Tricks – lots of games to play

Tricks – lots of games to play with your dog

by Jeanine Renzoni

Here are twelve easy tricks with other applications; shake/paw, play dead, fetch, tug, hide and seek/find, spin/twirl, touch/target, sit pretty/beg, go to bed/crate, back, bow and catch.

Too often in my classes people will discount the idea of tricks and only want to have their dog do the ‘important stuff’ like sit, down, stay, heel and come. But the tricky part of doing tricks is that they’re done off leash, they are almost impossible to force train (yippee for avoiding that) and they are frequently rewarded. All these things make them likely to be well received by the dog and interesting to bystanders.

And what do I think the other applications are?

  1. Paw/shake; greeting behavior, good for helping to desensitize those ticklish feet, and this behavior is the beginning for any other more difficult foot touch behaviors…want your dog to push something with his foot? Want high five, alternating one paw with other paw?
  2. Play dead: or be absolutely still laying down is a stay, is a settle, can be a piece of more difficult tricks like wrapping themselves in a blanket or learning to be carried while lying limply.
  3. Fetch; starts with favored items but then expands to difficult things like keys or specific scent articles or hunting game or rescuing people in the water or carrying anything for you.
  4. Tug; is a confidence builder and a control builder, dogs find this game very exciting so if they can do a sit or down before it and after it to get the game restarted they will be learning to do controlled behaviors in the midst of exciting events.
  5. HIde and seek/find: these are the beginnings of search and rescue training.
  6. Spin/twirl; body control and ability to change direction and be directed…also if you want to dance with your dog.
  7. Touch/target; oh so many applications because this directs their face/nose to something and where the nose goes so does the dog, but this is key for turning on/off lights, ringing bells, pushing anything, alternative come cue, go outs for distance work with a target, if you want your dog in theatre or commercials…
  8. Sit pretty/beg; core strengthening, balance and all the good things that brings…a stronger, faster, more balanced and capable dog.
  9. Go to bed/crate; if you want to work in agility your ability to send your dog fast is key, if you don’t then this is real handy when guests arrive, when you want the dog in a good and unobtrusive place.
  10. Back; handy for moving your dog out of the way, but it also helps the dog understand where his back feet are and how to use them better…a lot of people with old dogs wish they had helped strengthen that rear end.
  11. Bow; along with being cute and an invitation for play (note body posture changes mood) its another good stretch and ends your duo performances well.
  12. Catch: eye/mouth coordination. This makes it easier to have your dog learn frisbee, easier to deliver treats at a distance and they just are more coordinated with their mouths.

These are just some of the most obvious applications, but any coordinated effort between you and your dog improves your understanding of each other and makes training anything else easier. And tricks can be done any time and any place and by even the shortest of your kids  – can be chained together and form a true doggy show. Why wouldn’t you do them and have some fun?


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