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Dog Training Tip of the Month

Fun Games and Tricks
  • Playing Fetch - September 2006

    Benefits Of Playing Fetch

    Dog Fetching Toy

    Playing fetch helps you build a good relationship
    with your dog. This simple game lets your dog interact with you and expend energy in a constructive manner. Dogs that do not get enough exercise and/or dog training can often be hyperactive and engage in destructive behavior. Playing “fetch” is easy and is a fun way to exercise your dog. Those who train dogs know that “A tired dog is a good dog.

    Here are some steps for teaching your canine to fetch. If you have difficulties after following these steps, you may consult an animal trainer; however, it may simply show that your dog does not have as high of a prey drive as you thought.

    1. Select a retrieving toy the dog likes to place in his mouth. Some dogs prefer the feel of certain toys over others.

    2. Place the retrieving toy a few inches in front of the dog’s mouth and move it around in a playful way to encourage him to reach out and grab it.

    3. When the dog will happily grab the toy out of your hand, place the toy a bit further away than before and entice him to grab it. Once he does, start running backwards, guiding the dog toward you while verbally praising him. Be excited about the dog running toward you with his toy and lavishly praise him when he reaches you.

    4. Teach the dog to release the toy once he reaches you using a simple dog training technique – try trading him for one of his favorite treats. If the treat is yummy enough, most dogs will happily accept the swap.

    5. Repeat this exercise until you can toss the toy on the ground and the dog grabs it and returns it to you.

    6. A leash may be needed initially to guide the dog toward you but can be removed once the dog understands the game.

    With some stress-free training, you and your pooch can be playing fetch in no time, bonding while getting great exercise. Your dog trainer would likely encourage owners to play fetch because of its interactive qualities. Have fun!
  • “Give your Paw” or “Shake” - April 2008

    Teaching Your Dog to Shake Paw

    Teaching your dog to give you her paw or to shake hands on command is a cute trick that is both impressive and endearing to onlookers. To teach this trick, some dog training is required, though you may not need to consult your professional to master it. Dogs who are prone to “pawing” (using their paws to play and/or to gain attention) are best suited for this trick, though other dogs can be trained easily as well. Once this trick is mastered, there are variations that can be taught, including the “high five” and the “wave.”

    Start With Simple Training Steps

    Let’s begin with some simple steps as instructed by well-known dog trainer Gerilyn J. Bielakiewicz in her book, The Everything Dog Training and Tricks Book (Adams Media Corporation, Avon, Massachusetts; 2003). For this exercise, you will need a good amount of yummy, strong-smelling treats and a clicker.

    1. Determine what gets your dog to paw at you and utilize it to get her to lift her paw. If she is not prone to pawing, try scratching her chest, holding a treat in your fist at nose height, or touching her toenails with your finger. Try using your outstretched hand as a prompt. Once the dog’s paw is in the air, immediately click and treat. Your animal trainer can help you with perfecting your click/treat timing.

    2. Repeat this process 15 to 20 times or until the dog is readily offering her paw.

    3. Leave your hand outstretched for the dog’s paw and wait it out without prompting. As soon as she lifts her paw, click and treat.

    4. If the dog is not lifting her paw after a few seconds, repeat a few more repetitions as described earlier until she associates lifting her paw with the click and treat.

    5. Try connecting the cue (your outstretched hand) with the behavior (the dog offering her paw) by showing your hand and clicking and treating when the dog stretches out her paw.

    6. Once the dog is offering the behavior on a regular basis, you can add the verbal cue “give your paw,” “paw,” “shake,” or whatever you choose. Remember to be consistent. Again, your local dog trainer can help you with choosing your training cues.

    7. Practice this trick in a variety of places and under several different circumstances. If the trick is not working, simplify things once again by practicing at home with few distractions. Be careful not to overwhelm your dog.

    8. Avoid repeating yourself over and over; give one cue, wait for the dog to respond, then click and treat.

    9. If you are having trouble with any of the above steps, consult your trainer for dog training tips and advice.

    If your dog is not responding consistently every time, try practicing more repetitions under low-stress conditions. Ask your dog obedience trainer for some simple advice and have him/her help you with your timing. Set your dog up to succeed and she will learn to do this trick consistently.
  • How to Teach Your Dog “Speak!” - July 2010

    How To Teach A Dog To Speak

    Teach Your Dog To Speak

    “Speak” is a fun dog obedience exercise for you and your canine companion to enjoy, one that will be both entertaining, and educational for your pooch. Learning how to bark on command may be a little bit tricky for your pal at first, but can be accomplished easily with dedication, repetition, and maintenance.

