In case you didn’t fall into a YouTube hole of dog trick videos during lockdown like I did, you might be looking for a few fun and easy party tricks to teach your dog. Especially on rainy days or during global pandemics, this training will exhaust your dog just as much as a long walk.
For younger dogs, 5-10 minutes at a time is perfectly sufficient and even grown dogs can’t always concentrate for much longer. Try going for two to three small training sessions a day.
At first, you’ll want to reward them for even the smallest effort in the right direction. This is known as “shaping” and the important part is not to say the preferred word too soon. Your dog will only get confused as to what exactly it is supposed to do when it hears the cue. Instead, reward decent behavior with a treat and the desired behavior with a treat and the word.
My pup is very food-oriented. If your dog is not motivated by treats or loses interest in them too quickly, you might want to try rewarding your dog with its favorite toy, high-pitched congrats, pats or anything else your dog will associate with having been a good pup.
Start by dropping food into their mouths from half an inch above. The goal is to get them to open their mouths for a moving object rather than taking it from your hand or watching it fall to the ground. My dog took forever at this stage so don’t despair.
Once they get the gist of it, drop it from a bit further above and then start throwing it head-on. Dogs are far-sighted so if you’re struggling with the close drop, see if you can get better results by throwing it from a distance right away.
The tricky bit here is to pick up treats that fell to the ground before your dog gets to them. Otherwise it rewards itself and it will take longer for it to see the point in catching it.
Move further and further away and practice your throwing skills as your dog practices its catching skills.
Honestly, this pretty much came as a reflex to my dog but I love it because it looks so polite. You stretch out your hand and either they will reach for it, or you’ll just grab theirs to shake it.
While you’re shaking it, say “paw” and reward with a treat. Do this lots and lots of times. Reward while you say the word and shake the paw. After a while, your dog will know what you want it to do and you can start saying the word as it is reaching for your outstretched hand.
The final stage is saying the word and having the dog lift its hand in response. If you prefer wordless communication, you may want to hold out your hand or a fist for it to react.
If you want your dog to shake your hand for a longer time, just delay the reward a bit more each time.
Wave is similar to paw, so I suggest training that first and taking it from there. Once you’ve established and used it for a few days, just reach out your hand without shaking theirs. Out of habit, they will reach out theirs and that’s when you reward.
With time, hold the treat up higher and they will follow it with their paw.
Eventually, you just need to lift your hand and they will wave.
Do NOT practice this within at least one hour of eating a meal or the dog will be at risk for a twisted stomach.
Get your dog to lie down. Use a treat to lure it to one side, gently nudge them in the desired direction if necessary, and reward for lying on their side.
Once you’ve done that a few times, you can graduate to nudging them towards rolling over.
Again, this comes more naturally to some dogs than others, so don’t despair. Mine needed a LOT of nudging but eventually got it. I said the word while she was in the process of rolling over, not while she was on her side or stuck on her back.