BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

Tricks to Teach Your Dog: 14 Impressive Training Options

Roll over tricks and play dead
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Countless tricks to teach your dog are available and they come with step by step instructions. Some dog owners are against them because they don’t think that a dog should be the subject of a man’s amusement. However, one should keep in mind that a trained dog is a stimulated dog that doesn’t get bored and that gets to eat a lot of treats if it does the right things.

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Nothing comes for free, so training a dog to do different tricks is just a way of making it earn its keep. Learning new things and focusing for around 15 minutes per day is nothing but beneficial for any canine specimen. Most dogs are smart and their ability to change their behavior on command shows exactly how intelligent they are. This means that people who see dogs doing different tricks and amuse themselves represent just a consequence of having a skilled dog that can do a lot of cool stuff.

It’s said that a dog just wants to please its master, but that is not entirely true. In fact, dogs learn new things when they are positively encouraged and rewarded for their efforts. Sometimes they need special dog snacks to stay motivated, while other times they simply do it because they feel good or they have fun.

Dog training outside

Some commands are basic and every dog is required to know them in order to act civilized and be held under control. However, there are other more impressive tricks that a dog can learn. The entire dressage purpose is to entertain both the owner and the dog, creating a special bound and learning a thing or two in the process. If you’d like to learn a little more, you should definitely check out our article on the right training techniques to consider.

Choosing the right treat for dressage

Besides the usual commands, such as “heel”, “sit”, “stay” and so on, a dog can learn much more interesting ones. Cool dog tricks are not easy to learn, but they can be successfully taught with patience and perseverance. After up to 100 repetitions, any dog will be able to respond positively and understand what you want from it.

However, even before you decide on the tricks that you want your dog to do, you should find a healthy food that your dog really likes and use it as reward. Although your dog might be gluttonous, you will probably have better results if you use special dog snacks than home cooked meals.

Treats for dressage

After you purchase snacks and you are ready to begin the training, remember to keep the snacks really close to you. A dog should be rewarded as soon as it does what is told. If you don’t give them to it at the right moment, it will not associate the treat with its action. Therefore, it might not respond to this type of training anymore. Complimenting and caressing your pooch is also a way of rewarding it. Try to combine food with these two until you receive a satisfying response even if you don’t use a snack as a bribe at all times.

Introducing listening exercises to your dog

According to specialists, it is not recommended to be affectionate with your dog chaotically and without purpose. This aspect becomes a requirement in case you want your dog to listen to you and to learn new tricks, thus developing every day. Perseverance and consistency from your side are required as well. Introducing listening exercises to your dog and making them part of your daily routine is mandatory.

You can turn every interaction with your pet in a learning experience. In order to achieve that, your dog has to first learn the basic rules of obedience. The funny and impressive tricks come second. Depending on the dog breed, the learning process might take 1, 2 or more weeks.

4 tips for listening exercises

  • Teach your dog that in order to get what it wants it has to obey to your orders. Reward it with a lot of enthusiasms and positivity then it does what it’s told, like coming to you when you call it. Use proper food treats, toys, praise, affection and games. Whatever works is good.
  • Teach your dog to sit still and wait until you give it a snack. They easiest way to make it sit, is to put pressure on its butt until it sits down. This gesture will no longer be necessary after it catches the move.
  • Teach your dog to wait until you allow it to go outside the door. When you try this with your pooch, you might need the assistance of another person that wouldn’t allow it to go out the door if it got further away from you. A dog should not leave the house without its owner or without his or her permission.
  • Teach your dog to obey immediately after you pronounce a command. Your voice commands should be accompanied by gestures until your dog learns what it has to do when you say certain things.

These commands should be performed for 5 minutes, multiple times per day or until the dog gets bored or it isn’t focused anymore. If you’d prefer something simpler, you could always use a clicker to get your dog to listen. You can read more about this method of training in our great article on clicker training.

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The average training time per day is 15 minutes. A dog should be kept under control before trying to teach it harder and cooler tricks.

Listening dogs

The meaning of “no” and “yes” should be very clear inside your pooch’s head. Otherwise, the efforts of making it perform different tricks will be in vain. Stress and frustration should not occur when it comes to the dressage of a dog. Both the owner and the dog should have a joyful mood, be ready to have fun and learn a few things along the way too.

7 normal dog tricks

These 7 normal or easy dog tricks are simple to learn and to perform. “Crawl”, “catch”, “shake hands”, “give me a kiss”, “be ashamed” and “wait” are the commands used for them. The commands should be short. A dog can recognize short words and expressions without too much effort.

Dog crawling

These 7 tricks are not difficult, but they have a particular charm for both a dog owner and a person who admires a dog perform them. The kiss scene could be particularly cute and totally heart melting for some sensitive viewers, just as the scene with the ashamed dog.

