5 fun and easy tricks you can teach any dog to do

Trick training is not only a great way to show off at parties with your pup, but it’s an amazing form of enrichment!

What you’ll need

  • Plenty of small, high value treats (bits of cheese, cooked chicken, cut up dog food roll)
  • Patience
  • Your dog!

Remember: Training sessions should always be fun. Sessions should be short- no longer than 10 minutes. Ideally just a few minutes twice per day.

Most tricks will take a few sessions to master – don’t rush it!

Always work with your dogs current skill level- if they are finding it too hard, simply go back a step, or see how you can break it down into smaller pieces for them. and always end on a positive note!

For these tricks, we are using a technique called shaping

What is shaping?

Essentially we are breaking a larger task down into smaller parts that are easily achievable for the dog, and once they are successful at each smaller step, we change the criteria and make it a little harder, working towards that end goal until the target behaviour is achieved.

The goal is to let the dog do most of the thinking, we are there to watch and wait quietly and then reward the exact moment they make a step in the right direction with a “yes!” and a treat.

If your dog isn’t sure, make it a little easier for them. Once your dog has done a few shaping sessions, you will find their confidence in guessing what you want and offering behaviours increases, and they will likely learn new tricks faster.

1. Shake hands

It’s a go to for all dapper dogs and pretty pups to win hearts all over the world.

How to teach it

  1. Hold out your hand for your dog.
  2. They will likely investigate and wonder what is happening. As soon as they move their own foot towards your hand, or even touch it- reward immediately with a “yes!”
  3. Remember, be quiet and patient- repeat until your dog is constantly touching your hand.
  4. At this stage, we can start building the duration and increasing the difficulty. Have your dog hold their paw on your hand for slightly longer before you reward.
  5. Repeat 5. When your dog is consistently placing their paw on your hand, start introducing your verbal cue “shake” or “high five”
  6. Repeat until your dog is reliably completing the trick with a verbal and visual cue

2. Nose Touches

Teach your pup to bump (or boop!) your hand with their nose! This cute trick is incredibly useful for cooperative care, grabbing their attention and to use when teaching other tricks!

How to teach it

  1. Sit down with your dog in a quiet room.
  2. Hold out your hand, palm flat (a sidewards “stop” signal)
  3. As soon as your dog looks towards your hand, say “yes!” and give them a treat close to your palm using your other hand. Do not move your flat hand at this stage.
  4. Repeat until they are reliably looking at your hand.
  5. Once they are looking at your hand, we raise the criteria. This means they only get “yes!” and a treat when they move their nose towards your hand.
  6. Repeat until successfully moving towards your hand.
  7. Criteria change again- now we reward when they touch your hand with their nose.
  8. Repeat until doing this successfully 80% of the time. At this stage you can add in a verbal command “touch” and start to move your hand higher and lower to test their understanding.
  9. Try using your other hand. If they won’t target your other hand, simply take one step backward and repeat the process for the opposite hand.
  10. Now you have a nose target!

3. Spin

Teach your dog to spin in a circle- right and left!

How to teach it

1. Using your nose touch cue or a food lure, simply move your hand to your dogs tail 2. “yes!” and reward as soon as your dog turns towards your hand 3. Repeat until successfully turning a full circle 4. At this stage, introduce a word cue “spin” 5. Start to phase out the hand lure by moving your hand further away from your dog and using only a minor ‘spin’ motion 6. Go back to step one and repeat for the opposite direction! Use a different word such as “twist” or “turn” 7. Now you have two new party tricks!

4.Pivot around a box

A two for one deal- it’s a trick and dog fitness! Your dog will stand with two feet up on a small box, and will their back legs around the box with you.

How to teach it

We are using the shaping technique again. This one is a multi-stage trick.

Stage One: Front feet on the box

  1. Grab a solid box, small offset of wood or a large heavy book and your dog.
  2. Place the box on the floor and say “yes” as soon as your dog looks towards it. Reward. When rewarding, reward over the top of the box.
  3. Repeat.
  4. Once they are looking towards the box, we move the criteria. Now the dog has to move towards the box. Because we have been rewarding over the top of the box, this should be a quick step. “Yes!” and reward when they move closer to the box in any way.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Once they are willing to move towards the box, we change the criteria. Now they have to put at least one paw onto the box. “Yes!” and reward when they touch the box.
  7. Repeat.
  8. Criteria change again: only “yes!” and reward when two feet are on the box.
  9. Now we need the dog to keep its feet on the box even when we move. So it’s important to practice at this stage. Move your body around just slightly at first and reward when your dog stays on the box. Make it harder by moving more. If they move off the box, it was just a bit hard for them, so take it a step back and practice until they are successful.

Stage two: Moving their rear legs

Once they understand their front feet need to stay on the box, we are working on moving their back legs.

  1. You take a step sidewards around the box. When they move either of their back feet to face you “yes!” and jackpot reward.
  2. Repeat and reward any small movement of their back legs.
  3. As they get more confident, move more son they need to take 1 or two larger steps around the box.
  4. Make sure you practice both directions.
  5. Your dog now knows a pretty cool trick, that doubles as a leg exercise!

5. Leg weave

Impress your friends with this cool party trick!, and teach your pup to weave between your legs as you walk!

How to teach it

Note: Remember those nose touches? Here they come into their own!

  1. Stand with one foot in front of the other to create a ‘tunnel’ between your legs.
  2. With your dog on one side, simply use your opposite hand and ask for a nose touch next to your first leg. We just want them to get used to the ‘odd’ positioning.
  3. Once your dog is confident nose touching, ask for a nose touch that requires them to walk fully through your leg.
  4. Reward and repeat.
  5. Once your dog has done that happily a few times, add your verbal cue “weave” and reward.
  6. You can start to phase out the nose touch by using just the verbal cue
  7. Repeat and keep practicing until you and your dog can speed up. As your dog begins to understand, you can begin to reward less frequently. For example, rather than a treat after every leg weave, take 2 steps then a treat, then 5, then 3.
  8. You have a leg weave!

Note: Always vary the number of repetitions you do when you begin to delay your reward. Dogs are very smart and will pick up on patterns!

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