Tricks to entertain you and your puppy
Teaching your puppy tricks is so much fun! Getting them to do something counts as a trick. You give the word and they do as you ask – hurray! So it could be as simple as getting your dog into a sit, or a down. Anything which gives you a bit more control when you need it is useful to have.
Taking it to the next level is a way of engaging with your dog and making sure that they listen to you. It is also a great way of giving your dog rewards for paying attention. This will keep your dog stimulated and ultimately happy. It’s incidentally a brilliant thing to have up your sleeve for when it’s raining, or you’re bored, or you can’t walk your dog because of illness, either in your dog or in you.
Getting started with tricks training
Before attending a class, you need to consider if you will be bothered to work on any of the tricks. You might feel that your dog is fine just mooching around the house and having a bit of petting and love from you. That’s absolutely fine.
If you want a bit more from your dog, start by teaching simple commands like ‘sit’ and ‘wait’. Or you could teach a ‘down’. Recall is also part of basic training for any dog. There are quite a few tricks that are useful for a dog to have. Just being handled and coping with you or someone else, such as a vet or groomer touching your dog can become something that you need to work on.
Some tricks are more interesting for the dog to do or just more entertaining for you to have. Last week I shared the video of Ounce opening the door of her crate and going inside. Clever girl!
Luring vs Shaping
Luring is when you use your hand, holding food, to show your dog what you want. You put the food on the end of his nose and move it slowly where you want him to go. This is easy to do and produces good results. Great, you think, I’ve taught my dog to sit, or go into a down. That was quick!
Unfortunately, your dog has not learnt to do those things. They have learned to follow your hand in order to get the treat. If you remove your hand, or even if you just remove the treat, your dog will struggle to do what you want. It’s quite hard for your dog to understand what you want and they probably weren’t paying much attention to you when there was food at the end of their nose.
Wait for it…
Shaping is when you wait for your dog to offer you the right behaviour. When it works, it’s like magic! So how do you make it work? You wait for it. It’s much more difficult to do. The dog must be ‘set up to succeed’. So when I talked about training your dog to fetch a toy, I said you needed to reward your dog for going near the toy, or sniffing it. This is shaping the behaviour of your dog. You are encouraging the dog to think about what gets the reward and to allow them to process that.
You can start shaping by putting down an obstacle and seeing what the dog will do to get a treat. That’s the first thing we tackled in our class yesterday. Or you can do what I do, eat a bag of crisps and wait for your dogs to offer something to get one. Ounce has quite the repertoire! She will twist, go down, sit, give a paw and speak (loudly). Give me a crisp mum!
Lots of dog trainers use a clicker to mark the behaviour that they are looking for in the dog. A clicker makes a noise when pressed, which you can do at the exact second your dog does what you like. You then give them a reward. The only problem with a clicker is that you need lots of hands! You need to hold the clicker and make it work, hold the treats and give them to your dog, hold your dog’s lead, or toy, or show your dog what you want.. It’s a lot to manage!
An alternative to a clicker is to replace it with a word, or a tongue click. Most people use ‘Yes!’ as it is quick to say, has a distinct sound and is rewarding for you as well as the dog!
Simple tricks to try
I recommend using a trainer like Nicola and following a course or attending a class. It’s quite intense going to a two hour workshop, but a good trainer like Nicola will break it down and teach a variety of tricks during the session, with a break halfway through. The tricks we covered yesterday included:
- Paws onto step, back feet on floor
- Nose touch to hand
- Card touch as a starting point to teach touching something on a wall
- Turn around bowl – going on from the first one but moving back legs around in a circle
- Nose into cone, to start hiding their face
- Bow, like the play bow dogs do
- Head down on the floor when they are lying down
- Pick up duster – tidy up!
Quin was brilliantly behaved and managed to keep going even though it was hard work. He finished off with a real highlight. He is used to getting objects and bringing them to me, so immediately grabbed the duster and brought it to me. I was then offering his tuggy to play, as he’d had so many treats. This made him drop the duster, so Nicola then placed an upturned step underneath and he dropped in on that. Tidying up!
It was a fantastic end to a great session. See the website for all the courses and tricks Nicola offers. We can’t wait for our next class 🙂 Thank you to Emma Conlisk of Beancroft Agility, Hoopers and Scentwork for such a great venue and hosting the session.
Weekly Focus Challenge
What tricks can your dog do so far? Do you fancy learning anything else? It’s great to have a ‘party piece’ so I recommend picking one or two things to try teaching your dog.
Buy the Workbook
The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.