Teaching your dog tricks is loads of fun. Your dog will be able to learn new things to keep his mind busy, and you will begin to notice that your dog behaves better when he is well trained.
Before You Start
Before you start, I want you to know that training is a life-long occupation for your dog. Back in the day, dogs worked. They brought back the animals their human had just shot, carried heavy packs on their backs, and ran through the freezing snow hitched up to a sled. Take my family heritage, for instance. Poodles used to retrieve ducks for their humans. But today, poodles are usually kept as house pets. Dogs are very smart, and we don’t want our intelligence to go to waste. We love to have things to think about, and teaching your dog tricks will do just that.
Training Your Dog is Fun!
When training your dog, a new world will unfold right in front of you both. You will find out many fun dog sports such as retrieving, dog agility, fly ball, and performing at dog shows. Both you and your dog will build confidence, and you’ll find him twice as polite as he used to be before he was trained. Remember: training is fun, not a chore!
Your Dog is not Dumb
No dog is dumb. Every dog is smart, and, if you take some real-life examples, you can see this very well. Have you ever noticed that your dog scratches at the door to be let outside? That he barks whenever the doorbell rings? Maybe he even begs at the table. If your dog does any of these things, he is really smart! You may see these as behavior problems, and, although they frequently can be, your dog is a genius for figuring out how to get his way. When he scratches at the door, you let him outside. When your dog barks at the doorbell, someone comes to visit. And when your dog begs at the table, someone drops a piece of bread for him. If your dog is capable of doing any of these things, he can certainly be trained! Don’t ever allow yourself think that you’ve got a dumb dog, because that’s just not true. Your dog is smart!
What You Will Need
Before you plunge into dog training, you will need to purchase a few items. These are the basics of what you will need: a leash, your dog’s favorite toy, and some treats. Pretty simple, right? I suggest that you buy a six foot nylon leash. For treats, don’t buy the old fashioned Milk Bones (even though they taste great!). Those are too crunchy, and take far too long for your dog to eat. Choose a bag of small, soft, and chewy treats so your dog will be able to eat them fast and not get too full. Cut large, soft treats in half, so you’ll have twice as many treats. If your dog eats a lot of dog treats, you might need to cut back on his regular meals. You can either reward with treats, or your dog’s favorite toy. When your dog sits when given the command, you can tell him, “Good dog!” and play a game of fetch. You can also give your dog belly rubs as a reward. Test all of these methods, and find which one works best for your dog. Try mixing them up every training session if needed.
You will also want to consider buying your dog a 20-50 foot long leash. That may sound a tad excessive, but when you teach your dog the recall command, this is going to come in handy. This way, you can let your dog out in an open space while he is still under control. Then you can work on the “come” command easily.
I heartily recommend that you purchase a clicker. A clicker is an excellent training tool. It is a small box (although it can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes) and, when you press a button on it, a “clicking” sound occurs. Do you know how hard it is to tell your dog at the exact moment when he’s doing the right thing? Have you ever told your dog to sit, which he preforms perfectly, but reward him when he’s standing? The clicker solves all of these problems, making training easier for you, and more understandable for your furry friend. When your dog hears the “click” from the clicker, he will think, “Oh, boy, I did the right thing! Now I get a treat!” You can tell your dog exactly when he’s doing the right thing. Now that’s awesome! Wondering how to teach your dog to respond to the clicker? Well, here it is!
- Have a treat in your hand with your dog standing in front of you. Don’t show him the treat yet.
- Click the clicker and give your dog the treat. Repeat several times.
- Over the next few days, work on repeating the first two steps.
- When your dog begins running to you or looking for the treat when you click, your dog understands the clicker.
Note: Learning the meaning of the clicker can take longer than just a few days, depending on your dog’s personality and how many treats he can handle a day.
Will I Always Have to Give My Dog Treats?
No, you certainly won’t. Treats encourage your dog when first learning a trick, but are not necessary once your dog has mastered it. Now this doesn’t mean that you won’t ever praise your dog for doing the right thing. You will slowly wean your dog off of treats, and onto something else. Mix it up by giving your dog a treat sometimes, and petting him other times with much more verbal praise. This way it is a surprise every time your dog does a trick. Then, when you’re out and about and you don’t have a treat, you can ask your dog to sit and then just pet him.
Keep it Happy, Keep it Fun!
You don’t want your dog to cower under the table every time you get his leash and your training reference book. You want a dog who jumps up once he hears you pick up his leash and race towards you, eager to learn a new trick. So it is up to you, his human, to keep training a fun experience for your dog. Use your “happy voice” while training. Say words such as, “Good boy! You’re a wonderful dog! You’re so smart!” and other nice things. This will make training a happy experience for your dog.
Don’t ever let a hard trick get you down. Remember that those talented dogs you see on TV leaping over hurdles or prancing across the show ring had to be taught to do so. They weren’t born trained. When you begin to get irritated over a certain trick during training, take a break and come back to it later. Also, training needs to be kept fun for your dog, so don’t punish him for not doing a trick right. Training is not the owner dominating the dog. The owner and dog team up, and a special bond develops. Please don’t break that precious bond by punishing your dog for any mistakes!
You might often wonder what reward you get for training your dog. The reward is living with a nice, well behaved dog. When your friends come over you can ask your dog to sit, tell him to wait, and go greet your friends. Your dog doesn’t move. No jumpy dog giving everyone unwanted kisses. Now, doesn’t that sound nice? Also, if your dog knows the sit, lay down, and stay command, you can take some wonderful pictures. For an Easter picture, place a basket of colored eggs by your dog. Tell your dog to sit beside the basket. Tell him to stay, and take the picture. There you have it. A wonderful, professional looking picture of your dog! Go ahead and get it developed and send out some cute little Easter cards to your family and friends. To the left you will see my picture. My humans dressed me in a bandanna and told me to sit. Then, they told me to stay, and took the picture. Aren’t I adorable? I think I am one stylish dog.
I have my very own doggy box. I get to keep my toys, Nylabone, halter, leashes, clicker, Kong, bandanna, and dog treats in that bag. There are even a few of my human’s dog training books in it. The bag contains all of my stuff so my humans can have easy access to it. This way, when I fell like a game of tug-of-war, all my humans have to do is go to my bag and grab my tug rope. By the way, that long, spiral thingy with a rubber band around it you see behind my Pup Corn dog treats is a 50 foot dog leash. My humans got me that to help teach me the “come” command. It would be great if you could get your dog his own bag to put things in. It doesn’t have to be fancy. An old cardboard box will do. Your dog doesn’t care. This will keep your dog’s stuff organized (you won’t be crawling around the floor wondering where your dog’s stuffed hedgehog is), and it will motivate you to train and play with your dog.
Alright, now that you know what to buy and what to do for your dog’s training experience, grab your dog’s leash, a bag of treats, and a favorite dog toy and do some training! Check out Basic Training to teach your dog the basics of dog training. This will set a great foundation for your dog’s learning so you can tackle harder tricks later with more ease.