  1. Crawl. You can train your dog to crawl by placing it on its belly near you and by putting a snack in front of it. Next, move the snack a few inches away from it and encourage it to crawl in order to reach it. If it stands up, take the snack away from it and start the exercise from the beginning. Repeat it until your dog understands what you want from it.
  2. Catch. In order to teach your dog to catch different objects, you should stay in front of it at a short distance. Then, you should throw a small piece of food towards it, as slow as you possibly can, giving it time to understand what is happening. If it doesn’t catch that piece of food, start the exercise all over again. Your dog will get to the bottom of it in no time.
  3. Shake hands. This command is also facile. Determining your dog to shake hands with you should be effortless. You have to face it and grab its paw. Praise it and give it a snack to eat if it doesn’t react negatively. Repeat this exercise several times per day, switching between its paws. As soon as your dog learns to shake hands, you can move on to commands such as “hi-5”, “wave” and “bye”.
  4. Give me a kiss. Some dog owners don’t like to get licked by their pooches, but some appreciate that gesture. If you are among those who like to get a kiss from their pooches once in a while, you must know how to train them. Facing your dog and saying “give me a kiss” is how this exercise should be approached. Every time your dog touches your face with its snout you should reward it. In order to make it lick your cheek, you can put peanut butter on your cheek until it learns to associate this command with the licking action.
  5. Be ashamed. This command makes a doggy look quite funny. In order to determine a canine specimen to do it, you should put something on its snout that falls when it tries to take it off with its paw. You can try to use an elastic band. After it removes it, reward it with a snack and repeat the exercise until the elastic band is no longer needed. Be aware not to place any object too close to its eyes. Hurting itself is not an option.
  6. Wait. A dog that has food in front of it should learn to wait and only eat it when you allow it to eat it. In this regard, try to place a piece of food on your dog’s nose and make it wait for a few seconds before trying to reach it. Ideally, it should end up in its mouth before falling on the ground. Multiple exercises are required.
  7. Wait version 2. This time, tell your dog to lie down. Place a piece of food on its paws and command it to wait. Your dog will most probably try to reach that piece of food. You shouldn’t let it. It should wait longer before getting permission to eat it.

If your dog has an easy handle on these methods, you can start on more difficult tasks that involve you being outside. We’ve laid it all out for you in this article on off-leash dog training.

7 special dog tricks

Maybe you’ve taught your dog to sit, fetch and some other impressive tricks, but there are always more to be learned. If you have enough time and patience on your hands, you can try to train your dog to play the piano or to even bring you something from the fridge. This is not about you using your canine pet because you are lazy and you don’t want to get up and take something from your fridge yourself. This is about a dog learning how to do chores, about an occupied dog that focuses on something, is engaged, uses its mind and makes itself useful.

Dog fetch

If your dog is a fast learner, that is definitely a plus, because the following 7 special tricks are not a piece of cake. Remember that you cannot skip the easy tricks and try to intensively make your dog do something it is not prepared for. These 7 tricks involve teaching your dog how to say hi or goodbye, to roll over, to play dead, to beg, to play volleyball or basketball, to play the piano and to bring stuff from the fridge.

All are interesting, educative and have a higher difficulty level as well, compared with the ones revealed above.

