Silly pet tricks…are actually not so silly at all! Teaching your dog commands outside of the traditional obedience skills benefit you and your dog by:
- Getting your dog tired both mentally and physically!
- Continuing to improve your bond.
- Making you and your friends smile! If you want to have a therapy dog, pet tricks offer great entertainment. See this AKC site for more information on becoming a therapy dog!
- Provide you with the motivation to do a training session after a long, hard day at work. Often, once I get started training something cute or fun for just a few pieces of kibble, my mood improves! My dogs end up working for their entire bowl of kibble and I start mixing in traditional obedience commands.
- Obtain hidden benefits! For example, some pet tricks can be used not only to entertain company, but also to help you or help them in other situations. Teaching your dog to spin “left” and “right” in a donut shape (doing a full 360 degrees) actually stretches your dog’s side out and you can give the command so your dog wipes his own feet on the mat when he walks into the house!
Stay tuned for a series of blogs to teach your dog some of my favorite pet tricks: nose touch, pout, right & left spin, shake, speak, and more!
One of the most commonly taught tricks for focus, confidence and humor is the nose touch. You will teach the dog to touch his nose to the palm of your hand (or to your fist). Any time you teach a dog to touch a portion of his body to a specific target (a stick or a part of your body), it’s called targeting. Even shake is considered targeting!
Start with a treat between your pointer and middle fingers and then hold that hand next to your body. Your hand should be at the height of your dog’s nose when your dog is standing. If your hand is too high, your dog won’t be able to reach the treat. Keep your hand still! Resist the temptation to move your hand to your dog’s nose – that’s cheating!
Your dog will show interest in your treat hand. Keep your hand still. The moment that your dog touches his nose, mouth or tongue to your hand to reach the treat, release the treat as you say “yes” or click.
Repeat the drill again. On the third repetition, add the verbal command “touch” (or “bump”) before you put your hand down with the treat. Repeat. On the fifth repetition, say the command and put your hand down by your side without the treat between your fingers. When your dog touches his nose to your hand, say “yes” (or click). Then get a treat out of your pocket and give it to the dog!
Continue to work this command. Over time, change the position of your hand by just one inch at a time. You may eventually be able to have your dog jump up onto his hind legs to touch your hand with his nose.
I love using this command to get my dog focused on me and to interact with my dog during walks - see the loose leash walking blog. I also use this command to allow a dog to choose to interact with a new person – have the new person give the command, put their hand at their side, receive the “touch,” and then treat your dog.
We have more fun tricks to come! Next: Teach Your Dog to "pout".