Saturday, August 27, 2016

EverythingDogBlog: It's ALL Tricks!

Is your dog a trick dog? He can be!

Many years ago, I was a volunteer dog-person at my local dog shelter. One of the tasks I was lucky enough to have was to show prospective shelter dogs to families who came to find their next best friend. One day I took a dog into the Visiting Room, closed the door, and signaled the dog to sit. The little 9-year-old boy squealed with delight as he said, “Oh, look, he can do tricks!”

It’s All Tricks

Many positive-reinforcement dog trainers incorporate a trick into their curriculum, usually on the final night of classes. I have always assigned my dog-people teams to come up with something that we haven’t covered in class and to present to the others on the final night: we also vote for dog prizes for Most Improved, Cutest, Friendliest Dog, Funniest, and Best Trickster. I make sure that each dog is recognized by crowning one as having Perfect Attendance or Fastest Sitter (or Downer), Twist King/Queen, Hungriest Dog, etc.

Of course, this trick assignment is optional but I have loaned out my Teaching Your Dog to Skateboard
DVD and once I had a dog who would kiss his girl on cue (on the cheek)! And of course, once we had a family named Wolfe: they asked their dog what his name was and he would woof!

Oriole Dog Training Club in Halethorpe, Maryland, just this side of Baltimore, near BWI, offers a Basic Training class using tricks to teach skills. And of course, Sit and Stay and Down are also tricks. It’s all tricks. People love tricks and can even earn the Novice Trick Dog (NTD) title on their dog at the end of the 8-week course.

Other tricks I teach are Spin and Twist, Rollover, Open the Door, Paws Up on a Chair, Say Your Prayers, and other marvels of the dog world.

Why Teach Tricks?

When we teach our dogs Sit or Down in a class situation, there will always be dogs who Sit faster than yours or Come better. On the other hand, there will be dogs who meander instead of coming when called. I once had a cute little Rottweiler puppy in class who just didn’t understand how to sit when asked. For 6 weeks! But then she sat and by the next week she had caught up with the entire class. (Sit is a basic skill from which others are taught.) This miracle pup had been thinking about it all for weeks and then decided to wow us all. (Perhaps, or perhaps we could call this, latent learning)

If your dog doesn’t sit when you ask him to and all the other dogs in class are sitting quietly, you may become frustrated. However, if we consider all the basic training skills to be tricks, it changes our expectations. When our dog ‘gets’ it, it is fun! We are amazed. We laugh and clap and smile or giggle. And Fido loves it. He repeats the Sit the next time we ask him to.

Pick a Trick

I teach tricks for two reasons: to improve the relationship between dog and human because it is fun, and to teach positive-reinforcement reward-based training techniques.

Some dogs will seemingly automatically pick up on a few tricks. Others will take a week of practice and some will take even longer – so that you may give up. But, being tricks, there is always another trick that your dog will quickly amaze you with!
If you want to teach your dog tricks, and, remember, it’s all tricks – even Stay and Come, contact the Oriole Dog Training Club at New classes start the week of September 12 and registration by website here opens on the 30th of August.

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