    Here are the steps to training your dog to speak:

    1. Get Excited - The first thing that you will need to do is create a stimulus. In order to train dogs to do this command, they need to be excited. You should begin by playing with him. A game such as fetch or tug of war will create enthusiasm, thus making him more likely to be attentive to your commands. If he is energized, it will be easier to reinforce the positive rewards of the training.

    2. Reveal A Treat - Once your pooch is riled up, cease the prior play, and reveal to him that you have a treat in your hand but do not give it to him. Instead, start by holding the treat behind your back. If your pooch begins to whimper, but does not bark, try waving it around. Revealing, and then re-hiding the treat again will also cause him to react with sound.

    3. Reward A Bark - As soon as he barks, reward him with praise, and a treat. Then, repeat the second step using the cue word, “speak”

    4. Association - Another tip for positively reinforcing this behavior is by keeping your voice at the same tone and volume level, each time that you make the speak command. That way, your dog learns to associate your positive tone, the reward, and the praise with the desired action, thus making him more likely to repeat it.

    5. Repetition - The most important aspect of this training exercise is repetition. Just like any other cue, memorizing the command will make it easier for your dog to understand what you are asking him. By spending a little time each day going over the steps with him, he will pick it up quickly, and be less likely to forget over time.

    Through this exercise, you will be able to educate your dog in one of the many positive tricks that he can learn, and keep his mind active and stimulated. To learn more fun tricks to practice with your dog, consult your animal trainer.
  • “Bang!” How to Teach your Dog to Play Dead - September 2010

    Teach A Dog To Play Dead

    Teach Your Dog To Play Dead

    Want to learn a fun trick that will be not only entertaining to you and your pooch, but also to others? “Play dead” is an exciting training exercise that you or a dog trainer can teach your dog no matter what age he is.

    With the following steps, you can expand your pal’s knowledge of obedience training and successfully teach him a fun trick that both of you can enjoy:

    1. Get Relaxed - First, it is important to make sure that your pooch is relaxed and comfortable. In order to achieve this, set aside 10 – 15 minutes of play time until he has used up most of his energy. If your pal is especially hyperactive, or very young, more time may need to be taken for this process of the exercise.

    2. Find a Good Place To Train - Once he is calm, pick a spot that is comfortable and serene, with as few distractions as possible so that he is able to focus on your commands.

    3. Sit - Start off with the “sit” cue. Once he is in a sitting position, use a treat to lure him into the “down” position.

    4. Lie Down - Once he is lying down, gently push him onto his side. Once he is on his side, use your free hand to make a gesture, and say “bang!” or “roll over!” depending on your preference of word choice. As any dog trainer will tell you, this command will take a while for him to get, so remember to be patient, as it is a little more difficult than average training cues.

    5. Rolling Over - This position, with your encouragement, will eventually cause him to roll over on his own. The moment that he does, reward him with a treat and plenty of praise. The goal is to have him flop over and lay his entire body on the ground.

    6. Repetition - Repeat this process over and over again, spending roughly 10 minutes at a time working on it until he knows to roll onto his back when you give the command. Remember to keep giving him treats and praise each time he performs properly, as it will make him more likely to follow your instructions with enthusiasm.

    7. Make It Harder - As soon as he is able to do this, try moving further and further away from him while giving the command.

    Once your pooch can successfully complete the trick, he will be able to show off his talents to your friends and family.
  • Tug of War – The Best Way to Spend a Rainy Day with Your Pooch! - December 2010

    Indoor Game To Play With Your Dog

    Dogs Playing Tug Of War

    A Day Planned With Your Dog Gets Rained On

    It has happened to all of us. You have a day full of planned outdoor activities with your dog; whether it be hiking, a trip to the dog park, or a game of fetch. Yet, as soon as you peek out of the blinds, you see stormy skies, heavy rainfall, or even snow, and your plans are ruined! When the weather puts a damper on your plans, it is definitely a disappointment for you, and even more so for your pal. When a dog is left inside all day, he often becomes restless and unhappy, especially if he has a lot of excess energy.

    Having Fun With Your Dog Indoors

    However, there is a fun, safe, indoor game that you can play with your pooch that will be entertaining for you both. The best way to entertain your dog when it’s cold outside is a game of Tug of War. You may have heard that Tug of War is dangerous because it encourages aggression in dogs, but this is has been proven to be an untrue statement. While it has been debated for many years, most dog trainers agree that the game is completely safe.

