Updated Aug 30, 2022
There's nothing quite like having your dog able to perform a few quick tricks. It's fun for you, and your dog loves it too. Your friends will laugh when they see it, and it's a real feelgood factor, all round.
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We need a first easy dog trick to get started, and a quick look at how and why your dog will learn to do it
Reward training is all the rage. Also known as positive reinforcement. And, if the reward/reinforcement is a treat, as it so often is, then it may be called 'treat training'
It may be everywhere as a recent fad but, really, it's been around since man and dog first joined forces. The first men to live with wolf cubs no doubt encouraged them with rewards — they gave them treats!
And modern reward training is also about giving your dog something he wants, in return for dong what you ask of him. The quick and easy way to implement reward training is by giving your dog treats
The issue with giving your dog treats for training purposes is the risk of over-feeding leading to an overweight dog.
We have an article that deals with this in more depth here: Dog treat training. But the gist of it is that you just reduce your dog's main meal to allow for what you have given him in the form of treats. And he is then able to have treats for training, whilst eating no more than usual.
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Make Teaching Dog Tricks Easy
So, that's the first thing you need, in order to teach your pet dog tricks — some small reward treats for positive reinforcement.
The second requirement is a quiet, peaceful and appropriate place where you won't get disturbed.
It can be difficult to find some quiet time, but it doesn't have to be for long — you need to keep the training sessions to 10-15 minutes, anyway, or your pet will probably start to get bored.
Keep in mind, when he gets something correct, offer him lots of praise and a reward treat. Just take care not to get him over-excited, or he will lose concentration.
Train Your Dog To Offer You His Paw
So, here is our first easy trick. This is a simple, fun trick to get both you, the dog owner, and your dog started.
The aim here will be to get to the point where your dog will perform this simple trick with a verbal cue only.
First have your dog sit. Next, take your canine's paw in your hand say the word 'paw', and offer him a treat.
After you have done this a couple of times, next time do not take his paw so quickly. Give the verbal command by saying 'Paw', wait a second or two, then take the paw.
You will probably notice that he is bringing his paw up as you say the word.
If he does not do this, return to saying 'paw' and taking the paw right away. Do this a few more times, then again wait before taking the paw.
After 2 or 3 sessions, most pet dogs pick this one up fairly easily.
We have started with the easiest trick, to get the ball rolling. Now let's advance a step further.
TTrain Your Dog To Do The High Five
Like a number of tricks, the 'High five' is a progression from an easier trick. In this case, the 'giving a paw' trick we have discussed.
It's a cool trick, that you will get a kick out of, and your dog will enjoy, too. Always a good one for impressing your friends and making them laugh.
Here we go...
Hold a reward in your fingers and raise your hand like you would for the paw trick, but this time a little higher. Your dog will believe you intend to do the paw trick and will lift his paw, as we taught him previously.
As he raises his paw, encourage him to lift it higher, then say 'High five' and reward him with a tasty treat
Once your dog has mastered the paw trick, this one should be very simple to follow on with. With just a couple of sessions, he will be doing it on a hand signal rather than the sound of your voice.
Train Your Dog To Jump Through A Hoop
Next in our trick training is jumping through a hoop. It's not as difficult to teach your dog as you might think,
One thing, though — if we're going to get our dog to jump through a hoop, we need to make sure not to hold the hoop too far off the ground. You don't want your dog to hurt himself while doing the trick.
Get your dog to sit on one side of a hula hoop. You want to first get the pet dog's attention on your hand which is on the other side of the hoop.
With a treat in your hand, give the canine a command to release him from the sit. Pick a word, such as 'Hoop', and, as with all training, use one word consistently.
Initially, he might try to walk around or under the hoop.
If this happens, start again. Your canine wants the treat and will quickly discover that walking around or under the hoop does not get it for him. He will soon begin going through the hoop.
When he does, say 'Hoopla' and give him the reward. After successfully doing this a number of times, raise the hoop an inch or two off the floor.
Continue to raise it in small increments. He will soon be jumping through the hoop on the command of 'Hoopla'.
I initially began doing this trick with a medium-sized dog (a Labrador). I began with the hoop 6 inches from the floor and gradually raised it to waist height.
If you have a smaller dog, you might wish to begin with the hoop touching the floor, so that the dog just walks through the hoop in the beginning. Then slowly raise the hoop, as he gets used to the trick.
