Who doesn’t love having a dog that can do cool tricks? According to Amy Robinson, a certified dog trainer, it’s one of the best things you can do with your pooch. “Dogs want to engage with us, to interact with us in meaningful ways. When we teach them something new, both the dog and owner get excited about it and the dog feels a sense of accomplishment,” she says.
Here are seven of the best dog tricks you can teach your furry friend:
If there’s only one trick you teach your dog, make it recall. It’s one trick that can actually save his life. “If your dog darts after a squirrel into traffic, it is critical to be able to call him to you to avoid him being hit by a car,” says Dianna Young, author of Think Like Your Dog and Enjoy the Rewards. First, approach your dog. Use the command (such as, “Come Fido”) and give him a treat. Next, call him from across the room and give him a treat when he comes.
Helpful hint: Continue training in different environments and levels of distraction (such as outside and with other dogs present).
Start by saying the word “Wave!” and hold a treat in your closed fist. “Next, move your fist around quickly under the dog’s chin until he uses his paw to try to stop it,” advises Robinson. Deliver the treat. Then, draw your hand back and a little higher so the dog has to really reach for it but can’t make contact.
Helpful hint: Once your dog has mastered the wave, be sure to reward him amply so he’s more motivated to repeat it.
First, tell your dog to lie down. With treat in your hand, say “Crawl” and coax him to move forward by moving the treat away from him. Make sure he stays down. Repeat several times. Then, step back from your dog and give the command. If he crawls toward you, give him the treat.
Helpful hint: If your dog doesn’t crawl towards you when you step away, repeat the first few steps until he masters it.
“I love to teach the bow trick, which can be easily done by ‘capturing’ behavior a dog already displays,” says Robinson. When your pooch does a deep stretch with his front paws forward, just say, “Bow, good bow!” Over time, instead of showing your approval during the behavior, you will be able to cue it verbally.
Helpful hint: It helps to mimic the behavior yourself, so show off your downward dog yoga skills!
With a treat in your hand, say “Spin” and encourage your dog to turn around in a circular motion. Once he makes a complete turn, give him a treat. Keep doing this several times, until he eventually spins with just the verbal command.
Helpful hint: Add a hand signal (such as a circular motion with your index finger) to help your dog associate the verbal cue.
First, have your dog lay down. With a treat in your hand, say “Play dead” and encourage your dog to flip over onto his back. Once he does, give him a treat to keep him motivated. Step back from your pooch and give the command again.
Helpful hint: This trick isn’t easy, so be sure to give him plenty of praise and an extra tasty treat.
Lay a stick in front of your dog. Call him and reward him with a treat as he steps across the stick. Next, elevate the stick slightly by placing a few books under it and reward your dog as he steps over the stick. Slowly add more books underneath the stick. Once your dog has to jump over to get over the stick, use the command “Leap” and give him a treat.
Helpful hint: This trick takes quite a lot of practice for your pup to master, but the payoff is more than worth it.
According to Young, “The process of teaching our dogs is the single most valuable action in relationship building with our canines.” So start training these dog tricks!