    Dog Training While Playing

    Most importantly, you will need to employ dog training techniques to teach your dog a release cue before playing the game, just in case you need to halt the game abruptly. Next, you will need a good toy with which to play. A toy such as the Kong Tug is recommended, as it has a comfortable handle, and is both stretchy and strong.

    Kong TUG Toy For Rainy Day Play

    Make Room To Play

    Next, you will need a large, open space that you and your dog can move around in. Clear a small area of your house such as your living or dining room so that you have plenty of room to play.

    Teach A Release Cue

    Since Tug of War is a very exciting game, your pooch will probably start growling a little while you play. As long as it is a light, brief growl, it is nothing to be alarmed about. However, if his posture becomes stiffer and he begins to growl aggressively, temporarily halt the game by giving the release cue in a firm voice, and walking away. Once he has relaxed, you can resume the activity. You can also help him to relax by giving him some basic obedience commands. Anyone who has attended dog training school will tell you that it is important to practice this method at any time that you need your pooch to relax, and applies in a variety of situations.

    Be Sure To Let Them Win!

    Letting your pooch win is a great way to provide him with a positive experience, and encourage him to want to play the game again. Most importantly, have fun with your dog during this exciting activity in order to build an even closer bond between the two of you!
  • Jumping Over - January 2011

    How To Teach Your Dog To Jump Over

    Dog Jumping Training

    To Jump, or Not To Jump...

    Jumping is a natural, self-rewarding behavior for most dogs. The easiest way to teach dogs when they cannot jump is to teach them when jumping is acceptable.

    Setting Up The Jump

    When setting up the jump, always take into account the dog’s size and jumping ability. To establish how high to set the jump in the beginning stage, measure the height between the dog’s front paw and his shoulder. Divide the number in half, and the total will determine how high you should set the jump. If you need help with this exercise contact your local dog trainer.

    Jump Supplies

    The jump itself should be made with a pole or straight stick. Brooms are good makeshift poles. Balance the stick on two objects (called standards) of equal height, according to the determined height for the particular dog. Make sure the jump is secure enough to not be knocked over too easily. Place the jump in a cleared area with enough room for the dog to take at least five strides before reaching the jump.

    Start With A Step Over

    Place your dog on a six-foot training leash. Start at a walking pace and move towards the jump, food luring and verbally encouraging the dog as you approach the fence. Step over the jump, and if the dog follows, treat and praise. Continue doing this until the dog is comfortable stepping over the jump.

    Still Not Working Right?

    If the dog does not follow, consider using a tastier treat or lowering the jump. Perhaps the dog is hesitant to the stick. You may need to introduce an object by placing it on the floor where they are sure to pass over it. As they walk over it, capture the behavior by praising them. Once the dog can pass over the object with no hesitation at least nine out of ten times, begin placing the object on the jump.

    Adding a Cue Word

    Once the dog is comfortable walking over the jump, you can begin adding the cue word, “jump” or “over.” Continue to praise and treat with each successful jump. You can start to add more speed to your approach. As the dog continues to be successful, you can add height to the jump.

    Advanced Jumping Skills

    Start asking for the cue over different objects, and eventually set up obstacle courses. Jumping is a great form of exercise and is one of the most common components of agility. If you teach a dog to jump and he enjoys doing it, he would be a good candidate for agility. Jumping can also be useful when teaching a dog to retrieve or to be a search & rescue dog as he will be able to jump over any obstacles between him and the party being rescued. Additionally, it teaches the dog to focus on his owner and to obey cues.

    Important Things to Remember

    1. Always praise the proper behavior.

    2. Set the dog up succeed. Don’t set the jump too high for the dog to successfully make it over the jump. If he is having problems making it over, lower the jump so he can succeed.

    3. Don’t push the dog’s or your own limits. If he is not enjoying jumping, then do not force him to do so. If either you or the dog becomes frustrated, take a break and try again in a few minutes.

    4. If the dog is not complying, try using a tastier or more potent-smelling treat.

    5. If the dog has a family or personal history of hip dysplasia, take him to the vet prior to attempting this trick. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be forced to jump as the impact of them hitting the ground can injure their hips further.

