Keep the Fun in Dog Training 101

Teaching your dog new tricks can be great fun for your dog—and for you. And training dogs is not as difficult as you might think. That’s because their needs and wants are simple: food and a good pack leader. Once you understand how to motivate your dog using these basic dog needs, you’ll soon have a dog who’s well behaved and who has his own bag of ‘party tricks’ to show off.

There are a few people that believe it’s demeaning to the dog to teach them tricks, but dogs mental exercise. Combine that with their love for praise and food and you’ll see your dog grow to love your training routine. Whatever you decide to teach your dog, both of you will benefit from the interaction as they learn that you are a strong pack leader.

Start off their training by doing something simple like having your pup fetch something by name, or teaching your dog to shut a door.

With any trick, split it into small sequences and teach each one a step at a time. If the task is complicated, start with the last sequence first, then add the previous element to the beginning and build up from there. This method is called ‘back-chaining.’ It is excellent because the dog always ends with the familiar part. Rather than waiting until the whole sequence is learned, give him/ her a reward at every step for getting closer and closer to your goal. With each step, ask a little more of your dog.

Other tricks could include:
• Sit/stay
• Roll over
• Catch
• Give a paw
• Open a box
• Find members of your family or a toy by name
• Bark on command (you can use this to teach ‘quiet’ on command)
•Weave through your legs
• Jump over objects
• Crawl under a low object or a chair

The use of clickers can work well. You can purchase these at most pet stores. Attach it to a wrist bracelet so that at the exact time your dog performs the behavior you can squeeze the clicker. Immediately give a tiny morsel of a really good treat, even if he is still some distance away from his goal. Soon your dog will understand that at the exact moment they perform the target behavior (because you have ‘marked’ it with the clicker), they’ll get a treat! Every other trick becomes easier to train.

If you have a dog that’s not particularly motivated by treats, withold his breakfast on training day so that he has a bigger appetite and motivation to earn treats. Be sure to feed them after the training session!

While ‘tricks’ can be fun they can also be a benefit to anyone that is disabled. For example, dogs can be trained to pick things up off the floor for their disabled human companion. They can be trained to open a refrigerator door. The list is nearly endless.

For people who are sight impaired, the use of seeing eye dogs can help them navigate the world. Training a seeing eye dog starts just like family dogs do, with simple-to-learn tricks that graduate to more advanced training.

For any dog, the whole process should be imaginative. Think of what your dog enjoys and develop this to include a whole collection of tricks. For example, a dog that naturally raises its paw up in what looks like a high-five gesture can learn to do it on command. In this case, you’re simply giving a name to a behavior that you want to encourage.

Make the training fun. Your dog will enjoy learning something different and will certainly enjoy all of the praise in getting something right. Use patience, persistence and praise while training. Always reward the target behavior with a treat, and always end training with a play session.

The payoff? A content and mentally stimulated dog who will look to you for leadership.

Pet Article courtesy of Edited by Joan Allison