January is National Train Your Dog Month, so why not indulge your pet’s penchant for scene-stealing? Dog tricks provide much-needed mental stimulation, staving off winter boredom and even depression. A great outlet for pups who crave attention, you can even teach an old dog a new trick! Be patient and work with your pet to perfect the trick, using plenty of treat-based positive reinforcement.
Clicker training is a must for pet parents wanting to explore advanced dog training and is the foundation of most tricks shown here. Start there, and build on your pet’s playbook to accomplish more difficult dog tricks.
1. Wave Hello and Goodbye
Help your pet make a great first impression by politely welcoming houseguests! A dainty paw wave is a much better greeting than incessant barking, which can scare children and give your pet a bad rap. If your pet is a chronic paw-er – i.e. always pawing at you for attention – try redirecting the behavior using dog tricks like this one. Always practice patience when teaching your pet a new trick, and go back to basics if your clicker training is a little rusty.
2. Self-Control…and Balancing Treats
Not all dog tricks require clicker training, like this classic exercise in canine self-control. Begin by testing your pet’s resistance to an outstretched hand of dog food, keeping it away until you give the command, “Eat it.” Next, reward your dog every time they look away from the handful; close your hand if interest is expressed. Eventually you’ll work up to placing a treat between two fingers, above the dog’s head, and finally on their nose.
3. Give You a Hug
One of the most adorable dog tricks, teaching your dog to hug you is easier than it sounds. Repetition and a clicker are the keys to mastery of this easy trick, which most pets pick up in no time. As the video warns, if your dog is uncomfortable with invasions of personal space, such as hugging, avoid this maneuver for the time being and instead work on handling exercises. Signs of fear or aggression in dogs include becoming very still or tense, “mouthing” without pressure, or “punching” with the nose. Every dog is different and has been socialized to different experiences! Always start at your pet’s comfort level and work up – you have all the time in the world.
3. Get a Drink From the Fridge
Guaranteed to impress guests, teach your dog how to fetch a beverage from the fridge! Advanced dog tricks like this one have multiple components; in this case, “tug,” object recognition, and fetching are all used. If you find your pet struggling at any one step, make sure you have it down before moving on to the next. Work with your dog to ensure the grip strength on the bottle or can isn’t too strong! Start with empty containers, then move on to plastic bottles and aluminum cans before glass.
4. Play Basketball
Crazy as it sounds, any canine can be trained to shoot hoops. Use a child-sized basketball hoop with an adjustable height and be sure the ball is puncture-proof, especially with puppies! Like all advanced dog tricks, it must be taught in stages. Fetching is the foundation for this feat, followed by placing the ball in a targeted area like the hoop. Eventually the “target” is moved higher, onto the actual basketball hoop, where things can get a little hairy. As always, take a break if you or your pet become frustrated!
5. Clean Up Dog Toys
Some dog tricks can make pet parents’ lives easier, such as teaching your dog how to clean up after itself! With several other dog tricks used as building blocks, it can take some time for a pup to pick up – pun intended – this maneuver. Designate a specific basket for your pet’s toys, as consistency and repetition are key to mastering difficult dog tricks like this. Keep in mind that every new dog toy requires reteaching the object recognition command! Use simple phrases and try to limit your dog’s loot-chest to avoid overstimulation.
A classic in any canine’s catalog, teaching your dog to high-five is very similar to the process for waving hello/goodbye. It’s a good idea to trim your dog’s nails before practicing this one to avoid unintentional scrapes. Easy dog tricks like this can be learned in under an hour but are still mentally stimulating for pets, and entertaining for pet parents. Provide plenty of positive reinforcement with homemade dog treats!
(Featured image via Flickr.com/sirmisha)