Tricks

To teach your dog tricks takes time and energy but it is a lot of fun for you both.

The Basics

The basics of teaching any kind of trick are to use lots of rewards at first and expect improvements very slowly. Come armed with patience and lots of treats.

Spin

Teaching your dog to spin around in a circle is always a crowd pleaser. Begin by showing your dog the treat, let them lick and smell it, and then move it around and behind them so that their head will follow. As they complete the circle, reward them with the treat and try again.

High Five

There are many ways to teach a high five, but the easiest and simplest way is to simply pick up their paw. As you are holding it, give them a treat, and then start again. Over time, they will begin to pick up their paw as you reach for it. This is a lovely shake, but if you want a high five, only reward when their paw is a little bit higher than usual.

Roll Over

Roll over is a little bit harder. Ask your dog to drop. Once they are lying down, move the treat over their shoulder so that their head follows. This is as far as some dogs will go, whilst others will roll over onto their side. Whichever your dog will comfortably do, reward them for trying, and then start again. Over time, they will start lying on their side reliably when you move the treat over their shoulder.

Now you can start to expect a little more. Move the treats up and over to the other side, so that their head follows and their body rolls over. Make sure you start on soft carpet or grass and reward them for trying at first!

Sit Up

Sitting up on their haunches is really cute. Start with them in a sitting position. Now move the treat slowly upwards so that they have to stretch to reach it. If their paws move off the floor even a little bit, then reward them with the treat and start again.

Start increasing the difficulty by expecting their paws to move a little higher before you give them the reward. Balancing is difficult for most dogs, and they will have to practise using the right muscles with you as you make it harder and harder. By the end of your training, they should sit up on their haunches with their paws held up – adorable!

More Tricks

By using the skills you have learned in training these tricks, there’s no end to what you can teach them. Simply use a treat to lure them into the right position and then reward them. If the trick is to complicated to do in one session, then reward them for trying an approximation of it and increase the difficulty slowly. The number of tricks they can learn is limited only by your imagination.

For some ideas, try teaching them to go through your legs, over a jump, or crawl along the ground. You can move on to getting them to open boxes or put their toys away if you get really good!

Teaching Your Dog The Basics

Teaching Your Dog to Sit

With persistence you can teach your dog many things, but lets just start with the basics.

Firstly, you have to teach your dog the meaning of the word ‘sit’. The best way is to reward their natural behaviour and name it. When they naturally sit, say sit and give them a reward.

A way to reinforce this behaviour is to hold treats in your hand, allow the dog to sniff and then move the treats from the tip of the nose up towards the top of the head. Nose goes up, bottom goes down!

Once his bottom hits the floor, say ‘good!’ and give him a treat. Once he begins to know what do, you can start saying the word ‘sit’ before you show him the treats. He’ll learn that sitting predicts the arrival of treats and he should sit when you say the word, to get his reward.

If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. Repetition is everything in dog training.

Teaching Your Dog To Drop

Once again start by rewarding natural behaviour and saying the word drop or down or whatever word you want to call it.

Once your dog knows how to sit, it’s a simple step to move on to lying down.

Have some treats in a training pouch, and ask your dog to sit. Once he sits down, show him the treats and begin to very slowly move them from his nose to between his paws. Let him lick, chew and smell them, but don’t let him have them just yet. If his nose reaches his paws and but he isn’t down yet, move the treats slowly outwards from his feet to encourage him.

Once he lies down, repeat ‘good’ and give him the treat. Over time, he will begin lying down as soon as you move the treat downwards. It is at this point that you can start saying ‘lie down’ or ‘drop’ before you begin. He’ll soon realise that if he lies down when you say so, he will get a reward.

Dropping can often take a little more time to learn than sitting. Keep up the practice, but if you’re really struggling, try moving onto a softer carpet or rug. Many dogs don’t like to get cold bellies, or won’t lie down on materials they don’t like very much.

Teaching Your Dog to Stay

Teaching your dog to stay is simply an extension of what they already know – they key is to lengthen the time very slowly and gradually.

Ask them to sit, and then introduce the word ‘stay’, with a palm outstretched towards them. Wait for a few seconds, and then say ‘good’ and reward them. Make sure that you then release them with an ‘ok’, so that you can always let them know how long to stay for.

