One of the most popular blog series of 2021 was Tricks for Treats.
In this series of posts Aly shared fun tricks that you can teach your dog — we promise there is nothing scary here! The tricks are easy to teach and fun to learn.
This Halloween Season we are bringing back this series, this year we will review some of the most popular tricks from last year and Aly will teach new tricks as well, so be sure to come back to the blog each week in October. If you missed last weeks, we taught one of our favorite dog tricks, Twinkle Toes.
Why it’s important to teach your dog tricks?
Tricks are a fun way for a dog to learn how to use their body and brain in new ways, all while building a relationship with you! It’s a positive way to get things done with your dog. You can also grow muscle groups and grow your dog’s awareness of how to control and use their front and hind ends.
I LOVE tricks! Tricks done right, build focus, skills, coordination (for both you and your dog!), confidence, and let’s face it, they are ol’ fashioned FUN!
Your dog loves tricks too! Here are a few basic trick Do’s and Don’ts:
- Don’t rush your dog
- Don’t punish your dog if they do not execute the trick as planned.
- Don’t force your dog to do a trick
- CLICKERS: Clickers are very helpful in making a distinctive mark for the desired behavior in an incredibly timely manner. Clickers are fast and can mark the behavior instantly. Any delays between the behavior you want and the behavior you are rewarding, and there can be confusion. For example, you want your dog to lower his head and he wagged his tail. You may think you are rewarding the lowering of the head, but your dog thinks he’s rewarded for wagging his tail. You get the idea that timing REALLY MATTERS in tricks.
- GREAT REWARDS: Rewards are the thing your dog wants. Rewards can be a high value food, a pet, a chance to run and play, really anything that your dog loves! The reward is known as the primary reinforcer.
- You are pairing the reward (primary reinforcer) with the CLICKER (the secondary reinforcer) The clicker tells the animal, “YOUR REWARD IS ON THE WAY!”
- Tricks build bit by bit. You break a trick down into small pieces, eventually putting the pieces together to create the big picture of the desired trick. For example, if you want your dog to jump into your arms, you first have to have them jump into your arms while sitting down on the ground. Then you build to jumping into your arms from sitting in a chair. Then you build to jumping into your arms while standing up. This progression can take weeks or months to complete.
- Have a light leash or leash tab (doesn’t touch the ground) on your dog so that you can guide them if they get confused.
- Make each leg of the trick journey fun and enjoyable for your dog. Embrace SHORT sessions. Choose a time of day when your dog is energetic and fresh and hungry!
This trick evolves to the point where a dog will hop through a hoop made by your arms, ending with a hop into your arms while standing up. As we build a dog’s ability to hop on command, the practical applications are endless…hop onto a chair for pictures, hop into your SUV, Car or Truck, hop over a log out on a walk!
The hopping opportunities are endless out in our real world. And to the dog, it feels like a fun game!
The Beginning Stage of the Hop Over
We start the trick by having a great treat and clicker ready. Sit yourself next to a solid surface like a wall or fence. Place your arm flat on the ground (outstretched toward the wall), with your fingertips touching the wall. With your free hand, lure the dog with your treat and encourage your pup or dog to go over your arm. CLICK/REWARD the second your dog gets over the arm. A modification for a pup that is a bit resistant to hop over your arm is to extend your leg bracing against the wall and you lure with a treat and encourage your dog to HOP over your leg. CLICK/REWARD the second your pup hops over your leg. You gradually increase the distance between the ground and your outstretched arm or leg, with your fingertips or foot touching the wall or fence. The goal is to get to 2-3 ft. from the ground. Remember, you cannot DRILL & KILL. You must stop after a couple repetitions. If the game is no longer fun, you’ll destroy your dog’s willingness to try!
The Middle Stage of the Hope Over
It’s time to add the command “OVER”. You are going to do the same exercise as in the beginning and add the command OVER. When he does it, CLICK/REWARD. Now, you will begin to increase the distance away from the wall. Stay in the same position, but have a 12” gap from your fingertips to the wall. Start low and gradually increase the height of the jump. The goal is that you eventually get to your shoulder height as you are sitting on the ground which is about 3 ft from the ground..
The Fading Stage of the Hop Over
It’s time for the lure to fade! When your dog really understands the concept, it’s time to fade the lure so that he starts the HOP with NO LURE. Go back to a lower height for your dog to hop over, to get the COMMAND/CLICK/REWARD. As his confidence and understanding grows, you can raise your arm higher. It’s aok to point with your finger and encourage and as soon as he hops, CLICK/REWARD.
The Form Circle/Hoop Stage of the Hop Over
Now your dog responds to the command “OVER ” as you raise your arm. Next, get a friend to help you form a very large circle/hoop with both of your arms. You both stand facing each other, outstretching your arms as you both form a BIG CIrcle/ HOOP with your fingertips touching each other. As soon as your dog goes “OVER” CLICK/REWARD.
The Final Stage of the Hop Over
You are now ready to form a large hoop with your own arms and your dog will HOP THROUGH YOUR HOOP!! MODIFICATION for this trick is, as your dog makes the hop, have your arms ready to catch him into your arms!!!
TRICK FOR TREATS is your commitment to your dog. Don’t skip the reward at the end and always be the BEST PARTY ever when your dog executes the trick at each stage!!
Effort and Willingness is always rewarded with me!