Tricks for Treats
Trick training is a fun way for your dog to earn his lunch and for you to really get into teaching your dog behaviours.
Keep it light, keep it fun and remember, it’s all tricks to your dog!
Practice for 1-2 minute sessions and then take a break. Have a few sessions today and tomorrow.
Try fitting each short session into your routine; for example, while you wait for the kettle to boil, during the ad break of your TV show or while you wait for the computer to start up.
Kids are often great dog trainers. Teach each child how to lure safely.
If your dog is mouthy, jumpy or likely to get over-excited it might be best for you to get the behaviours established and then bring in the kids to help with practice.
Always supervise child-dog interactions and make sure children learn to leave the dog alone when eating his rewards.
Top Tip for Today’s Training Games:
When you are just starting with a new behaviour (for you or your dog) work in a low distraction situation, such as inside the house, so that both you and your dog can concentrate on learning the new behaviour.
Let’s start with luring – this is a way of teaching dogs simple behaviours by guiding their body into position with a food reward or toy right on their nose.
A small food reward, like a piece of kibble, is best to start with as it can be hidden in your hand easily.
The mechanics of luring start with how you hold the lure:
Hold the lure under your thumb and against your fingers. Present the back of your fingers to the dog though.
This helps to avoid your dog mouthing at the lure in your fingers.
Move the lure down to your palm when you reward the dog.
Deliver the lure, as a reward, on your flat palm. This is a safer reward presentation and reduces your dog’s teeth catching your hand.
Hold the lure right at your dog’s nose and move it slowly until they are in position. Say YES! and release the lure to reward them.
Think of the lure like a magnet…
If your dog’s nose isn’t right at the lure (remember, it’s a magnet) you’re moving too fast or in the wrong position.
Luring properly can take quite a bit of practice but we’ll keep it simple with some cute tricks to get you started.
Beginner Level Tricks
Ask your dog to sit, or lure him into sit position.
Slowly raise the lure, right at your dog’s nose, straight up above his head.
When he lifts his front legs off the floor, say YES! and release the lure to reward him.
Repeat until your dog promptly follows the lure straight up, and supports his weight, front legs off the floor.
Decide whether you are going to teach a clockwise or anti-clockwise spin – it doesn’t matter to your dog but will be confusing if you chop and change.
Hold your lure right at your dog’s nose and move it straight out at his chin-height.
Guide him slowly around in a circle, back toward his tail.
When he completes the circle, say YES! and release the lure to reward him.
Advanced Level Tricks
This is a more complex trick that involves teaching a couple of behaviours. We lure the dog in a figure-of-8 movement around our legs.
Practice luring your dog in a spin before trying this one, to really get the hang of moving the dog with a lure.
Have a lure in each hand.
Hold your left lure behind your back and drop it down between your legs, behind your left thigh.
Encourage your dog to move toward it by moving between your legs.
Lure him around to the front of your left leg.
Say YES! and release the lure to reward your dog at the inside of your left leg.
Immediately repeat on your right side.
After some practice you will be able to work with only one lure, the one in your right hand.
Ask your dog to lie down, or lure him into a down position.
Wait for your dog to choose a hip to rest his weight on, or lure him to one side or the other.
Guide your dog’s head back toward the opposite hip.
Lure your dog’s head up and over so that he lies on his side. You can continue to lure your dog over all the way or choose to reward him at this stage.
The key to luring is getting rid of the lure!
We certainly don’t want to have to lure the dog with a food reward every time we want the dog to do a behaviour so as soon as the dog is doing the behaviour by following the lure, we will begin to fade the lure and eventually get rid of it altogether.
First stage is to fade the lure so that it’s less about the lure and more about being rewarded for the behaviour:
- once your dog is performing the behaviour every time you lure him, keep the lure working but don’t let the dog have it – when he completes the behaviour, say YES! and reward him with a food reward from your other hand
- with some practice, switch to using the lure every second time – keep your hand in the same position, as if you had the lure in there – say YES! and reward the dog from your other hand
- after a few repetitions, switch to using no lure at all and instead just say YES! and reward the dog from your other hand
Once the behaviour is reliable, start working without a lure:
Now your dog is performing the behaviour on your hand signal (empty hand)! Because English is a second language to your dog we will use your hand signal to teach the dog your verbal cue (a word).
Start adding your verbal cue once your dog is following your hand signal:
- say the word you have chosen to call the behaviour – it can be any word you like – before you move your hand signal
- say YES! and reward your dog
You might use a body movement, rather than a verbal cue too:
When the dog is performing the behaviour on verbal cue we can begin to think about reducing the number of food rewards.
If you would bet €50 that your dog will do the behaviour when you ask him, you can start to reduce the number of food rewards! Doing so before this may weaken the reliability of the behaviour – don’t un-do your hard work!
Do you have a favourite trick you are working on? Practice that one instead, having your dog earn his Training Mix!
Let’s see those tricks – wow us!