Fun Tricks and Training – Thursday 9th March 2023

Fun Tricks and Training

It might be cold outside, but you dogs can cheer yourselves up with some fun tricks and training with your humans. These suggestions have been sent to us by our lovely friends at Pooch and Mutt and were put together by their dog behaviourist Dr Emma Scales-Theobald. From our point of view, one of the most important things to remember in being willing to do extra training, apart from the fun you can have with your human, is the extra treats! Just make sure your human has a stock of your favourites.

Tips for humans

These are things to make sure your human has before you agree to work with them on this.

  • Patience – Training isn’t always easy, and it can be very repetitive, so patience is crucial. Some dogs don’t pick things up straight away, which of course, can be frustrating, but like you, they are doing their best. Maintaining a level of patience throughout training will make it a more positive experience for both you and your dog. (Wilma – you dogs be patient with your humans too, they may be equally baffled about how to go about things)
  • Tasty treats – Unfortunately, most dogs won’t perform without some kind of incentive, so you’re going to need some tasty treats to give them something to work for. Choose something you know they love but don’t have every day – cooked chicken or cheese are often good options! (Wilma – let’s be honest, most humans don’t work for free either!)
  • A safe space – Safety is always key when training your dog, as there is always potential for accidents or falls. So, make sure you have plenty of space, and you move any objects that could cause injuries if your dog was to run or fall into them. (Wilma – dogs also need to take notice of this. If you have a human as clumsy as mine it will be them falling over things so please try to keep them safe)
  • Consistent commands – Consistency is key. Nailing down your commands and hand gestures before you get started will save your dog from getting confused and help them learn the tricks much quicker. (Wilma – we dogs find that humans often struggle with this one. It’s amazing how often they can’t remember what they asked us to do last time around.)

Dr Emma’s training tips

Jumping over a hurdle
This is a trick that requires patience as you will have to go about it in stages. Firstly, you want to start with a hurdle low enough for your dog to step over and your dog on a lead. Begin simply walking your dog over the bar, marking it with a ‘yes’ and rewarding them with a treat every time they step over it. This will help them gain confidence around the hurdle, as well as getting over it.

Once your dog has this nailed, you can slightly raise the bar and have your dog sit on one side whilst you are on the other. Try calling your dog over the hurdle, making sure they have a good view of their treat. Use the lead to guide them over if they are struggling. Once the dog reaches the other side, mark and reward.

Again, once your dog is confident with this, you can start introducing the name of the command. This should be something such as ‘jump’ or ‘over’. Call your dog over the hurdle, and once their feet are off the ground, say your command and then mark and reward again once they get to you. You can then start increasing the height of the hurdle as your dog’s confidence grows.

Weaving through obstacles
Start by placing cones (if you don’t have cones, placing plastic cups upside down is an easy alternative) in a straight line spaced evenly apart. To begin, make the gaps between each cone quite spacious. Once your dog is getting the hang of weaving, you can move the cones closer together to make it a little more challenging.

Before encouraging your dog to weave through the cones, you want to get them familiar with following a treat. To do this, make it known to your pooch that you have a treat in your hand and work on getting them to follow your hand, marking with a ‘yes’ and the treat when they have followed your hand successfully. 

Once they are getting good at this, you can move to guide them through the cones, again with a treat in hand. Keep the treat close to your dog’s snout and weave them through the cones. Once your dog reaches the end, mark and reward. Repeat this a few more times until your dog is following you confidently. Once they are, you can start introducing the command ‘weave’. Guide your dog again as they make their way through the cones, say ‘weave’ and once they complete the course, mark and reward. Continue practising this until your dog is confident. Once they are familiar with the command, you can move to start saying the command without having to guide your dog through the cones, marking and rewarding once they reach the end. If they struggle, that’s fine. Jump back a step and guide them through again.

Running through a tunnel

If you have children, you might have a play tunnel lying around. If not, you can make one by opening up the bottoms of some large cardboard boxes and placing them together.

Firstly you need to get your dog familiar with the tunnel, let your dog sniff and get close to it, and reward any positive behaviour towards the tunnel with a ‘yes’ and a tasty treat. Once you are happy that your dog doesn’t fear the tunnel, lay out a trail of treats through the tunnel to entice your dog to manoeuvre through it. Ideally, you will have one person holding your dog at one end and another person on the other to call and encourage the dog. When your dog reaches the end, give them lots of praise and extra treats and repeat this process until your dog is confidently moving through the tunnel.

Now, repeat the last step without the treats in the tunnel, and save them for the end reward. Have one person call and encourage your dog to come through, and when they do, mark it with a ‘yes’ and a big reward. Repeat this until your dog is running through confidently every time, then move on to introducing the command.

Once your dog steps into the tunnel, say a command such as ‘through’ to mark the action, and as normal, mark with a ‘yes’ and reward once they reach you on the other side. Repeat this as many times as you need to until your dog runs through the tunnel upon hearing the command without needing a treat on the other side.

Spin on the spot

Teaching your dog to spin takes a lot of practice as it is a little trickier to master, but with plenty of patience and rewards, you and your dog will master it in no time.

Start with a treat held closely to your dog’s snout and begin by luring them round to one side, as they start to turn, mark and reward with the treat. Repeat this a few times, ensuring you always lure them the same way until they get used to the motion of turning.

Once your dog is confident with that, you want to start luring them in a full circle with the treat close to their snout. Your pooch won’t get this every time, so it is important to be patient and just go back to your starting point and try again, marking it with a ‘yes’ and rewarding once they have completed the full circle.

Again, when your dog is confidently following your hand in a full circle motion, you can move on to incorporating the command, ‘spin’. Lure your dog round and as they start the movement, say the command, and when they finish, mark and reward. Continue repeating this until your dog gets it right every time. Only then can you start to try getting them to spin without luring them with a treat. You should get to a point where you can simply say ‘spin’, and your dog will know exactly what to do!

When you’ve learnt all those try swapping around and seeing if your human can do them too. Have fun.



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