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5 Fun Tricks to Teach Your Dog

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Teaching your dog new tricks can be a great way to spend time together, play games, mentally stimulate your pup, and strengthen your overall relationship. Dog training also gives your dog a chance to exercise both their body and brain, while helping to reinforce important commands, good behavior, and critical obedience skills, like impulse control.

Remember it can take time and effort for your dog to learn new commands. Keep the learning process fun to keep your dog engaged and take breaks any time you or your dog gets frustrated with training.

Trick #1: Hand Targeting

Hand targeting consists of training your dog to touch his or her nose to your hand on command. It’s like having a dog magnet in your hand that you can use to lead your dog around and train new behaviors. One of the most basic dog commands, target touch training can create a solid base for teaching your dog to perform more complicated tricks using your hand as a guide.

How is this a useful dog trick?

Hand targeting is a form of dog obedience training and can come in handy when you need to move your dog. For instance, you can use it to command your dog off the couch or away from something that might be harmful without scolding.

Hand target training can also be useful to encourage shy dogs to explore something or someone that makes them nervous. You can teach your dog to target your hand near the “scary” object or person. Just be sure to be patient and stop if your dog seems too stressed or upset.

How to teach your dog this trick?

  1. With a treat ready in one hand, hold your other hand open near your dog’s nose.
  2. As soon as your dog’s nose touches your palm, congratulate your dog with lots of praise and the treat.
  3. Practice this until your dog gets the hang of it. You can gradually start moving your hand away, so your dog has to take a step or two towards it.

As your dog masters this new trick, you can also add a command word, such as “Touch.”

Trick #2: Ready-Set-Down!

With this fun trick, you get your dog running, but then add a twist by commanding your pooch to stop and lie down.

How is this a useful dog trick?

Ready-Set-Down can help your dog improve on listening and impulse control skills. Your dog will naturally want to keep running, but will have to shift gears and lie down at your command. This cool trick also gives you and your dog some healthy exercise.

How to teach your dog this trick?

  1. Command your dog to sit next to you. Say, “Ready, set, go!” and take off running.
  2. Run together for a bit and then yell out, “Ready, set, down!” and stop in your tracks.
  3. If your dog lies down, offer praise and a treat. If not, lure your dog down to a lying position with the treat.
  4. After a quick rest, practice the trick again.

Trick #3: Hide and Seek

You probably played hide and seek as a kid—now you can teach it to your dog! Hide and seek can be taught using a toy, a treat or yourself as the hidden object.

How is this a useful dog trick?

This fun trick gets your dog thinking and moving around. It’s one of the best interactive games to play with your dog and can be applied in a variety of ways. If you need time to yourself, for instance, try hiding dog treats around the house and command your dog to search for them while you work. The hide and seek trick can provide you with much precious free time while keeping your dog stimulated and entertained.

How to teach your dog this trick?

  1. Command your dog to sit and stay, and then go and hide. Keep hiding spots easy at first, like behind the curtains or in a slightly opened closet, until your dog understands the game. You can also try this using a treat or a toy.
  2. If you’re using yourself as the hidden object, say your dog’s name once and wait. If your dog can’t find you, call out again. If you’ve hidden a toy or treat, command your dog to search and help them find the object until they understand how to play the game.
  3. When your dog finds you or their toy, offer a treat and have a little celebration!

The key here is to use repetitive, minute gestures until the dog realizes which exact behavior deserves the reward.

Trick #4: Army Crawl

With this trick, you teach your dog the standard “army crawl” where he or she crouches down and moves along the ground towards you. Although seemingly an easy dog trick, some dogs may start to get up each time the treat or your hand reach what they perceive as walking distance. The key here is to use repetitive, minute gestures until the dog realizes which exact behavior deserves the reward.

If you've already taught the hand targeting command or "touch," you can use your fingers in place of a dog treat. Whether you use a dog treat or the hand targeting trick to lure your dog forward, be sure to progress slowly by only slightly increasing the distance of the target from the dog's face.

How is this a useful dog trick?

Army Crawl can be a good exercise for your dog. It also helps build your dog’s ability to listen and perform a more advanced behavior than sit or lie down.

How to teach your dog this trick?

  1. With a treat hidden in your hand, command your dog to lie down.
  2. Wiggle the treat near the floor in front of your dog. Your dog should be tempted to reach out for it and start to move towards it. It helps to keep the treat near your dog’s body so he or she will stay crouched down.
  3. When your dog makes any forward crawling movement towards the treat, offer the treat along with lots of praise. You can gradually coax your dog further and add a command word, like “Crawl.”

Trick #5: Take a Bow

Take a Bow is simply that—you teach your dog to bow with chest to the ground and bottom in the air. Some dogs do this on their own when they’re playing or getting in a good stretch.

How is this dog trick useful?

While all dog tricks can help build your relationship and communication skills, tricks like Take a Bow are mostly just for fun. It’s the perfect ending for a series of tricks!

How do I do it?

  1. With your dog in a standing position, hold a treat in front of his or her nose.
  2. Slowly move the treat down, while keeping it close to your dog’s body. Lure your dog all the way down with backside up.
  3. Have your dog hold the bow position for a few seconds then coax him or her back up on all fours with the treat.
  4. Give your pup the dog treats and plenty of enthusiastic praise when the full bow is completed.

If your dog keeps going all the way down to the floor rather than bowing, you can try placing your arm gently underneath his or her stomach when you practice.

You can also use a dog clicker to help teach these fun new dog tricks to your pooch. Learn about Clicker Training for Puppies, which works for dogs of any age!

While these are all good behaviors to teach your dog, sometimes they develop bad ones.

Reminder: Treats should not make up more than 10% of a pet’s caloric intake. Also, stomach upset may occur in pets who do not tolerate dietary changes well.


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