Tricks are simple patterns that you may teach your dog for fun. They have no therapeutic leadership value. You may want to wait until your dog is late in his adolescent stage before beginning trick training. Teaching some of these tricks involves using the basic obedience commands. Continue to practice these commands and enforce their therapeutic meanings. Mentally, the obedience commands are more important than the tricks. Make sure they remain meaningful.
The favorite trick of the old west: when you “shoot” your dog with your finger (command BANG), your dog will lay down and roll onto one side.
1. Start with the DOWN command. Command your dog into a DOWN. Kneel by your dog’s side and command SIDE as you lightly place your dog on his side (either side will do, just be consistent). Repeat the DOWN and SIDE until your dog will lie on his side at the command SIDE.
2. Next, link a theatrical beginning with the action. Face your dog and make a “gun” with your hand. Point your finger at your dog and say BANG. Command DOWN and then SIDE. Praise. With proper repetition, your dog will begin to link the BANG with the DOWN and SIDE. Gradually wean off the commands DOWN and SIDE until your dog will quickly lie down and turn on his side when you “shoot” him with the cue word BANG.
Crawl (Commando Dog)
If you really want drama, teach your dog to CRAWL. The CRAWL command will be exactly that: when you tap the ground and command CRAWL, your dog will crawl on his belly to the point you are tapping.
1. While your dog is in a DOWN command, hold a treat just beyond his reach. Tap the ground and command CRAWL and motivate (“atta boy”) with your voice. You may need to place your free hand on his shoulders to prevent him from getting up all the way.
2. Move the treat very close to your dog’s nose and, as he reaches for it, command CRAWL and move the treat further away. When he gets the idea of moving forward to get the treat, praise with “good CRAWL.” Initially give him the treat quickly so he links the crawling motion with the praise. As your dog becomes more comfortable with the motion, extend the distance your dog crawls for the treat.
3. Providing light pressure towards the lower part of the back may motivate your dog to keep his legs extended behind him. Tapping your fingers in front of your dog may teach him to “reach” with his front paws.
4. The more theatrical you are when teaching the CRAWL command, the luckier you may be that your dog picks up on the theatrics. If both your dog’s personality and your theatrical motivation is a match, you may find your dog eager to drag himself across the floor as if he were moments away from complete collapse.
Roll over requires some patience. Some dogs prefer to roll in one direction. Some dogs are completely uncomfortable with rolling over on their back. If you find that your dog seems uncomfortable with this trick, you may want to avoid teaching it.
1. Begin by saying ROLL OVER and add a hand signal like a circular motion with your hand. Then immediately add the DOWN, then SIDE commands (that he knows from PLAY DEAD). When your dog is on is side, lift his legs gently over his body, saying OVER.
2. You may also want to use a piece of food to help motivate the roll. Begin with the food directly at his nose and use a circular motion with the food that draws an arc that the legs should follow over his body. Say OVER as you do this. Once he’s “over,” add the final “good ROLL OVER!”
3. Next, link ROLL OVER with DOWN, SIDE, and OVER and “good ROLL OVER!” Your dog will soon be able to link all of the movements with the simple cue ROLL OVER. So you dog does not roll over every time you give the DOWN command, make sure you continue practicing the DOWN formally without the OVER as part of your obedience command workout.
1. Start with your dog in a SIT command. Kneel in front of your dog. Hold your hand out, palm facing up, and command SHAKE. Place one of your dog’s paws in your palm and praise “good SHAKE” and give a treat. How easy is that!
2. Once your dog understands the pattern, hold your hand out and command SHAKE. When your dog’s paw hits your hand, move your hand up and down and praise “good SHAKE.”
3. When your dog has a perfect SHAKE trick you may introduce a cue phrase like “Jack, introduce yourself” as a cue to shake the hand of a stranger. To introduce the cue phrase, repeat the cue phrase followed by the command. With approximately thirty repetitions, you can slowly remove the old command and simply use the new cue phrase.
1. Once you have mastered the SHAKE trick, you can extend the behavior to the HIGH FIVE. Start with your dog in a SIT in front of you. Kneel down and extend your right hand and command SHAKE. While your dog’s paw is in your hand, slowly turn your palm around so that it faces your dog’s face and command HIGH FIVE. While you are turning your palm, continue praising so he keeps his paw on your hand. Repeat “good HIGH FIVE.” Give a treat for hitting your hand.
2. To keep the pattern going, hold your hand up with your palm facing your dog. Command HIGH FIVE and praise if your dog hits your hand with his paw. If he seems confused, tap your right palm with your left hand and vocally motivate. Keep your right hand very low so it looks like SHAKE. Praise and treat immediately after your dog taps your hand.
3. As your dog gets better at High Five, raise your hand higher, get up off your knees (you may need to lower your hand when you begin standing), and finally command a nice High Five. If you really want to wow ’em, have your dog jump up and hit your hand for an airborne High Five.
Once your dog can High Five, it will be easy to teach your dog to beg. The beg position will be with your dog sitting and both front paws up.
1. With your dog in a SIT, kneel in front of him and command SHAKE. When your dog places his paw in your hand, praise. While your dog is holding one paw on your palm, gently pick up his other paw and place it in your palm so both paws are on your palm and he is still sitting. Give the BEG command and praise. Repeat this until your dog places both paws on your palm on the command BEG.
2. Wean off the help. Go back to the start position and hold your hand up and command BEG. As both paws hit your palm, praise. With your free hand, hold a treat above your dog’s head. At this point, your dog will need to learn to balance himself, so patience is key. While you keep the treat above your dog’s head, praise “good BEG.” Slowly lower your palm so your dog is sitting with hands up without your assistance. Keep repeating the praise to let him know is winning. When he seems stable, give him the treat with praise.
3. Put it all together. Stand in front of your dog, hold a treat up with your hand (or dangle it for the full effect), and command BEG. When he sits with his paws up, praise and make him BEG! When you are finished impressing friends and relatives, go ahead and give him the treat.
Walk (On Hind Legs)
Nothing gets the crowd more pumped up than watching a dog walk on his hind legs. The unnatural is always funny! However, if your dog is large, overweight, or has bad hips or knees, this trick may not be for you (or him!).
1. The quick start for the WALK trick is starting while teaching the BEG command. With your dog in a SIT command, give your dog the BEG command, and while your dog has both of his paws in your hands, hold a treat above his head. Slowly stand up while repeating the command WALK. Give the treat when your dog is able to stand on his hind legs while you support his front paws with your hand.
2. Once your dog learns to stand on his hind legs with the WALK command, you are ready to advance the trick. While your dog is on his hind legs, begin moving forward very slowly. Continue to support your dog with your hand. Repeat the command WALK as your dog begins to move forward following the treat bait. Again, start rewarding with the treat for just a few steps, then advance to walking across the room. Do not remove your hand as support yet.
3. Finally, hold the treat high in the air and command WALK. When your dog stands up, praise and “bounce” the treat along in the air while commanding WALK. Praise your dog as he walks across the floor without your help. Be really enthusiastic with your praise because this is a hard trick. Just as a note, most dogs do not actually walk heel to toe but hop with both feet at the same time.