We all know the importance of training basic obedience (i.e., come, sit, stay), but what about tricks? “Tricks” are things that are cute or fun for your pup to do, but they’re not things he needs to know to be a good canine citizen. Even though you may be tempted to stop training once he’s mastered the basics, training tricks can be a great way to strengthen your bond with your pup, provide mental stimulation, improve your photo ops, and even impress your friends! Keep reading for three super easy, but super cool tricks you can teach your dog and tips on how to get started!
This trick involves your pup sitting up, with his paws in front of him, balancing on his hind legs. This is probably one of the most popular tricks out there, and it’s not as hard to teach as you might think! The hardest part is building up your pup’s abdominal muscles so that he can hold the pose for longer periods of time - but don’t worry, with patience and perseverance, you’ll get there!
1.Start slow. First, begin by holding a treat over your pup’s head, high enough so that he jumps up. Begin rewarding this behavior, and then slowly start shaping it so that he is resting on his hind legs when jumping up (not standing).
2.Add a verbal/visual cue. Once your pup understands what you want from him and he is sitting on his hind legs when you hold a treat over his head, begin adding a verbal cue such as “pretty” or “sit pretty,” paired with your choice of hand signal. Say the cue when your pup performs the correct behavior and reward.
Practice, practice, practice. Begin practicing the trick as often as you can. In the early stages, some pups will insist that you make the hand signal above their heads or that you be there to support their weight when they jump up - this is okay! As they start to improve their balance and are sitting up (not jumping up), you can begin to add some distance between your pup and yourself when giving the command. This can take a bit of time, but don’t lose hope!
Train in different environments. Once your pup has mastered the trick with some distance at home, start having him perform the trick outside! To truly master it, your pup needs to learn how to do the trick in all sorts of environments with different distractions. This is essential for any and all tricks, not just this one! Additionally, it’s normal for them to be hesitant to do the trick if you’re far away, even if they did it indoors! Just take baby steps and reinforce the command as necessary.
Have you ever seen your pup do a “play bow” when they see another dog? This trick turns that normal instinct into a simple command! For this trick, your dog will need to put both his front paws on the ground while keeping his behind in the air. Teaching your dog to put his head on the ground for this is optional!
Lure into position. Begin with a treat in your hand and your dog standing. Show him the treat, and move it downwards towards the ground. Ideally, your pup will lower themselves as you lower the treat. Praise heartily and treat him when his front paws hit the ground and his behind stays standing.
Give some guidance. Don’t be afraid to guide him into the correct position! If your pup is having trouble keeping his rear end up, simply slide your arm under his belly to keep his behind off the ground as you lure him into the “bow” position. Treat him when he keeps this position for a second or two!
Practice a few more times. After your pup has started to get the hang of the action, add in a verbal cue and slowly work on increasing duration and distance. Your pup may still need a treat lure from time to time to get into position, but eventually he should be able to hold the position long enough for you to snap a photo! Remember to be patient with him and repeat training as necessary.
This is probably one of the cutest tricks ever, and it’s super simple to teach your pup! For this trick, your dog will start in a “down” position and will roll over their back and back into a “down.” It’s best to practice this trick in a wide open space so there is no chance of him hitting something and getting spooked - this can be a huge setback for training!
Guide them into position. Start with your pup laying down on the ground. Get out his favorite treat or toy, hold it over his head, and slowly move it to one side of his body (the side you want them to roll over on). He should roll over onto his side first - and this is great progress! Some pups will stop here though and have a hard time completing the roll. That’s okay, be sure to praise them for getting this far and keep training sessions short so they don’t become stressful. Eventually though you will want to shape the behavior by requiring him to do more (roll more) before he gets a reward.
Reward like nobody’s business. Rolling over can make lots of pups uncomfortable at first - it’s a very vulnerable position! Your dog may be hesitant at first to follow your lure, and that’s okay. Just remember to remain positive and reward him for the baby steps as you shape the behavior. Be positive, patient, and keep training fun!
Practice 10 more times. As with any trick, practice makes perfect! Once your pup is reliably following your lure and rolling over, you can add a verbal cue and a hand signal or gesture if you want. Practice using the cues to make sure they understand, and then start to increase the distance between you and your pup when you ask him to perform the command. And as always, if your dog ever expresses discomfort, don’t be afraid to take it back a notch and go back to the basics with lures and simple rewards.
Dogs are generally super intelligent and love learning, so trick training is a great way to keep them engaged with you and give them beneficial mental stimulation. Not only does it strengthen your bond, but it can also be fun for photo ops or showing your friends and family! There are tons of other fun tricks you can teach your pup as well, so your training journey doesn’t have to stop here! If this is something you enjoyed, definitely look into other tricks to teach to keep the fun going, but please keep in mind that trick training takes time, patience, and persistence!
Focusing on one trick at a time until mastery and training in short sessions (3-5 mins at a time) will set your pup up for success rather than overwhelming and frustrating him. Learning new things can be very fun for both the owner and dog, but keep sessions short and focused on one thing to keep it fun, easy, and engaging! Additionally, always end on a positive note by having your pup perform simple tricks they already know - this helps alleviate frustration when learning something new, and gives them a chance to be praised and rewarded during the training session, keeping it positive and fun.