Forget sitting, shaking hands or rolling over — Tim Falk learns some new and exciting dog tricks that’ll be sure to impress your friends.
Riding a skateboard
1. First you need to teach your dog to target a stationary object of your choice, such as a thick book, with his two front feet. “You will need to encourage your dog up on to the book using either praise or food rewards,” says Cat Saunders, animal training coordinator for Animal Aid. When his two front feet are on the object, you can “jackpot reward” Fido — i.e. give him five treats in quick succession. Continue this step until Fido volunteers the behaviour; then you can introduce the verbal cue.
2. “When Fido is reliably offering the behaviour of placing his two front feet on the book, you can start to get him to target a different stationary object, slowly reducing the amount of treats for each successful attempt,” Saunders says.
3. When Fido understands the verbal cue and offers the two-paws-up behaviour, introduce the skateboard slowly.
4. “When Fido is confident with his feet on the skateboard, you can start to lure and encourage your dog to take a few steps with his two paws on the board,” Saunders says. “Slowly start to increase the amount of steps Fido takes.”
Teaching your dog this trick should be done in short sessions, no longer than 15 minutes each. When your dog has confidence riding the skateboard with two paws, you can graduate to getting all four paws up on the board.
Put your toys away
How cool would it be to see your dog do this staple chore of kids everywhere? “To start training your dog to do this trick, first you have to teach her to take and give,” says Alexis Davison from Scholars in Collars. “Offer your dog a toy and as you do so, cue her to ‘take’. Praise her when she takes the toy,” says Davison. “Now ask your dog to ‘give’ as you offer and give her a tasty food treat. Your dog will let go of the toy to take the treat; praise her for doing so.”
1. Hold one of your dog’s toys and tell her to take it. Praise her when she does.
2. Place a good-sized toy box between your feet and encourage your dog to you. Click and treat her for coming to you and holding the toy over the box. Repeat several times.
3. “Repeat step two and ask your dog to ‘give’ as she is holding the toy over the box. Click and treat your dog for dropping the toy in the box. Repeat several times,” Davison says
4. Place the toy on the floor and cue her to take it. Click and treat her for picking up the toy. Repeat several times.
5. Cue your dog to pick up the toy from the floor and come to you and give it over the box. Click and treat correct responses. Repeat several times.
6. Repeat step five with two toys on the floor. “Gradually increase the distance that the toys are away from the box. You also want to move the box gradually away from you — just alter one criterion at a time,” Davison says.
7. Add more toys.
8. Add a new cue: “Put your toys away”. “Continue to click and treat each time that your dog responds correctly. Gradually fade your old cues. When your dog is reliably collecting her toys and putting them away you can stop using the clicker and simply continue to reward your dog when she follows your cue,” Davison says.
1. Standing in front of your dog with your back to them, have your legs approximately shoulder-width apart. Take a few high-value food treats in your hand and lure your dog’s head between your legs. When his head pops through your legs to get the treat, jackpot reward him. “Repeat this a number of times until your dog is comfortable being in this position,” Saunders says.
2. Next, lure the dog into position, say “peek-a-boo” and give a treat.
3. Repeat this until your dog starts to associate the word “peek-a-boo” with walking into position between your legs.
Ring a bell to come inside or go out
1. Place the bell in your hand. “Most dogs will sniff anything new in their environment and therefore it is likely that your dog will sniff the bell,” Davison says. As soon as he does, click and treat.
2. Gradually increase the distance that you hold the bell away from your dog so that your dog is moving towards the bell to touch it.
3. Hang the bell near your chosen door.
4. Wait for your dog to touch the bell and then click and treat. Repeat several times.
5. Now wait for your dog to touch the bell harder before you click and treat. “Repeat until your dog is touching the bell with enough force for you to hear it,” Davison says. Have your dog touch the bell from varying approaches and varying distances. Click and treat each time.
6. Attach a cue like “touch” just before your dog touches the bell. Click and treat each correct response to the cue.
7. Encourage your dog to ring the bell before you open the door to let him outside or inside.
Assistance dogs can perform all sorts of everyday tasks to help out their owners, so why can’t your pooch do the same?
1. To teach Fido to close a door, hold a post-it note in your hand and encourage your dog to touch your palm with his nose. Use a cue word such as “touch” or “door” and reward with a treat.
2. Once your dog is used to this, you can move the post-it to the door. Make sure to place the post-it at a suitable height, use plenty of rewards and keep repeating until Fido is pushing the door hard enough to close it. Then you can remove the post-it note from the equation.
Collect the laundry
The process to teach your dog to pick up your dirty laundry is the same as putting the toys in the box. “You can either teach your dog the names of individual items or simply teach her to collect any items of clothing that are lying around,” Davison says.
“If at any time your dog is not successful, go back to where she was successful and repeat several more times before progressing to the next step. Keep it fun!” — Alexis Davison
Teaching some of these tricks involves the use of clicker training. Clicker training means using a sound (a click) to communicate with your dog. “First we teach the dog that the click means he has won a treat. Then we use the click to tell the dog when he has done something we like,” Davison says. This gives your dog instant, specific feedback.