Idle paws can make mischief. Why not teach your dog a few dog tricks and make both your lives easier? Bonus: every pup enjoys a challenge and mental stimulation prevents dog depression, obesity, and general misbehavior.
The basis for all of these dog tricks is clicker training, where a small device is used to make a sound whenever a dog performs a specific action. Most pets get the hang of it fairly quickly, depending on how treat-motivated they are. However, some may be put off by the clicking noise or are simply stubborn, so always respect your pet’s boundaries when it comes to dog tricks and training.
The most polite dog trick on the list, teaching your pet to shake hands has benefits besides good manners. Handling paws from a young age makes clipping a dog’s nails much easier. Some rescue dogs have had negative experiences with grooming and are extra sensitive about their personal space. If they come to associate paw touching with treats and human attention, nail clipping will be much easier.
2. Bring an Object
Whether you’re injured, ill, or just plain lazy, one of the most useful dog tricks is having Fido fetch objects. This goes beyond bringing back tennis balls or toys, but human articles like the remote, newspaper, or even bottled drinks. If your pet has a destructive streak or can be a little overenthusiastic, begin with objects that are non-valuable (and non-swallowable). Again, never force your pet to do anything they don’t want to; advanced dog tricks require a great deal of time and patience.
3. Ring a Bell
Sometimes dog tricks can make all the difference, especially when bladders are at stake! Prevent housebreaking accidents by training your dog to ring a bell. This is simpler than it sounds; dogs are naturally curious, and odds are your pup will give it a ring within seconds. When that happens, provide positive reinforcement with the clicker and a treat! Various types of bells can be used for this trick, including wall-mounted, hanging from a door knob, or a service bell on the floor. Select the setup that best fits your pup’s personality and potty space.
A foundation for dozens of dog tricks, teaching your dog to tug on an item leads to all sorts of useful possibilities. Opening a door is the most practical place to start! Begin by tying a piece of fabric to a door handle and rewarding your dog’s interest with the clicker and treats. As your dog advances, try tugging socks off feet, unknotting shoelaces, and even turning down sheets.
5. Wipe Off Paws
Perfect for after slushy winter walks, teach your dog to wipe off dirt on your doormat. Dog tricks like this are a hit with pups who dig digging, with less destructive results. However, even with this slick trick your pet still need a post-walk paw wipe-down to remove dangerous chemicals like rock salt and antifreeze. Use warm water and a gentle soap like Dawn on sensitive paw pads, making sure there are no crystals or crusted bits between toes.
6. Close a Door
Whether you have an armload of groceries or a spouse who leaves the cabinets open, dog tricks can make your pup a great household helper. Teach your dog to close doors, again using clicker training and positive reinforcement. Keep nails trimmed to avoid scratching surfaces, or train your dog to use their nose instead.
7. Open and Say Ahh
Brushing a dog’s teeth is a daunting task for most pet parents. If done daily—as veterinarians recommend—it can prevent painful dog dental conditions like gingivitis and abscessed teeth. Work with your pet, gradually opening the mouth and eventually rubbing a toothbrush gently along the teeth and gums. Dogs with a history of biting or aggression should be handled carefully and may require professional dog training. Only you know your pet’s personality and limits; even then, always keep in mind that situations can quickly change.