The next time you practice, wait for a couple more seconds before you reward them, and then release – ‘ok’. In this way, you can increase the time more and more. Once they are staying in the sit position without moving, you can start moving away from them.

This time, ask for a ‘sit’ – ‘stay’ and then take one step back away from them, before returning to reward and release them. If your dog moves towards you, try just lifting up one leg, instead. You can move on to taking steps once they get the hang of that. In the same way as before, in each practice session you can take a few more steps.

Once they are really good at it, practice walking around them in a circle, sitting down in a chair, or running past them. Introduce skateboards and bikes, or loud noises or lots of people slowly and gradually, and you can teach your dog a bombproof stay, no matter what happens!

Pulling On Lead

Dogs pull for a number of reasons, from anticipation to fear. Teaching a dog to walk on a loose lead is essential, if you want to be able to enjoy walking with your dog. Loose lead walking is about getting the dog to pay attention to you. Basically, if your dog pulls it’s because they are confused as to who is really in control.

Here’s how to get your dog to walk beside you:

  • Start on a normal walk, at a slow pace.
  • If you run or jog with a puller you are encouraging them to pull.
  • Whenever the dog starts to pull, immediately stop. Hold the leash firmly, but do not try and pull the dog back to you.
  • When your dog turns his head to look at you, give a hearty “WELL DONE” then move forward and keep on walking. Every now and again when this happens give them a treat as well as the well done. This is called yielding to the leash.
  • Do not try to take long walks with this method. Your dog will soon become restless, get tired or just get bored with this training.
  • After about a month of taking walks like this, your dog will no longer be taking you for a walk! It takes time to undo the habit, but you can replace one with another.
  • Your might think that’ll never work. The only reason a dog pulls is to try and get you to move faster. This can be motivated by anything from excitement to fear. However, when the dog tries to get you to move faster and the result is stopping altogether, the dog will quickly understand that you are in control of the walks. You determine the time, place and speed. Once the dog has established this, it will no longer pull.

Jumping Up

Jumping up for attention is cute in puppies, but not in an adult dog. Sadly, we often reinforce this behaviour in puppies so they continue doing it into adulthood. They do it for reward, because they are result motivated – they are closer to your face, get some much wanted attention (even if it’s negative attention) and release their excitement and frustration at wanting to greet you.

1. Ignore

  • When the dog’s feet first leave the ground, quickly turn your back on the dog.
  • As the dog paws at your back or legs, ignore it completely. Do not even look at it. If it circles around in front of you and jumps up again, turn your back again.
  • Continue doing this until the dog chooses sitting, standing still, or even turning to leave. The instant this happens, immediately turn your attention to the dog and praise and pet them.
  • If the attention makes them jump up, start all over again.

2. Stop

  • When your dog jumps up place your open hand against their nose and say down. Dogs noses are sensitive and they don’t like them being touched. Repeating this will cause the dog to eventually stop jumping up.

3. Sit

  • When you are in a situation, like coming home, when your dog would normally jump on you, give the sit command before they jump up. When they sit, reward them for doing so.

The key to this being successful is making sure that no one is inadvertently rewarding bad behaviour. If everyone in the family is keeping it up, but then big brother comes home and has a big jump up and wrestle session at the door, all your hard work is undone.

When people come to the door, have your dog in a different room or tied up at first so that you can control the situation and educate your visitors before they allow him to jump up. When he is out and about on lead and you stop to greet someone, ‘park’ your dog by placing your foot over the lead at a length so they cannot leap up on them.

With a little time and patience, your dog will learn that jumping up isn’t the way to get any attention and that all four paws on the floor is a much better option.

Dealing With Digging

Digging is a fun and rewarding pastime for many dogs. Sadly it’s not fun for your lawn or flower beds. If it is becoming a problem in your backyard, it is important to first work out why they are digging.

Is your dog digging near the foundations of buildings or trees, or lying in the holes ?

Your dog is most likely digging as a form of shelter from cold, wind or rain, or to lie in the cool dirt when it’s hot. Bring your dog inside during extremes of weather, to warm up or cool down. Provide them with a comfortable shelter that is close the house, and with the mouth of the kennel facing a door or window so that they can see in. Invest in a bowl that can’t be tipped over and provide ice blocks with treats frozen into them, during hot days.

