Cool Dog Tricks To Teach Your Furry Friend
Training your dog to do advanced tricks like finding something or bringing their food bowl can be done with just 10 minutes a day and some clicker training. It’s easier than you think.
We all know those talented dogs who work as assistance dogs and can complete detailed and complicated tasks such as helping their owner do shopping, answer the phone, open the fridge or recognise signs of low blood sugar. Could your dog have unfulfilled potential? While many of these tasks could be beyond our reach, it certainly is possible to train your dog to bring you things, find people and understand basic words. With just 10 minutes a day, you can teach your dog some of these advanced skills and soon have the pet of your dreams.
The easiest way to teach advanced tricks is to clicker train your dog. The idea is that the clicker tells your dog that he is on the right track in learning a skill. It means you can be a distance away from your dog and reward exactly the behaviour you want in a very precise way. You can click a slight eye movement in your dog for example. There is no ambiguity in what your dog is being rewarded for. Clickers allow you to shape behaviour, which essentially means encouraging and rewarding closer and closer approximations to the behaviour you want. The clicker should always be paired with a treat, your dog needs to know that whenever you ‘click’ he will get a treat.
You can buy special dog training clickers, or use anything that makes a consistent noise. To pair the clicker and the reward simply click, wait 1 second, then give your dog a treat. Repeat this around 10 times until your dog understands that a click means he gets a treat. Now you are ready to use clicker training for some advanced skills.
A reward is usually a treat, but can also be play or praise. Treats are often used to really motivate dogs and are quick and easy to administer. You can use any treat you like, but try to stay away from those with lots of salt, fat and preservatives.
That said, some dogs are not that food motivated, so it can be difficult to find what they like. Sometimes very small cubes of cheese will work, though in large quantities they can give a dog an upset stomach due to lactose intolerance. Small pieces of BBQ chicken also work for those fussy toy breeds. It also helps to train when your dog is hungry, so do a short 10 minute session before breakfast or dinner.
General Training Tips
Remember to always keep training sessions short to reduce frustration and enhance concentration, 10 minutes is perfect. Remember to always reward after clicking your dog and reward within 3 seconds. The more you train with your dog, the more he will experiment with behaviours during training sessions to work out what you want him to do. When teaching a difficult command, you can give your dog a ‘jackpot’ of lots of treats and a big cuddle and praise when he finally gets it right.
Training should be fun for you and your dog, so whenever you complete a training session, always end on a positive note. If you are both getting frustrated, ask your dog to do something he knows how to do and reward him for that. Never end on a failure. The following video has some great training advice and features the clicker and how to shape behaviours.
No, this is not the stick you beat your dog with when he gets it wrong. We only believe in positive reinforcement when training your dog. The training stick is a long stick or piece of dowel that you can use as an indicator for your dog. You can use it to point at things and also for your dog to jump over or go around. It needs to be around 30cm long.
The first step is to hold the stick out and wait for your dog to sniff it, most dogs will do this with little encouragement, click and reward as your dog touches the end of the stick with his nose. Repeat this until your dog is reliably touching the stick each time for a reward.
The fundamental of training your dog is to teach him to pay attention. Say his name then click and reward him when he looks at you. Repeat this several times until it is reliable. You may initially just be rewarding a slight movement of his head towards you, but shape the behaviour so that you eventually get actual eye contact and longer periods of attention.
Find a toy and place it on the ground in front of your dog. If he takes it, click and reward. If you are having trouble getting him to pick the toy up, click when he just looks at the toy, then when he moves closer to it click again. Reward any approximation of the behaviour you want. Always click and treat when he gets close to doing what you want. When your dog is consistently picking up the toy say ‘take it’, click and reward.
Use the ‘take it’ command to get your dog to pick up a toy, then click and reward when he takes a step towards you. You may need to encourage him by tapping your side. Click and reward even a slight movement towards you. When he is reliably coming to you with the toy, pair the action with ‘bring it’.
If ultimately you want to get your dog to get your slippers and a newspaper, the first step is to teach the names of things. You can do the same with people (using the training stick), his food bowl, lead and favourite toy.
First, get your dog to touch your hand with his nose then click and treat. Place a newspaper in your hand and encourage him to touch the paper, then click and treat. When he is reliably doing this say ‘paper’ and reward him for touching the paper. You can then place the paper on the ground and encourage him to touch it with his nose and say ‘paper’.