How to teach your dog to do tricks

By Ezmeralda Lee


Teaching your dog a new trick can be frustrating. As with most new things, repetition is the key. If you don't use a new trick for an extended amount of time, the dog will likely forget what to do. While dogs can easily become bored unless bribed, it is important not to teach them to be treat-dependent. Try the steps below for teaching some of the basic commands such as \"sit,\" \"lie down\" and \"stay.\"

Step 1

Teaching your dog to sit. The first thing you need to do is eliminate any distractions. Take your dog to a quiet place where they won't be distracted by other people walking around or talking. You may show your dog one treat in your hand to get their attention, but be sure not to give it to them yet. Some dogs may be intimidated when humans stand right in front of them, towering over them. If your dog tends to back away when confronted like this, you may want to try training them while kneeling in front of them. Once you have your dog's attention, choose which signal you want to associate with the \"sit\" command, such as one short whistle, a particular hand signal or a certain number of clicks. Perform this signal, say \"sit\" and move the treat-hand from above their head toward the dog's tail. As the dog follows the treat with their eyes, their natural reaction will be to sit in order to tilt their head back even further. The first time your dog performs a new trick correctly, give them a treat. Then wait until your dog correctly follows command a few times before giving them a treat. Space the treats out more as the dog becomes more familiar with the new command, until they learn to follow orders without expecting a treat.

Step 2

Teaching your dog to lie down. Many people find it much easier to teach their dog to lie down once the dog is already in the \"sit\" position. For most people, this works just fine. If you would rather your dog not associate the two commands, be sure not to tell them \"lie down\" when they are in the \"sit\" position. Similarly, if the dog lies down when told to sit, tell them \"no\" followed by having them stand before moving to the correct \"sit\" position. If you don't mind the association, go ahead and command your dog to the sit position to start with. Once they are in the position of your choice, show them a treat in your hand. While showing them the treat, perform the signal you wish to associate, followed by the \"lie down\" command. Bring the treat down to the ground in front of the dog, keeping it in the dog's sight. A dog's natural reaction will be to lie down, as they don't like the strain placed on their neck and back from reaching straight down so close to their bodies.

Step 3

Teaching the \"stay\" command. Since the natural instinct of an animal is to be more alert when standing, it is important your dog know both \"sit\" and \"lie down\" before teaching them the \"stay\" command. To begin, place your dog on a leash. Lead them next to you, and command them to the \"sit\" position. Gently pull the leash taut, sending the signal to your dog you do not want them to walk. Perform the associated signal for \"stay\" followed by telling the dog \"stay.\" Slowly allow the leash to gain slack. If the dog stands up, tell them \"no\" and begin again. If your dog does not get up, walk away without looking back. When the dog follows you, tell them \"no\" and begin again. After some practice the dog will understand what \"stay\" means. It is important to also establish a signal for releasing the dog from \"stay\" in order to avoid trouble or confusion.
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