Is your dog Houdini?

Dogs often dig to try and escape. This may be to chase after a girlfriend if they are an entire male, to go and play with dogs across the road, or due to boredom. Bury chicken wire along the fence line, or place large rocks along it. If you can, bury the fence 1 to 2 feet below the surface. Finally, deal with the boredom issues – try enriching their environment with our suggestions in ‘Home Alone’.

Is your dog digging in a single area, at the roots of shrubs, or in a path layout?

They are most likely digging after animals or insects. Dogs like to roll in insects and/or watch them as they move about. Search for signs of them, and then try to remove, exclude or make your garden unattractive to them. Don’t use any methods that could also poison or harm your dog.

Is your dog digging when left alone for long periods or in a random pattern around the garden, or is he/she a terrier or working breed?

Your dog is probably digging as a form of entertainment. Try walking your dog before you leave them, so that they are content to rest once they are left. Enrich his environment with interactive toys or homemade puzzles – see our article ‘Home Alone’ for ideas.

For terrier and working breeds or truly dedicated diggers, try providing them with a ‘digging pit’. You can use a sandbox or a low fence, and cover the area with loose soil or sand to make it attractive. Temporarily cover his usual digging spots with rocks or chicken wire, to encourage digging in the designated space. Bury toys and treats for him to discover, so that the area will always hold surprises when he digs there, and keep updating them so he will never know what he might find.

Coming When Called

Having an effective recall is important for the safety and welfare of your dog, but is often the most struggled with. If yelling and running after your dog as he gallops into the sunset sounds familiar, read on.

Teach Them The Word

You need to set up for success, so don’t start recall training in a high traffic area, where distractions abound. Start at home. Giving your dog the tools to be successful is the very first step in training.

You need to teach your dog a definitive ‘come here’ command. Choose a word, and stick to it, whether it’s ‘come’ or ‘here’ is not important, as long as it’s always the same. Sometimes saying ‘come’ and sometimes saying ‘come here’ is not going to work.  Do not use their name, they need a different word, for clarity.

Begin by saying the word in a fun and exciting tone, around the house. When your dog approaches to see what’s going on, reward them with a treat or game. They’ll soon get the hang of it, and begin racing over as soon as they hear the word ‘come’. This is what you want – a dog that loves to come back to you because it means good things are happening.

Out and About

Once your dog is reliably coming when called at home, you can start to move it outside. Have them on a long lead at first, so that you can enforce the command if you have to.

Brings lots of toys and treats – using a treat pouch can make things easier and keep your hands free. As soon as they respond to your command, respond with as much excitement as you can, and reward them heavily.

Try not to call them when they are heavily engrossed in a game or smell – they are unlikely to respond, it is setting them up to fail and it may actually cause them to associate “come” with actually not coming. Instead, wait until they are finished, and then call them.

Always reward

If over time you begin to drop the toys and treats, and only call your dog when it is time to go home, they are going to begin to associate coming when called as a negative thing again. Instead, call them to you regularly during the walk, and then let them back out into the park as a reward.

Keeping It Going

They should occasionally get a toy or a treat when they come back for the rest of their lives. This keeps them listening, in the hope that this time might be the time with a treat!

Barking

There are many reasons why dogs bark. Barking occasionally is an entirely natural part of being a dog – whether to warn you of a potential intruder, calling their missing humans home or out of excitement during a game. It is when this barking becomes excessive that is can be a problem.

Dogs are result motivated. When someone walks past your yard and the dog barks, the person walks away so the dog gets the desired result. In other words, they won. They do not realise the person was just out for a walk, they believe they made the person leave.

Boredom

The number one cause of excessive barking is boredom. Barking takes away the frustration whilst at the same time eventually gets them attention. Dogs don’t understand time like we do, in the dogs’ world, they bark and eventually someone pays them attention.

Fixing It:

  • Make sure your dog has a good long walk in the morning before you leave. They will be tired and content and more likely to rest until you come home in the afternoon.
  • Enrich your back yard with toys to entertain them.
  • Consider organising a dog walker or minder during the day, or look into a doggy daycare service.