Train Your Dog To Sit Up And Beg
Here's another new trick which is pretty quick and easy for your pup
Start off by having your canine sit in a corner of the room with his back to the wall. This is definitely the best way to start teaching this trick. You should be standing in front of him.
Your pet dog needs to have confidence that he won't fall over if he raises his front legs off the floor. Being close to the walls gives him this confidence.
Take a small treat and hold it just above your dog's head, tempting him to rise up for it. Each time he takes the food, make a fuss of him and repeat the process, slowly encouraging him to reach further each time.
Whilst encouraging the dog to reach up for the food, you need to make certain that he is keeping his haunches on the ground.
This is accomplished by moving the food back over his head, a little, making him move his weight back over his haunches. This teaches him to keep his balance.
As soon as the begging trick has actually been mastered in the corner of the room, you can slowly begin to move out from from the wall, and practise the trick where the dog has no support at his back.
At this stage, you should anticipate that the dog will seem to go backwards in his learning. But this is to be expected, till he can perfect the trick by just using his own body weight.
Train Your Dog To Shake His Head (To Say 'No')
You will first need to come up with something which will make your pet dog shake his head naturally, before you can start to teach this trick.
Some things which might assist are blowing carefully on the ear, or tickling the ear with a feather.
Once you have found the technique that makes him shake his head, you will then need to pick which non-verbal and spoken cue you want to use.
One idea is a single word such as 'Head', together with shrugging your shoulders.
Once again, your pet dog needs to start in a sitting position when first teaching him this trick.
As with other tricks, utilize both cues together, with the trigger (tickling his ear, etc) — all three things together, in an effort to induce your pet dog to shake his head. As soon as he does, reward him, even if it is just a small movement.
This trick, like a number of others, is best mastered in short sessions with short breaks in between.
Don't attempt to duplicate the exercise more that 5 times in one session, or the dog will become overwhelmed and stop learning.
Gradually decrease the amount of triggering so that only the non-verbal and verbal signals are needed.
As soon as your dog has actually mastered the trick, he can progress to learning it in standing position and laying position, too.
So there are 5 cool dog tricks which are easily and quickly mastered — both by the dog and the dog trainer — which is now you!
Your dog's tricks are fun for you and your friends, and your dog enjoys them too, They help to create and reinforce a bond between you, and help to maintain your relationship in its correct balance — with you as the leader
The main thing with all forms and methods of dog training is to realize that patience is a virtue. Whatever you are teaching, from basic commands such as 'Sit', 'Stay', 'Heel', through tricks like those above — and more advanced training too, the dog will get the hang of it in his own time.
Some dog breeds have more of a natural aptitude than others — the Border Collie, for example is famous for how well he learns tricks.
Some individual dogs are quicker than others, too. Just like humans, dogs vary in their intelligence and their ability to do things..
So, do not scold your little guy, if he does not appear to be catching on, it is always far better to be understanding and encourage him more.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much should you train your dog a day?
A good regime is 15 minutes per day. This is not too hard to manage for the owner, and not too overwhelming for the dog, but it's enough to get good results. You can split it into 2 or 3 shorter sessions.
It's good to keep up a daily routine, but don't panic if you miss a couple of days, or if every day is just too much for you. You can come down to 3 or 4 times a week and still be effective.
Do dogs apologize?
According to a study done by biologists at City University of New York, dogs do indeed apologize.
Apparently, they know full well when they have screwed up and they have a well-developed mechanism to show their regret. We've all seen it, actually — it's when they hang their heads and put their tail between their legs.
In fact it is so easy to spot that there are many hilarious videos on YouTube of dogs embarrassed by being busted. In most of those videos, there are unmistakable facial expressions, as well — sideways looks and squinty eyes etc.
The most important thing is to be calm, assertive and confident. Anger and shouting simply sends the dog a signal that that you are out of control. He will see this as weakness and will not follow you.
How do I become the alpha dog?
It's also important to be consistent. You can't let things slide one day and expect the dog to behave well the next day. If your dog is not behaving as you want, withdraw your attention.
One of your biggest tools in establishing and maintaining dominance is meal times. These provide a very natural and unmistakable signal to the dog when you are the one providing his food.
So don't squander this golden opportunity — it comes naturally a couple of times every day, which is enough to establish and maintain you as the alpha. Always, without fail, make your dog do something to earn his food — sit, stay, lie down, go to his crate, whatever you choose, but do something every feeding time.