Dog tricks run the gauntlet from extremely basic to the mind-blowingly complex. Tricks can not only entertain friends and family, they can help teach your dog valuable problem-solving skills while helping you work on communication and relationship building.
Basic tricks, such as sit, down, stay and heel, give your dog the knowledge she needs to successfully learn far more advanced tricks. Without a solid foundation in the basics, your dog will struggle with complex behaviors. For an extra challenge and to solidify your dog's skills, basic tricks can be practiced at a distance, with your dog on a platform or with your dog in a different position than she's used to performing them. For example, if your dog normally heels on your left side, practice heeling on the right and call it "side" or something different. If you dog is used to performing sits or downs while in front of you, practice the positions with your dog in heel or side position, behind you, or between your legs.
Entertaining tricks allow your dog to show off a wide range of skills. Spinning in circles, shaking paws, playing dead and army crawling all fall into this category. Additional tricks might include rolling over, weaving between your legs, barking on command or sitting pretty. These "parlor tricks" almost always bring a smile or laugh or a "hey, cool" from a watching audience.
Advanced tricks are limited only by your imagination, gravity and the laws of physics. Teach your dog to retrieve a beverage from the fridge, leap off your back to snatch a flying disk out of the air or dance on her hind legs. Other advanced tricks, such as opening and closing doors and drawers, assisting with the laundry and carrying messages person to person, allow your dog to help around the house.
While many tricks are all fun and games, the essential tricks provide protection for your dog and peace of mind for you. "Come" is a basic but essential command every puppy should learn from a very early age. Come returns your dog to you in all situations, giving you the ability to call your four-legged friend away from danger. Equally as important is the "emergency down," a trick in which your pup drops to the ground like a rock when given the command no matter where she is, you are or the level of distraction around the two of you. The emergency down keeps your excited pup from crossing a busy road to return to you, chasing a ball into a dark and murky lake, or taking off after a rabbit in the woods.
- 101 Dog Tricks; Kyra Sundance
Since 2001, Kea Grace has published in "Dog Fancy," "Clean Run," "Front and Finish" and an international Czechoslovakian agility enthusiast magazine. Grace is the head trainer for Gimme Grace Dog Training and holds her CPDT-KA and CTDI certifications. She is a member of the APDT and is a recognized CLASS instructor. She's seeking German certification from the Goethe Institut.