How to teach an old (or young!) dog new tricks
Training your dog to do tricks can be a lot of fun for both of you. Dogs enjoy it because they get lots of attention, not to mention treats! And for you, it is rewarding, impressive for friends, and a great way to bond with your dog.
But sometimes, when he’s ignoring you or doing the opposite of what you’ve instructed, dog trick training can also feel impossible! With the right techniques and a fair bit of practice, we think that pretty much any dog can learn to do the following five tricks.
Trick 1) Shake hands!
This is actually a very simple trick to teach your dog and looks very impressive and cute to perform.
Simply follow these steps:
- Start with a doggie treat enclosed in your hand.
- Your dog will smell the treat and try to get to it. Keep your hand closed. It is natural instinct for most dogs to try and paw at something they cannot reach with their mouth.
- The moment your dog reaches up to the hand with his paw, say “yes!” or use your clicker if you have one, and give him the treat.
- Repeat, until your dog quickly offers the paw to your closed hand each time.
- Then offer a flat and empty palm to your dog – when he puts his paw on your hand, offer him a treat.
- Increase the time his paw is in your hand before giving the treat.
- Then add a verbal cue – such as “shake!” – just before offering your flat palm. After repeating a few times, your dog will have learned the trick!
Trick 2) Roll over!
The key to the roll over trick is repetition – the more your dog completes the following steps, the better he will become.
- Start with your dog lying down (give him the “down” command if you have taught him that. Otherwise, kneel on the floor and have a doggie treat ready in your hand. Offer it to your dog, right near his nose, but do not let go, while bringing your hand down to the ground. When your hand (and your dog!) are on the ground, release the treat).
- When your dog is lying down, offer a treat near his nose – again without letting go – and this time move your hand to the side over his shoulder so that your dog has to lift his head and shift onto his side to retrieve it. Release the treat.
- Immediately offer another treat – again without letting go – encouraging your dog to shift his weight all the way over. Put the treat slightly out of reach on the floor so that he has to roll all the way over. If he achieves it, praise him and give him another treat.
- Keep practicing – it may take a while before he smoothly rolls over using just one treat.
- Once he does, add the “roll over” command and slowly phase out the treat. Job done!
Trick 3) Spin!
The spin trick looks like one for professional dog-trainers only, but it’s actually fairly simple to master.
- Take a treat and hold it close to your dog’s nose, without letting go. Use the treat to entice your dog to move around in a circle. When he completes a circle, say “yes!” or use your clicker if you have one, and give him the treat.
- Keep practicing – making sure to always spin in the same direction! See if you can get your dog to do two spins in a row before giving him the treat – if he manages that, he’s progressing very well!
- Now try it using the same hand but without a treat contained within it. Still reward your dog with a treat, but from the other hand. You are teaching him to follow the hand signal.
- Refine your hand signal if you wish (perhaps as a point) and slowly take your hand further from your dog’s nose. Keep rewarding with a treat each time.
- Add a verbal cue – such as “spin!” – before the hand signal.
- Eventually, after lots of practice, your dog may be able to spin with the verbal cue alone – but don’t worry if not, not all dogs will reach this stage.
Trick 4) Take a bow!
A good one to finish with! Your dog show will be complete with your furry friend taking a bow and enjoying his Applause !
- Your dog should be standing up to start, and it’s helpful if he can stand on command.
- Hold a treat at the tip of your dog's nose, and slowly move it down, holding it close to your dog's body, enticing him down until his front legs are on the floor with his rear end remaining up.
Some dogs find this a bit tricky to begin with. If so, try placing one arm underneath his stomach to keep his rear end in the air while using your other hand with the treat to entice him down.
He’ll soon understand.
- Keep your dog in the bow then use the treat to entice him up to standing again. Say “yes!” or use a clicker if you have one, and give him the treat.
- Keep repeating and practicing! Eventually add a cue word or phrase – such as “take a bow!” – before you start each time.
- Before you know it, your dog will be able to bow on command!