  1. Wave/goodbye/hi. A dog that knows how to shake hands can definitely learn how to wave at someone who leaves or comes in. Your family and friends would be delighted to see your dog waving at them on their way out or on their way in. In this way, your dog will feel important too. For this dressage sessions you need enthusiasm, patience and a lot of snacks.
    Here are the steps that should help you complete your mission: ask your dog to shake your hand, but this time lift your hand higher, making it reach higher. Once that’s done, you can reward it. Next, repeat this exercise until it manages to reach over its head. Remember to associate the right words with this command.
  2. Stop, drop and roll/roll over. For this trick, a dog needs background knowledge as well. It has to know how to sit and how to get down. Compared to other tricks, this one is considered more difficult because it involves multiple commands. The dressage sessions for this one should take place on the grass or on a soft carpet to avoid injury. After you bring your pooch to a suitable place, you can start with the basic “down” command.
    When it is on its belly, take a snack and move it in front of its nose and then around its head. It will try to reach it, but you only need to get its attention with it. Say “roll over” and move the snack around its head. If it doesn’t roll over, you can grab it by its shoulders and show it how it’s done. This way it will most definitely understand. Praising and giving it treats is required for the success of this lengthy process.
  3. Play dead/bang. Another exercise that involves training on the ground, playing dead requires delicious rewards and a good mood. Your dog should be familiarized with the “down” command. After it lies down, you should say either “dead” or “bang”, imitating the sound of a gun discharging. If you want to animate the dressage session, you can make a gesture too.
    Point two fingers towards your dog and then say “bang”, like you shot it and now it is really dead, not only playing dead. This is not a thoughtless gesture, but just a way to make everything look as real as possible. Your dog can become a faultless actor. The snack should be granted after the dog lies down on its side with its head on the ground and its tail as well.
  4. Sit pretty/beg. This is a trick that resumes to a short command and it is likely to be learned easily by any dog, even dog breeds that need a lot of repetitions in order to understand and execute. A dog should first of all sit. Then, you should grab a snack and move it in front of its face, saying “beg”. Naturally, any pooch would try to just take the snack and eat it. However, when it tries to take it, you should raise it above its head and force it to stretch for it. If it does so, grant it the snack and repeat the exercise some more.
  5. Play ball. One might not literally teach a dog to play basketball or volleyball, but one can teach a dog the fundamentals of these games. First, grab a light ball, such as a beach ball, and allow your dog a few moments to get used with it by throwing it towards it. If your pooch goes after it and tries to bring it back, reward it with a snack.
    As soon as it learns how to handle this ball, switch it with a heavier basket ball and repeat the exercises. It should learn to use its nose and lift the basket ball off the ground. Remember that this is a difficult trick and it requires a lot of time, energy and dedication to complete it successfully.
  6. Play the piano. Playing the piano consists of basic “shake hands” moves. If your pooch already knows the latter command, you can simply go on and teach it to associate it with the piano. In order to do that, grab a plastic disc like a Frisbee and position it in front of the dog. Every time it touches it with its paw, reward it.
    Once your canine friend knows what to do, change that disc with a smaller object. Keep replacing these objects until it develops the ability to touch a small object, such as a piano’s flap. Leave the actual piano for when it already knows what it has to do. This exercise is based on simple commands that you must combine.
  7. Fetch me a soda/beer/water. This trick might look like exploitation, but it isn’t. A dog fetching different things for its owner is a dog with a purpose that has activity and that interacts with its owner a lot more than other dogs do. Whether it’s a soda or a beer, you can train your dog to bring it for you from the fridge. If this sounds impossible to you, then you should know that although it requires a lot of work, it is far from being impossible.
    It is true that this trick involves a lot of effort from your dog’s side, but it is worth it. Moreover, it takes a medium sized dog to do this trick or perhaps a really small fridge for short dogs to be able to do it. It consists of several elements that must be taught separately. If your dog already knows to bring back the stick after you throw it, you can move to the next step.
    Opening and closing the fridge’s door involves the usage of a rope. Tie a rope on the fridge’s handle and teach your dog to grab it with its mouth and pull it. Every time your dog does something right, give it snacks and caress it. Once your dog can open the fridge by itself, it should only find beverages on the shelf that it can reach. Its mission will be to take one and bring it to you. Determining this clever animal to close the fridge’s door is a lot easier than to open it because it can use its body weight to close it.
    All these steps take a long while to make sense to a dog. They are considered complex elements.

Conclusions for dog tricks training

While some dog owners would be grateful to teach their dogs the most basic commands, others have mastered that level and they want to move to the next one. A dog’s intelligence can be used for tricks.

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Besides that, an owner and a dog can have a lot of fun together during their dressage sessions.

Effect of training in the dog brain

Both easy and complicated tricks are worth a shot as long as both parties are having a good time and negative feelings such as frustration and anger are not present. A dog trainer should be patient, loving and perseverant. Nothing can be achieved without these 3 characteristics. Moreover, pushing a dog to stay focused for more than 15 minutes at a time doesn’t do any good. Pushing its limits is great, but definitely not in an obvious forceful way.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Natalie Barton

    My brother pretty much fancies himself the ultimate dog-trainer, I believe it’s high time to give him a challenge! Granted, he effectively taught our dogs table manners (as far as dogs could have them), trained them to wait until an order was given before eating, among other tricks. Hopefully in a few months our dogs could learn a few other interesting habits!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Natalie. I am confident that your brother will do a magnificent job and your dogs will be trained so well. Let us know what happens after few training sessions!

  • anna willard

    My daughter is looking for some dog tricks that she can entertain her grandmother with. She’s recuperating from a fall, and is not up to going anywhere. Do you have advanced dog tricks that are sure crowd pleasers? Her dog, a toy breed loves doing tricks. In fact, she knows some advanced dog tricks already. She can jump through arm hoops and growl/bark on command, among others. What are your favorite tricks that you can share? It would be fun trying them out. :)

  • Betsy Johnson

    Our local hospital allows these talented bunch of therapy dogs to bring lots of smiles to many patients. They can even do cute little tricks. This is so unconventional and I hope many therapy dogs would be trained some tricks to lighten up everyone’s moods! :)

    • Therapy dogs are such great partners when it comes to promoting health and well-being. They are taught not only obedience, but also some tricks to keep everyone happy and entertained.

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