Why Tricky Dogs Are Happier Dogs

Have you ever taught your dog to dance? Sing? Roll over? Shake hands? Too silly for you? Suppose I were to tell you that trick training is not only fun, but establishes a greater rapport with your dog? It provides a welcome relief from boring, repetitive commands like "sit," "down," and "stay," and can actually provide a useful way to develop a personal rapport between you and your dog.

When you're training your dog to learn tricks, you're teaching your dog to pay attention to you and focus on what you want him to do, thus opening the channels of communication. You're also teaching him to learn a behavior he might not normally do. Because you'll use positive methods (no negative ones!), your dog will discover that learning can be fun. And once you teach the trick, your dog will always have something he can excel in when obedience training isn't going so well. You can always end on a positive note in training by telling your dog to shake hands or speak and give him a treat.

In obedience, we teach the dog behaviors that control him: sit, down, stay, come, and heel. There's not much room for creativity or personal expression. A dog that might not sit perfectly may respond better after being challenged with a new and exciting trick. Interspersing trick training with obedience training can be a welcome relief to the boring repetition.

Some tricks to try include shake hands, wave good-bye, speak, beg, roll over, play dead, beg, and dance. Two excellent trick books to check out are The Trick is in the Training by Stephanie J. Taunton and Cheryl S. Smith and Communicating with Your Dog by Ted Baer. Try any of the tricks there, this simple one here. Both you and your dog will have fun.




Shake Hands

Start with your dog in the sitting position. Say "paw" or "shake" and gently pick up your dog's front paw. Tell her she's a good dog, give her a treat and release her paw. (If she's not used to you touching her paws, work first on getting her used to touching and picking up her paw by just rewarding her when you do that) Repeat this a few times. Pretty soon, your dog will be raising her paw and look expectantly at you even before you say paw!