- Before getting into the actual how-to teach amazing dog tricks training, there are a few basic steps to follow for each one of these. Realize starting out your dog doesn’t yet know what you want, so begin with something very basic; a task he/she would perform without even thinking about it.
- If I am going to teach amazing dog tricks, reinforcing successful performances with rewards is essential. Each trick I have listed involve positive reinforcement on your part; be sure to reward your pet after the trick is done- at the same time- every time.
- Use some type of command word immediately following each rotation, no more than a second after completion; a simple ‘yes’ works fine. If you are familiar with clicker training, that would work even better.
#1 – Leap Over Obstacles
Begin with a stick or some other type of long ‘rod’ on the ground.
Now lure (follow this link if you have never heard of the ‘lure and reward’ technique) the dog to step across the object- with a treat likely. Once he/she is across, reward them with the treat.
Repeat this step a few times; eventually your pet will catch on- you want them to cross the obstacle. As soon as they cross, they are rewarded! So, in their mind: “If I do this for my owner, they will reward me with that _____ I want!”
After your pet realized the point of this little ‘game’- a few training sessions in, start raising the object they have to cross a little at a time. The purpose of moving slowly is to both install confidence and slowly condition (form habits); just like a young child at school they aren’t going to understand exactly what is wanted of them right away.
#2- Musical Chairs
My dog Loki (right) actually started doing this without any directed training at all; I suppose the chairs accidentally set too close together. This one was pretty much discovered by accident.
You can actually teach amazing dog tricks using the music/song intro as a vocal cue, as long as it is the same song every time, or your dog recognizes the sound source, etc. This is a bit of an ‘outside the box’ way of thinking; basic conditioning, repetition and reinforcement principles still apply (just like every other trick here).
With my dog, I first taught the trick above- taught him to jump over one chair. In other words, use the trick above as ‘step one’.
once your pet has this down, teach him/her to jump on the chair; encourage this with hand gestures, or set them on the chair. Reward them every time this is accomplished.
Now set up two chairs, then three, etc. Have them leap from one to the other. You can choose to use music for this or a simple command.
#3- Pick Up The Laundry
Does your dog know the ‘drop it’ command, or a version of it?
Start out with a toy your dog is familiar with. Call him/her over to you with the toy in his/her mouth, or even bring your clothes basket to them; whichever you choose. While they are standing over the basket with the toy in their mouth, use your ‘drop it’ command; reward them with a treat as soon as they drop the toy in the basket. Follow the ‘Drop It’ with ‘Basket’ or a similar word. Repeat this step until you are sure they understand the goal is to drop the object in the basket.
Next Step: Toss your training tool a little distance (so the dog can see it), and again, use the same command phrase (your ‘drop it’ followed by ‘basket’). At this point, your dog should realize this phrase means “If I drop _____ in the basket, I get a reward”! In order to do this, they are forced to go and pick up the object, carry it over to the basket, and then drop it in. Be sure you are reinforcing this by rewarding your pet EVERY time they perform it correctly.
Once these steps are understood, switch the toy for clothes. Be sure you are using the same command words/phrases with this trick consistently, and these words (when combined with ‘basket’) are unique to this trick.
#4- Walking on Two Legs
One of the simplest ways to teach amazing dog tricks, and my favorite, is the ‘upright walk’.
First, have your dog sit. Simply hold a treat out in front of him/her, just high enough so they must ‘stand up’ to reach it. You can form a command for this; what word you use doesn’t matter; just make sure it is unique to this exercise, and try to keep it simple yet not often used.
Once they stand for the treat, give it to them. Repeat this a few times.
Now, start out the same way, but move your hand forward a little (they will ‘step’ forward to follow the treat). Only a few inches at first; balance is going to take time- they will only be able to stand upright for a few seconds in the beginning.
Imagine an Olympic gymnast balancing on his/her hands- it is going to take time to reach the proper balance. Just like people, this movement is not natural for a dog, but will come in time.
The last step to teach amazing dog tricks here is just to slowly increase the distance and difficulty. Once you are sure your dog has mastered the current difficulty level, increase it a little!
As always when you teach amazing dog tricks, start out small. Have your dog sit for you, and stand in front of him. Grab one of the training rewards you have stuffed in your left pocket (right if you are left handed). We are going to do exactly as the name implies; lure or dog into a spin. Make sure you reward him with that treat at the end of this exercise, or each rotation. They will naturally follow the scent of the treat; half the job is done for you.
Step 2: Lure your dog into a Spin Without Treat:
We are going to start spacing out our rewards now that the dog knows they are coming. Start integrating a hand gesture, and a vocal command: Spin! We still want to acknowledge completion immediately after; a ‘yes’, or ‘click’.
When you teach amazing dog tricks, Only Reward Desired Behavior. This step comes after your dog has somewhat of a grasp of what you want. They may do a partial spin, and simply ‘sit and stare at you’. Move slowly; if this happens, take a ‘step back’. Begin rewarding half-spins. Then, only reward 3/4 spins; ignore the half spins.
Gradually increasing your expectations. Soon, they will do a full spin every time!
#6- Run Through a Tunnel
Step 1: Shorten the tunnel, to maybe a couple feet (if possible). Have your dog sit at one end, reach through the tunnel from the other (treat in hand), and guide him through the tunnel. Once he has advanced from one end to the other (a short distance at this point), reward him. Repeat this a few times.
