It is fun to teach a dog new tricks, and any dog can learn. The number of tricks you and your dog can learn are only limited by your imagination. All you need is a little creativity, the right methods and you are on your way to success.
Breaking Down Any Skill
To teach a new trick to your dog, begin by deciding what the final trick looks like. Once you have defined the trick, break it down into small, easily accomplished components. Practice and reward each component until your dog is offering that skill frequently and successfully before adding the next step. This is called shaping.
An Example Trick
For example, you may want your dog to close the door. The first step is to teach your dog that the door brings treats. Each time your dog brings his head near the door, say "Yes!" and offer a treat. Next, teach your dog to touch the door with his nose by withholding a treat until he bumps the door. Once he is successfully touching the door, begin to wait until he pushes the door slightly, say "Yes!" and offer a treat. Finally, when he is pushing the door regularly, withhold the treats until he pushes the door closed. When this happens, say "Yes!" and offer multiple treats in a row.
There are many books on training dogs to do tricks that offer step-by-step instructions. The only limitations are set by your imagination and you and your dog's physical health. To find classes taught by a certified trick dog instructor, visit DoMoreWithYourDog.com.
Shelly Volsche has worked as a professional dog behavior consultant, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and a diploma in canine nutrition. She has written for "The Chronicle of the Dog" and Lucky Dog Magazine and is currently pursuing her PhD in anthropology with a focus on pet parents.