How to teach your dog nifty tricks
Believe it or not you can teach an old dog new tricks! Most of the tricks that you see dog’s on TV or in the movies completing are relatively simple once you break them down to their basic components. Teaching the dog complicated tricks step by step is the most effective way to have your dog work through even elaborate tricks quickly and as a positive experience. Punishing dogs for not learning the tricks will actually harm your pet’s chances of learning the trick. Dogs learn new tricks and commands by praise and social interactions, not by punishment. Keep in mind that not all dogs are physically suited to complete all tricks, and try to watch for activities that your dog does naturally that are close to the tricks that you would like them to do on command.
Tricks should usually only be taught after the dog has a basic understanding of the commands come, sit, down and stay. Without these basic commands being understood and followed learning more complex commands is more challenging and frustrating for both the dog and the owner.
Many people like their dogs to wear clothing items, hats, sunglasses, bandanas or even complete theme items or costumes. Dogs, by nature, are not always happy about this decision. Start desensitizing or training your dog to tolerate these items by having the dog sit and gradually moving the item toward the dog. Praise the dog as the item gradually gets closer before the dog starts to move away. As the dog becomes comfortable with the item it can be brought against the body.
Only allow the item to be on the dog for very short periods initially. Praise the dog for wearing the item so that they begin to associate wearing the item with fun and attention. Gradually extend the amount of time the item is on the dog.
Most dogs will naturally bark, but teaching them to do so on command requires a bit of patience. Have the dog sit or stand beside you and hold out a treat or toy just beyond the dog’s normal range. Say “Speak” and immediately reward the dog when they make any kind of noise. Once the dog understands that you want them to bark they will usually catch on very quickly. Be sure to also work on being quiet at the same time. Give the command to “Quiet” and ignore the dog. As soon as he or she stops barking immediately give another treat and lots of praise.
Crawling is a nature behavior that often occurs when owners are trying to teach a dog to stay in a prone position. Often the dog stays “down” but doesn’t stay put, rather they do a belly crawl across the floor. Rather than punishing the dog for this behavior why not include it as a trick. When you notice the dog crawling, simply say “Crawl” this will help the dog learn that crawl means move and down means stay put.
Jumping, like barking, is very natural for dogs. Be sure to check with your vet to be sure that it is safe for your dog to be jumping on command. Start with a low jump that is no higher than the dog’s legs from the ground to their belly. Run with the dog and jump over a dowel or broom handle placed across two boards or blocks at the correct height. The stride before the jump simply say “Jump” or “Up”. Praise the dog immediately. As the dog begins to understand try increasing the height or changing the jumping apparatus. To teach a dog to jump through a hoop mount the hoop low to the ground after they have mastered the jump command and run them through the same exercise. Once they are comfortable jumping or walking through the hoop take it in your hand and gradually raise it higher.
Always take care when teaching a dog tricks, especially jumping, that the dog is not straining or overexerting itself. If the breed is prone to any kind of joint or bone conditions jumping is never advised.