Step 2: Lengthen The Tunnel. Move slowly here; start of little by little, inch by inch. Eventually, the dog may try to simply walk around the tunnel, rather than through it; don’t reward that. I didn’t mind getting on the ground, and reaching through the tunnel, to continue the lure; You want the dog to become comfortable with the tunnel. In the end, it is a direct path; why walk around it? My dog took to this very well. (:
#7 Teach Your Dog To Find Hidden Objects
Toss your chosen object a few feet away, within your dog’s sight; the first step here is getting your pet to realize what it is you expect him/her to do. Now, say “Where’s my ____, find the _____”, or something to that effect. Guide your dog to the ____, pick them up and touch them to your dog’s nose (gently), and IMMEDIATELY reward him/her with some type of food incentive. A clicker could come in handy here (if you haven’t heard of one, simply google ‘dog clicker’).
Continue this a few more times, and again the next day. Remember, this is a bit advanced, so you want to be absolutely sure your dog knows the point of this ‘game’ (you want to treat this as a game; something fun). Always reward when your dog ‘finds the ____’ with both food and repeated praise, consistency and positive reinforcement; the backbone of good training. Repeat this process daily.
Step Two: Now that your dog both recognizes the particular scent of your ____ and knows what is expected of it, begin hiding ______ behind corners, or in other rooms; simple locations at first (gradually increasing the difficulty). You may have to guide your dog to the objective at first, which is OK; as long as they are enjoying themselves, and you have given them an outcome to strive for (food and praise), they will begin searching on their own (the fact that tracking already comes very naturally doesn’t hurt).
#8- High Five
Teaching this trick is incredibly easy! Likely the easiest one listed in this article, and the impression it gives to others is well worth the small amount of effort.
Simply have use your ‘dog sit command‘. You can either raise your dog’s paw, or show your pet a treat, placing your palm against his/hers when he/she ‘paws’ at the treat (if they do, which is usually the case).
Use the command ‘High Five’ every time your palm/paws touch, then quickly reward your pet with a treat. It won’t take long for them to associate the command word with the action of ‘high fiving’ and receiving the treat reward for it.
Here is another impressive yet extremely simple addition to your bag of tools to teach amazing dog tricks! Does your dog know the ‘lie down’ command (or your version of it)?
Have your dog lie down. I simply use the command ‘down’ and point to the floor, but that can be confused for those of you that use ‘down’ to mean ‘get off the furniture’. If this is the case, use ‘lie down’.
Once your dog is in this position, hold a treat in front of their nose, and slowly drag it across the floor. Your pet should naturally begin to crawl after the treat; my dog Loki did this the very first time (although I am sure he wasn’t actively aware he was ‘crawling’ yet).
As you drag the treat across the floor, speak the command ‘crawl’. In the beginning, reward your dog with the treat after maybe a foot or so. Repeat this small distance a few times.
Slowly begin to increase the distance. Like I said above, your dog won’t make the association between the command ‘crawl’ and the natural act of crawling the very first time, but eventually they will begin to see the connection. Keep repeating the same command, and be sure to reward them every single time.
Once you feel your dog has mastered the trick, have them lie down 10-15 feet away, and tell them to ‘Crawl’ to you!
He or she may simply stand up and run to the treat (in their excitement) instead of crawling. Don’t reward this; go back and start over- they will get it. This may take several small, broken sessions for your dog to master, as they won’t understand why you want them to ‘crawl’ vs. the much easier route- simply walking (or in my dog’s case, running).
Last, and I would have to say perhaps the most impressive way to teach amazing dog tricks is the skateboard!
This is one of those more advanced tricks; you are going to have to go slowly with this one. I will break it up into several steps. I would also recommend splitting sessions over a several days.
Step One: Set your skateboard, upside-down, in the middle of your living room (or any room). It is upside-down so it won’t move and spook your dog while he/she investigates. Let them smell, walk on, etc.
Step 1.5: now, with the skateboard still upside-down (wheels pointed toward the sky), reward your dog for standing on it. Develop a command word for this; ‘skateboard’ will do fine, as long as you don’t say it all the time in front of your dog (i.e. “Mom, I am going out to ride my skateboard.” – that would confuse the dog). If that is the case, use something like ‘dog- skateboard’.
Step Two- Now that your pet is comfortable with the skateboard, turn it right-side-up. Show your dog how it moves (Slowly! Quick movements may frighten him/her, since they are used to it being stationary). Hold the skateboard so it won’t move around, and have your dog climb up on it (remember, if it does move at this early stage while they are sitting on it, they will be startled).
Reward your dog for climbing up on the skateboard. Repeat this step a few times.
Step three- Begin to Slowly! roll the skateboard forward and backward, slightly at first, with your dog on board. Be sure to reward him/her with enthusiastic praise and treats for staying on.
Repeat this step continuously, slowly increasing the distance over time. You can slowly increase the speed as well, but be careful and make sure you are always in control (until they have mastered the skateboard); get going to fast and you could either scare them, ruining the progress you have made so far, or possibly even cause injury.
Just like any trick, the key is to teach amazing dog tricks here is to build up confidence. Think about it this way- no professional hockey player can perform a solid ‘hockey stop’ on ice skates after rapid speeds, or figure skater perform a ‘triple axle’ while they are first learning to skate; either they ram into the boards, slow themselves down considerably, or force themselves to fall. Both maneuvers require confidence and good balance. The same is true for dogs and skateboarding, although we can’t simply ‘tell them how it is done’. Take your time; move slowly, and you will reap impressive rewards in the end!