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What tricks can I teach my dog?

Do you ever watch dog shows or hang out with friends and see their dogs doing adorable, and seemingly difficult, tricks and wonder, “can I teach my dog or puppy to do these?” Guess what? You can! There are many tricks that aren’t as tricky as they appear!

Here are five simple tricks you can teach your dog:
1. Shake hands
2. Kiss me
3. Fetch
4. Roll over
5. Play Dead

Shake paw (hand). As tricks go, this one is kind of adorable. To teach your dog to shake hands with you, you will first need to teach him the sit command. Once he has mastered sit here are the steps for shake:

  • Present your closed fist (into which you’ve hidden a few treats) and your dog will naturally paw it to get to the treats.
  • Each time they lift their paw toward your hand, say the word, “shake.”
  • Repeat this several times, rewarding your dog with praise and with one of the treats you have hidden in your fist.
  • After a few times of repeating shake, you can open your hand, hold it palm up and say, “shake.”

Your dog will move his paw into your hand, and you can reward him when he does that. Work with him until it gets to the point where you say “shake” and he automatically puts his paw in your hand.

Kiss me. Your dog probably already kisses you; and if you want her to do it on command, you can train her to do just that! Teaching your dog to kiss involves targeting—this is where you get your dog to focus on a particular target, until the target is your cheek and your dog has mastered kiss. Tip: The initial target can be a piece of masking tape or a sticky note.

Steps:

  • Hold the target by your dog’s face and when she touches it, give her a treat. (Don’t worry about saying the word kiss just yet.)
  • Keep holding the target up and rewarding your dog when she touches it with her nose.
  • Once she touches the target consistently, start saying “kiss” and reward her every time she touches the target.
  • Eventually, put the target on your cheek. When your dog touches the target on your cheek when you say “kiss,” reward her to reinforce the behavior.
  • After she consistently touches the target, remove that and simply say the word “kiss.”

She will now be accustomed to touching your cheek when you say kiss and you’ve taught her an adorable trick!

Fetch. This is an ideal trick if you want to give your dog exercise and don’t want to have to continually chase the ball or frisbee yourself.

Steps:

  • You will begin this trick by playing with your dog and one of his favorite toys. When he is fully involved in the game, toss the toy away from you, only a short distance at first.
  • When your dog runs after it, say “fetch,” and hold out your hands encouraging your dog to grab the toy and bring it back to you. (Keep in mind that not all dogs will want to fetch, and it could be frustrating for you to teach a dog who simply isn’t into chasing toys.)
  • If he gets up and chases the toy, urge him to come running back to you and say “fetch” as soon as he chases the ball.
  • Make it exciting when he chases it, grabs it and brings it back to you. Praise and reward him for the action.

Many dogs will be so excited about the particular toy you’re throwing that they will naturally run and chase it. That is the beginning of fetch – the ultimate goal of fetch is for your dog to chase the toy and bring it back.

Roll over. To teach this trick your dog needs to know the lie down or a similar down command. Once she has mastered that you can teach roll over. The ultimate goal is to get your dog to do a complete rotation (instead of just side-to-side). When your dog is in the down position, take a treat, hold it in front of her nose then rotate it around her nose/head. As long as she stays in the down position she will roll toward the side where the treat is, then back again when you move the treat the other way.

Steps:

  • When training roll over you’re using a technique called luring. To lure your dog into rolling over you will use a treat to get him to lie down. Give him the treat.
  • Keep a new treat by his nose and lure him to roll onto his side, then give him the treat.
  • Once you’ve done that several times, use a treat to get him to lie down, another to get him to roll to his side, then a third to get him to roll completely over.
  • Keep the treat by his nose and his body will follow the treat and that will result in the rolling over. Say the words “roll” or “roll over” when you’re doing the luring.

Eventually he will roll on command. Make sure you treat and praise each time he performs the trick.

Play dead. This is a fun trick to teach your dog. It is also a complex trick that you will teach backwards.

Steps:

  • Start with your dog in a down position, then lure him with a treat to lie on his side.
  • Treat him when he lies still on his side until you give him a release word like “up.”
  • Once your dog will lie down in the dead pose, you can start using the words “play dead” (or whatever phrase you plan to use to have him drop to the ground and lie completely still).
  • You will want to use a hand signal for down, then a different hand signal for the playing dead position. You may want to flip your hand, palm up to get your down to the “dead” position and keep your hand there so he can rest his head in it.

Eventually, with practice you should be able to say, “play dead” and he will automatically drop to the ground. This trick requires a lot of patience and a lot of treats.

Conclusion

Praise and treats and positive reinforcement will strengthen the bond you have with your dog and will make her more eager to please and perform the tricks you’re teaching. As with any type of trick, you may want to connect with a positive reinforcement trainer or sign your pup up for a training class.

Tip: Keep your training sessions short and practice frequently; two to three times a day for two to three minutes at a time. If your dog isn’t enjoying the training, he will not be inclined to interact.


Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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