Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Dogs are highly intelligent creatures and they love to please their people. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but in fact a dog of any age can learn to do tricks; it’s just a matter of how you go about teaching them. Dogs are similar to children in that they all have different personalities and even different learning styles. Some dogs love to perform and eagerly soak up any new tricks the first few times you teach them, while some may take a little more time and effort. On the other hand, there are also dogs like my Bear – she knows exactly what is expected but seems to think she can make the humans do a few tricks of their own before she will deign to lift a paw!
Repetition is the key to teaching your dog tricks, the same as with training your dog. Essentially sitting, heeling and even walking on a leash are all tricks your dog has learned. When you want to teach them to shake, beg, dance or roll over, it’s just a matter of letting them know what you want them to do, offering them a CANIDAE TidNips treat when they do it successfully, and repeating the action over and over until your dog associates a certain word or gesture with the trick.
Keep in mind that while your dog may have certain qualities of a child it is not a person and it takes time and dedication to both train and teach your dog to do tricks. Yelling or becoming upset with your dog will not help him learn a trick. First you must teach the dog the action of the trick – yes, this means you may have to get down and roll on the floor! Then you have to work on the word or gesture to make him do the trick on command. Make sure you have plenty of treats on hand and are generous with praise.
Bear knows a few tricks and she knows quite a few human words as well, but she’s also stubborn and will often refuse to do her trick until she feels like it. Keep in mind that a dogs' personality may not change no matter how well trained they may be. For example, when it’s treat time Bear knows she is supposed to sit and give me her paw, but her excitement and hardheadedness makes it difficult for her to do this. She sits but her back side scoots across the floor as she trembles with anticipation. When I ask for her paw she will lift it and put it right back down on the floor. Not exactly what I’m looking for. So I repeat the command until she does it correctly. Sometimes it takes a full 5 minutes before she will realize she doesn’t get the treat until she does what she’s been trained to do. No, I take that back; she knows but she thinks she can get me to hand the treat over without doing it.
I’ve seen videos of dogs that will hold a treat on their nose or sit nicely while a treat is placed in front of them and not eat it until they are told. How I wish I had the patience to teach Bear those tricks, or rather the spare fingers I would need after trying to put a treat on her nose to begin with.
Your dog can learn any trick you wish to teach them, but it takes time, effort and consistency. To learn more about teaching your dog, whether it is basic commands or fun tricks, be sure to read some of the training articles we’ve featured here on the RPO blog over the years. You’ll pick up some great ideas and learn a bit more about the ways you can train your dog for safety and for fun. Here are just a few: How to Teach Your Dog to Roll Over, How to Train Your Dog to Ring a Bell, and How to Use a Clicker to Train Your Dog.
Photo by SuperFantastic
Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie