,” or the command were “bad guy,” or whatever it is – it could be hamburger if you want, quite honestly – but whatever the command is, for example, let’s say you’re doing it in German well now you’ve got a dog who is barking on command and if he sees a bad guy and you’ve got him barking on command, you’ve got something there. Do you follow where this is sort of going?
6. The Basic Jump
Jumping tricks are always very impressive. The best way to begin these is you start with an AKC jump (it’s basically a wall). You start the dog jumping at about eight inches and as they jump you’re going along with them (actually over with the dog). Once they get the idea, you can put the dog on a “sit/stay” on one side of the jump and call him over. The command used for jumping would be “hup.”
The American Kennel Club requires a dog to jump up to one and a half times his height. For those of you that are curious: the heavier dogs, such as the Bull Mastiff or Bulldog, generally can only jump one time their height. So practice accordingly depending on the size of your dog.
Once your dog is jumping happily, you can move on to more jumping tricks.
7. The Basic Retrieve
For retrieving tricks, you want to use one item at a time until the dog learns to associate the item with its name. So the best way to begin this is to start by throwing the item and having the dog retrieve it. Once he shows enthusiasm for it:
- have him sit/stay by your side;
- throw the item;
- wait three or four seconds;
- then, allow him to go get it.