May


28

How to Teach Your Dog Tricks
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You have moved past the basic commands and are ready to learn how to teach your dog tricks. Dogs, particularly puppies, love attention from their human mates. Working to train your dog with both practical and amusing results is a great way to build trust and show affection. Establishing a “learning” relationship translates into understanding and obedience.

When teaching your dog tricks there are three very important things to remember:

1. Use rewards (such as treats, constant positive reinforcement, or both) when your dog has performed as asked.
2. Patience and persistence
3. Take plenty of breaks and only practice for a few minutes at a time. Shortening training time means less time for boredom and less chance of exasperation.

Often the type of trick to which a dog will respond most favorably depends on the type of breed. For example, a retriever may have far more success at learning to play fetch than a shepherd. Inherent behavioral traits is another factor to consider, particularly in a dog, more so than a puppy. An Alpha dog may be less likely to roll over because dominant dogs rarely expose their belly. Additionally, teaching a dog a trick that may mimic a bad behavior may not be the best choice. If your dog is having difficulty with barking at inappropriate times, for example, teaching your dog to “speak” would be encouraging this behavior. This could cause confusion regarding good and bad behavior.

If you are having little success with a particular trick, it could be attributed to one of the factors listed above, rather than your dog’s inabilities or your poor training. Before frustration sets in, change to a new trick that may be more suitable and effective. Above all, remember that dogs love to play. Interaction in a fun environment which encourages play and learning enhances your dog’s behavior and his relationship with you.

It is best to teach your dog the most basic obedience commands before attempting tricks. Tricks often combine some of these basic commands with a new command. If your dog has been unable to master the basic commands, he won’t be able to properly execute a new command. Biting of more than you can chew simply won’t do, for either of you.

Teaching a dog to “shake” is perhaps one of the most common dog tricks and a perfect example of a combination of commands. Before you can teach a dog to shake, he must be able to sit. To teach him to shake, simply ask him to sit. Next take one of his paws in your hand, while he is sitting, and say the word “shake.” After you make the shaking motion, with his paw in your hand, say “good dog” and release his paw. Do this entire sequence of actions a few more times. Continue to practice several hours, or even the next day, later. Once your dog becomes familiar with the action as it relates to the verbal command, you will no longer have to grab his paw. Simply say “shake” and he will lift is paw for you.

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