Interactive Dog Tricksby Simon Foden
Mental stimulation is essential for dogs, as it staves off boredom.
An interactive dog trick calls on the dog to respond to an action from you, rather than a command. Your dog needs to have mastered some of the more basic commands, such as "sit" and "down," before you advance onto interactive dog tricks. Interactive tricks are typically more complex and contain more physical actions. The key to successfully teaching these tricks is to reward Lucky for successfully completing each phase of the trick.
You can teach the roll over trick with a command to begin with, but as Lucky begins to master the trick, replace the command with a point. Teach the trick in stages, starting by putting Lucky in the down position. Once he’s down, use a treat as a lure to make him follow your hand. By moving the treat from his nose to his shoulder, Lucky will roll onto his side. By releasing the treat as a reward after every successfully completed stage, you teach Lucky that performing that action has a positive consequence. Once he’s able to put the whole process together into a single movement, point as you give the command. Eventually he’ll associate your point with the required movements and will perform the trick without hearing the command.
Teaching the weave requires you to perform the trick along with Lucky for the first few goes. Set up a slalom using cones, stools or any sturdy objects that won’t hurt if bumped into. Hold a treat close to your hip and entice Lucky to follow you. As you move around each point in the slalom, say “weave.” Reward each completed movement around through the slalom with the treat. As he improves, reduce the amount of treats you give him until you’re only treating him for a completed run through the entire slalom. Eventually Lucky will learn that when you go through the slalom, he’s supposed to follow by your side.
You can use target training as a starting point for teaching more advanced tricks like “close the door” and “high five.” Entice Lucky to tap your hand with his paw. Hide a treat in your hand, with your palm face down, then point to your hand. His curiosity will typically drive him to paw at your hand to release the treat. Watch his body language to anticipate when this will happen. As soon as he shifts his balance in order to paw at your hand, give the “touch” command. As soon as he touches your hand, release the treat. With sufficient repetition, he’ll learn that touching the target has a positive outcome. Once he’s mastered the touching part, you can transfer it to other objects, such as door handles.
This is a modified version of basic target training. Instead of a closed hand, raise your hand to the same height as Lucky’s head and say “high five!” As soon as he paws at you, give him a treat from a bag in your pocket. Don’t hold the treat in your hand, as this will distract him.
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