Dogs are extremely intelligent animals and fiercely loyal companions. They can learn tons of new commands that are both challenging and rewarding, which shows just a small glimpse into their potential.
Let’s walk through both basic and advanced tricks you can teach your dog and how to guide them through each one. With the right amount of love, patience, and praise, they’ll be sure to master them all.
Dog tricks 101: How to prepare
Before you set out to teach your dog your favorite tricks, you must first be familiar with positive reinforcement: a process where you reward your dog for desired behavior. It can be as simple as giving them lots of praise, handing them their favorite training treats, or allowing them to play with their favorite toy. Dogs learn best when they’re able to connect their behavior to their owner’s positive responses, so the more you reward their actions, the better. You can also opt to use a clicker, which helps indicate when a completed trick is successful.
Next, you want to make sure that your training sessions last no longer than five to ten minutes. While dogs can thrive in training sessions and are eager to please, they will tire easily if they spend too much time practicing tricks.
Remember that teaching your dog tricks is meant to help strengthen your bond and provide stimulation. They should never be punished or given negative reinforcement for their mistakes, as they’ll become confused about your expectations.
Easy dog tricks
Though there are many tricks to teach your dog, these are very beginner-friendly. Once your pup has these down pat, you can ease into more difficult tricks. Let’s get started!
Teaching your dog to sit is the most foundational command. It’s a great trick that allows them to learn discipline and patience, especially useful when they have to wait. To get started, you want to hold out a small training treat in front of your dog. Wait with the treat until they get into a sitting position, then immediately reward them. Then, back away, or wait for them to stand. Repeat the motion with another treat in your hand, then repeat the last step: once they sit, give them treats and lots of praise. After a bit of practice, you’ll be able to ask them to sit without a treat in hand.
Once your dog has mastered “sit” you can teach them to stay. Perhaps one of the most useful tricks in the book, teaching your dog to “stay” will come in handy when you want to prevent them from bolting towards the front door or begging at the dinner table. Once your dog is in a sitting position, tell them to “stay” and hold your hand up to signal a visual cue. Have your dog stay put for 10-15 seconds while maintaining eye contact. If your dog gets up, don’t reward them! Simply try again until they stay still the entire time. As always, repetition is key and will allow your dog the time to properly internalize the expectations of the trick.
Get your dog’s attention with a treat once they’re sitting down, and move the treat in front of their nose towards the ground. It may take a minute for them to understand, but eventually, their nose should follow. Slowly guide the treat across the ground towards your body until your pup is laying down. If your dog immediately stands up, try again until they completely lay flat, then reward them for their amazing work!
Hold out your hand to your dog. They may not know what to do first, but it’s important not to force their paw. Instead, allow them to figure it out for themselves, even if it takes time. They’ll likely interact with your hand by sniffing, licking, or nibbling on it. Once you get your dog’s paw in your hand, immediately praise them and offer them your reward. Repeat a few times until they understand the trick, then begin to incorporate verbal cues, such as “shake” or “paw.”
Similar to the “shake” trick, “high-five” requires your dog to place their paw on your palm. Follow the same steps above, but after every time they give you their paw, lift your hand just a bit higher. That way, they’ll have to reach up, which eventually will lead them to a standing position to properly clap your hand. Implement the verbal cue after making sure they know the difference between “shake hands” and “high five.” Remember to always reward them afterward!
Advanced dog tricks
Now that your dog is familiar with the basics, it’s time to ramp it up a little! The following are more advanced dog tricks that require multiple steps and a lot more practice. But once they get these down, it’ll be incredibly rewarding.
“Sit pretty” is a trick that starts off with your dog in a regular sitting position, then ends with their front legs raised up. Because not all dogs have the same physique, practicing this trick may take several tries until they’re comfortable and confident.
First, ask your dog to sit. Then, raise your treat slightly over their head while extending your arm for them to use for support. As they rise, they will likely lean on you to situate themselves into the “sit pretty” position, which is when you can reward them. Try this a couple of more times, eventually removing your arm so that they can balance on their own. Attach your verbal cue to the trick.
Kneel in front of your dog with your treat in hand. Get them to lower themselves into a down position first by waving the treat from their nose to the ground. Wait until they get in a downwards position, then slowly drag the treat sideways, leading your dog’s head towards their shoulder. Reward your dog for that motion and practice it a couple of more times. Once your dog is comfortable, start to drag the treat further from their shoulder until they lay on their side. Lead the treat to the other side of their torso until they successfully flip over, then provide an ample amount of verbal praise and treats.
Because this is a multi-step trick, it’s recommended that you space it out throughout a couple of weeks.
Stand in front of your dog, then take a step forward. Make sure to raise your hand up with your palm facing their direction. If your dog immediately takes a step back, reward them with a treat. Repeat this step a couple of times, then modify it by staying in place while lifting up your hand. This cue should now be familiar to your dog, causing them to back up once. Try to repeat this motion to get them to go back a few more steps. Once they’re able to walk backwards, reward them promptly.
Playing dead can be a great trick to teach your dog, especially when around other people. Like “roll over,” you’re going to want to place a treat on the ground so that they get into a sideways lying position. If your dog tries to roll over, do not give them the treat and try again from the top. Make sure that the verbal or hand signal for this trick is distinct from “roll over” to minimize confusion. In between each attempt, try to have your dog lie down for a few seconds longer before rewarding them with a treat.
Remember to take breaks when your dog seems tired, reward them with their favorite dog treats, and most importantly, have fun! By practicing these tricks, you’ll be able to forge strong, trusting relationships with your furry companion – and show off an awesome party trick or two!
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