3 Rules on How to Teach Your Dog Tricks

You can teach your dog tricks easily with time, patience, and repetition. Any dog can be taught new tricks and guess what—age has no bearing on the ability. It takes a dedicated owner or trainer to work with them properly until they get the trick down. There is no “one way” to do things but there are canine characteristics that can be better understood and implemented into your techniques.

Different dog breeds have different characteristics and instincts that affect trainability. Even two dogs from the same litter will have two distinct personalities. So, no one dog is the same as the next. Getting into the areas where a dog is a dog can help you better understand the best ways to be a good trainer and easily teach your dog tricks.

Before you begin, get to know these four main canine characteristics—it should help in the success of your training…

  • They Love Food
  • They Can Relate Sound to Action
  • They Thrive on Love, Attention, and Purpose
  • They Learn from Predictable Patterns

To teach your dog tricks, follow these 3 simple rules…

Rule #1:  Have Their Attention

Rule #2:  Command and Follow Through

Rule #3:  Reward

Rule #1:  Have Their Attention: Knowing that dogs love food we know we can get their attention with it. The same goes for sounds like a whistle, a clicker, or even a voice command. And since they learn from predictable patterns; once we have their attention we need to create a pattern, or a command, that starts the desired action. Getting and holding their attention is an important first step to teach your dog tricks.

Rule #2 & #3:  Command, Follow Through & Reward: You can start by giving a command word or sound to an action your dog already does, such as sitting. If he doesn’t yet sit on command you can acknowledge the sit by saying “good sit”. Only when you see him sitting, or very very close to it, should you give him a treat. He will relate the words to the action and getting the reward.

You would then try to get him to sit on command from a standing position. First by showing him the treat and then giving him the “sit” command. If he doesn’t do it, you can repeat the command again. On the third try if he’s not following through, try to encourage the action with a bit of a push on his behind as you again repeat the “sit” command. He should sit with your encouragement and the treat should be given when he does. This creates a learnable pattern. When you do this 2-3 times a day your dog will learn it easily. Remember, the food or treat is the end reward but can also be used as an attention getter and a motivator.

Moving forward, you can use the same techniques to teach your dog a variety of tricks. A routine of “sit”, “stay”, and “come” could be broken down into 3 different training sessions. Trying too many tricks at once is likely to be counterproductive. Teaching simple basic commands and always leading and ending with love, attention, and a reward will make your dog want to do tricks just to fulfill his purpose of pleasing you. In short, using simple start commands, encouraging the action, and rewarding the follow through gives you the ability to teach them any trick in the book.

Good luck!

What method do you use to get your dog’s attention for teaching tricks?

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2 thoughts on “3 Rules on How to Teach Your Dog Tricks”

  1. How sweet and keen is a dog to do what you ask? They just want to please you.

    Your three steps were completely accurate when I was training my young Jack Russell, many years ago.

    She was so clever and would do anything for a reward, Schmacko (a junk food liver treat). She loved them so much.

    Even at 20, deaf and blind, she still wanted a treat if she did what we trained her to do. …which by that stage was simply going to the toilet in the right place!

    By the way, I really believe that hand signals in the training are so important, or will be if ever your dog goes deaf.

    My poor little dog passed away just a few days ago. She gave us so much pleasure over 20 years. Bless.

    1. Janelle – I’m really sorry to hear about the passing of your beloved dog. They are truly a blessing in our lives. It sounds to me that you had a great relationship with your pet…training and spending time with her.

      You’re exactly right, hand signals are super important in training.

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