There is nothing silly about teaching your dog tricks. The more tricks a dog knows, the more stimulated his mind, and the more fun it has in life.
Trick training is limited only to what you want to teach your dog. Teach your dog to sit up and beg, maybe even to dance. Or you can teach your dog to help you. The sky is the limit!
Tricks are mainly meant to give your dog some meaningful activity — this means two things:
1. Don’t bore your dog with these tricks. Only do them as long as you both are having fun, and when he has mastered one thing, think of something new instead of just repeating the old routines;
2. Some of them may require lots of time to learn. Don’t worry, that’s exactly why they are so useful — to master the trick, your dog needs to concentrate very much and use his brain! Progress in small steps if needed, and don’t forget to reward your dog when he makes progress!
Some Useful Tricks
Change up a command
If your dog already knows how to heel on your left, teach him to heel on your right or walk right behind you. These may be useful in crowds, narrow corridors, etc., and heeling on the right is also needed in Agility. Remember to use a new command for heeling on the ‘wrong’ side!
Put a word to an action.
Everybody’s heard of the classical trick where a dog fetches slippers or a newspaper, but what about letting your dog ‘answer the phone’ (lift the receiver for you), put an empty beer bottle back in the box, or carry some other things on command? (It’s possible to teach a dog to identify a huge number of objects by names).
Teach your dog to lift each of his feet on command (‘right-front etc.) This is useful when you clip his nails or need to wash or wipe him, etc.
Teach your dog to “back up.” With this command, you can give him a simple command to “back up,” which gets him out of the way and also earns him some praise — instead of him receiving human “growls” because he’s in the way.
Collecting his toys
Are you tired of collecting all of your dog’s chew toys, tennis balls, squeaky toys, teddy bears, etc., when your parents-in-law or your non-dog-loving boss is coming for dinner? Teach your dog to do it himself! He can learn to pick up all of his toys and put them into a box on command.
Rock N roll
If you live somewhere where it rains frequently, you probably already hate the way your dog shakes his coat dry when he is close to you or your clean laundry, etc.? You can teach him to do that on command so that you can ask him to ‘shake!’ or ‘rock’n’roll!’ when he is standing a little bit further away.
When you go out for a walk, let your dog fetch his own collar and/or leash. Have him get his collar from the shelf when you say “collar!”. Some people also use this in Agility. When they finish their run, the dog gets his leash instead of jumping around the handler, demanding more action.
Teach your dog to ‘finds your keys.’ Also good for accustoming dogs to metal articles in the mouth for utility work. You can also teach your dog to bring the box of Kleenex when you sneeze.
Look both ways
Teach your dog to stop and look before crossing a road. You can first teach your dog the directions (“look right” and “look left”), and then combine the commands to sit and to look left-right-left! Before permitted to cross. Add the command “Any cars coming?” for the entire trick. If you are consistent with your training, you can condition your dog not to start crossing the road as long as he sees cars approaching, making this trick extremely useful.
Teach a routine
Is your duty in the family to wake everybody up in the morning — a routine that often requires lots of time and effort and is never appreciated? Teach your dog to do it for you! “Go wake up, Jane!” “Go wake up, Daddy!” and your dog licks their faces or pokes them with his nose until they are awake.
Another version of this: The dog ‘digs’ in the morning: on command, she rips back the covers from around a malingerer and drags them (the covers) back to the foot of the bed, exposing the said body to cold air and (ostensibly) motivating rising.
If you live alone and sometimes fall asleep again after turning off the alarm clock in your sleep, you can teach your dog to start licking and poking you at the sound of your alarm clock.
As Andrea Arden suggests, “Trick training is likely to result in better health (as many tricks help build muscle tone and stamina), increased flexibility, balance and concentration, as well as a boost in your dog’s confidence in him and you. At the same time, each new behavior you teach provides you with yet another useful way to channel your dog’s energy into something positive.” So take a few minutes and teach some new tricks to your dog. You may be amazed at the genius they become.