Sit, down, stay, come, heel; it’s all stupid pet tricks, honestly. But “tricks” are generally defined as more unique behaviors that don’t necessarily have a purpose. Tricks aren’t necessary to get through your life with a dog, they’re just for fun. When I meet a dog that knows a lot of tricks I know that he is really and truly loved by his human because she cared to take extra time to teach him extra things with no purpose in mind other than to spend some time with him and show him something new. Earlier this week we talked about the three ways to obtain a behavior; shaping, capturing, or luring, so now you know HOW to teach your dog anything. This isn’t a “how to teach your dog tricks” blog, this is a “why teach your dog tricks” blog.
Your dog has a brain, and a brain is a terrible thing to waste. Honestly, dogs need to think and problem solve. They’re good at it and it enriches their lives when they get to do it. A little trick training will help you exercise your dog’s brain better than most things, and it honestly wears out my dogs who are impossible to wear out physically. The more you teach them, the easier they become to teach, too. So the more tricks your dog knows the more fun you will have teaching him, and the more fun he will have learning.
You say you don’t have time? Well, gloriously, if you choose to use shaping to teach your tricks it won’t take much time. Very short sessions are best, so five minutes out of your evening while your dinner cooks, or five minutes in the morning to get your day rolling off the right way, and that’s all you need. Dog training only becomes time consuming in a few scenarios: the human is obsessed with it (me), the human didn’t do enough in the beginning and now the dog has a behavior problem that must be worked through, or the training itself is being done poorly.
You say you’re not creative enough? No problem. Susan Garrett has a list of ideas on her blog.
You say you’re not talented enough? I hear this one a lot. People think they can’t teach their dog a silly trick. Hear me out; I know it’s a new mechanical skill, and I know it will be hard in the beginning. But that’s the beauty of trick training; it doesn’t matter if it’s perfect! So just get started, your training chops will improve with every trick you teach.
What funny tricks do your dogs know?