Start the new year off on the right paw by teaching your dog some new tricks. These tricks are not just fun, but help curb negative behavior and reinforce good manners. Addy Lerner, owner of Jump Start Dog Sports in Yorba Linda, California, suggests to pet parents that tricks can be useful in a variety of situations one may not expect.
“If you have to break a negative behavior, you have to get your dog’s attention,” explains Lerner. “Tricks are such a positive behavior – highly rewarding, people react in a positive way – that many dogs will perform a trick before they will do a sit or a down, or even come to you, in a stressful situation.”
Lerner suggests the following tricks because they have useful applications in many settings.
1. Nose touch
This trick teaches the dog to come and touch his nose to your hand. “Touch” can be a great command to get your dog off your company and focusing on you. It can also be helpful if your dog is running from you. Calling “touch” in a friendly voice will be much more effective than running after them.
2. Collar touch
Similar to the nose touch, but in the case the dog learns to bring their neck (collar) up into your hand. This is great for dogs that have a tendency to duck or move away from you when you try to catch them. Instead of chasing after the dog, you can teach them to come to you. Like the nose touch, this is great for when you dog wants to jump on people, or runs out the front door into traffic.
Also called “watch me,” this trick teaches your dog to look into your face/eyes. This can be difficult for dogs, since looking into another dog is a sign of dominance. However, it is easy to teach by treating your dog every time they look in your face. Dogs love it because they don’t really have to do anything to get a reward and it really gets their attention. If your dog tugs on the lead and barks during walks, “attention” will get him back and focused on you.
Lerner says the “spin” command is great for dogs that get nervous or agitated, especially in crowded situations. “The spin gets their mind off everything else because they have to move so much of their body,” explains Lerner. “It’s a great distraction technique.” Plus, it keeps your dog limber and guests will think it’s cute.
5. Take it/Give it
Possibly the most important thing to teach your dog is “give it.” Especially if you have a dog that chews or eats things he is not supposed to, this trick could save your dog’s life. Teaching your dog “take it” can help make it more of a game when you ask them to give it, instead of a punishment. To a dog, it’s fun to give and take, even if you give them something more appropriate, like a toy, in exchange for the chocolate bar. In addition, you can teach your dog fun things like fetching the remote, slippers, or even the paper. Make sure they know give it first, otherwise you won’t get that remote back.
Teaching your dog tricks should be fun and rewarding for both of you. Keep your training sessions short and remember to praise and reward. May your 2012 be full of tricks and treats!