Separation Anxiety

Some dogs will bark when they are left because they anxious about being alone. Dogs are naturally social creatures, and being separated from their human causes some dogs anxiety. They bark and eventually you arrive home – they get the result they wanted.

Fixing It:

  • If you have a new puppy, take care to teach them that being alone can be a safe and pleasant experience – shut them outside with a chew to occupy them whilst you are still in the house, and let them in before they are finished.  It is also a good idea not to go too over the top when coming home and greeting your puppy. It can reinforce the behaviour. Try saying a quick ‘hi’ and then ignoring your puppy for a short while after arriving home.
  • If you have an adult dog with separation anxiety, gradually extend the length of time they are left alone, at levels they are comfortable with. If this is not possible, talk to your local vet or positive trainer for help.

Territorial

Dogs will want to warn you about potential intruders – this is a normal and natural behaviour, and one that you may be very grateful for in the case of a burglar. However, as dogs are result motivated, if every time they bark the person leaves your fence line, they won. Every time this happens, the barking behaviour is reinforced. This can lead to nuisance barking.

Fixing It:

  • Try to prevent line of sight to the outside – put up higher fences or barriers, and block any holes.
  • If your dog always barks at the postman, for example, try to pre-empt their arrival. As they approach the house, reward your dog until they have left again. With repetition, your dog will begin to feel good about having them approach the house, rather than territorial.
  • If your dog is barking at the neighbours dogs, arrange a play date at the local park so that they can get to know each other, and associate each other with positive things.
  • Don’t shout at your dog for territorial behaviour – they will feel confused and anxious about their attempts to protect you and it may make the barking worse. In other words, shouting at them will make them believe they are right to fear the intruder because you are shouting too. They don’t understand that you are shouting at them to be quiet.

Fear

If your dog is barking at night or at strange noises, it is most likely coming from a place of fear. Many dogs are scared of fireworks, lawnmowers and thunderstorms.

Fixing It:

  • Make sure they have a safe place to retreat to such as a kennel.
  • Bring the dog inside during fireworks, at night and during thunderstorms.
  • If the barking is excessive during the day and neighbours are complaining, consider hiring a positive dog trainer to help your dog deal with his phobias.

Walking Equipment Options

Training your dog to have lovely lead manners can be made a lot easier if you have the right equipment, especially when paired with some lovely treats and rewards for loose leashes. All of these options come in different colours and styles, so with a little experimentation you’re bound to find something to suit you both.

Flat collar – the most popular for a reason, these traditional buckle collars can be made of cotton or leather, and are simple and easy to use. Fuzzyard dog colours have a variety of patterns, from space invaders to pink cupcakes, and have a secure locking buckle to prevent breaks and escapees.

Martingale – these are like a flat collar but with a chain link or separate material section that will tighten a certain way, and then stop, if the dog pulls. These are ideal to stop canine Houdinis slipping out of their collar, or for a little extra control with high-spirited hounds. Rogz half-check collars are good quality and come in range of basic colours.

Harness – these were originally designed for sled and tracking dogs, and were intended to encourage pulling against the lead. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use one; some dogs will pull less when put into a harness. It is simply a case of trying and seeing. In particular they are perfect for low energy or well trained dogs, or for those with back or neck problems. Ezydog have a range of options for different body shapes and preferences.

Front Attach Harness – ideal for medium pullers, these are designed to turn the dog around to face you if they forge against the lead, allowing you to regain control and bring the dog back to you. Although chronic pullers will find a way to brace against it after a while, when paired with training and treats they can be just the edge you need to have a loose lead walker. Gentle leader ezywalk is a nice example.

Head-Halter – for strong pullers, these are designed to sit around the dog’s face just like a halter on a horse. Generally they are used for dogs that can pull you off your feet when they tug, or for dogs that bark and lunge whilst on the lead. They do stop pulling completely, but many dogs can find them invasive and will need to be taught to enjoy wearing one. Try a halti head-collar if you have a particularly exuberant dog.

Check chain – a thin metal link chain that will tighten when the dog pulls, these are designed to be used with a jerk on the lead to issue corrections to the dog. Check chains should only be used on the advice of your qualified trainer, and be a high quality chain in good condition. If you are looking for a check chain try Grizzle Four Legged Wear.

Prong collar – illegal in NSW anyway, these are not necessary except in very exceptional circumstances.