    Controlling Jumping Through Games

    Dogs that love to jump on people, other dogs, counters, and furniture will find jumping over fences very fun and rewarding, and with time and training, it will teach them when it is appropriate to jump and when it is not. A dog’s excitement for jumping can be harnessed into a structured game, which in turn can give him more exercise as well as bonding time with his owner. Any opportunity to spend time with your best friend is valuable. You can learn more fun games like this at a dog training school near you.
  • Puppy Ping-Pong!  - July 2011

    Teaching "Come" With Puppy Ping-Pong

    Training A Dog To Come

    A great way to work on the come cue at home, is playing a game that is fun for the whole family. The game is called Puppy Ping-Pong. I learned this fun game through the Animal Behavior College Dog Obedience Program! All you need to play this game is, three or more people, a safe area, and some yummy food treats. Not to mention your pup!

    Get your puppy ready for some fun training with the whole family. To begin have everyone spread out in a circle in your secure room. Make sure you puppy is hungry and full of energy.

    How To Play Puppy Ping-Pong

    Place your puppy in the middle of the safe family circle. One person will begin to encourage the puppy to approach him or her, by making kiss noises and saying the puppy’s name. Be sure NOT to use the word “come” while encouraging the puppy to approach you. If you use the “come” cue before the puppy is right in front of you, he may not complete the behavior. This teaches your puppy that the cue has no meaning and a reward is not forthcoming. Once your puppy has arrived in front of you say “come” followed by the word “good” and a treat! Now, have a person on the opposite side of the circle do the same thing. Once you and your puppy get the hang of this new game, the puppy will begin pinging back and forth to all of the family members.

    Timing Is Important

    Make sure to help your younger children with the timing of rewarding and praising the puppy so that everyone is setting the dog up to succeed.

    Make sure to only reward the puppy with one treat as he will be getting several from all of the family members playing the game. You can also incorporate physical praise to get the puppy used to being touched. Always remember to use the “come” cue once the puppy has already given the appropriate behavior and not before.

    Start With On Leash Training

    As a professional dog trainer we teach the “come” cue on-leash in group classes. However, most people will need their dog to come on cue when off leash. This is a great way to begin off leash work in a controlled environment. You want to work on dog training as often as possible in real life situations such as your home and backyard. This will ensure your dog responds appropriately in all situations. When working on the “come” cue it is very important to keep things very positive to ensure your puppy always wants to approach you.
  • How to Teach Your Dog to Put Away Their Toys - February 2013

    Teach Your Dog To Put Toys Away

    Train your dog to put his toys away

    This is a fun training exercise that mentally stimulates the dog, strengthens your bond with him, and helps you keep the house clean.

    Before you can begin this exercise, your dog must know the “Take it” and “Drop it” training cues. Luckily, your dog can easily and quickly master these cues.

    Teaching Your Dog The "Take It" Command

    For “Take It,” hold your dog’s favorite toy in your hand and move it around to excite him. Just before your dog grabs the toy out of your hand say, “Take it.” When he does, mark that behavior with a “GOOD!” or “YES!” or a click. Make sure to lavishly praise and pet your dog.

    Teaching Your Dog The "Drop It" Command

    To teach your dog “Drop It," he must be holding on to a toy. Have a treat your dog really likes in your hand and present it to the dog. Say “Drop it” and when he does, mark it and give him the treat. Your dog may be hesitant to drop his favorite toy, but if your treat is more enticing, such as a piece of chicken, he will gladly let go of the toy in exchange for the tasty treat.

    Once your dog successfully takes the toy and drops it 9 out of 10 times during practice, you can begin the next exercise.

    Put It In The Basket Lesson

    Get a basket that you’ll want your dog to put his toys into and select a few of your dog’s favorite toys. For consistency, keep the basket in the same spot of the house—this will make it easier for your dog. Place the toys right next to the basket and sit beside the basket. Touch a toy and say, “Take it”. Then hold a treat in your hand and lure the dog over to the basket. When the toy is over the basket give the Drop It command. Remember to generously reward your dog when he drops the toy in the basket. Practice this consistently and then proceed to the next step by moving the toys away from the basket by a foot or two.

    After your dog succeeds with this at least 9 out of 10 times, you can begin to only reward him with a treat after he has put two or three toys in the basket. Start by saying, “Clean Up” or “Toys Away” to sequence the behaviors; eventually you will no longer have to give the Take It or Drop It commands.

    Consistency Is Key

    This is an exercise that requires a lot of practice and patience, but is a lot of fun and an impressive trick to show off to your friends. If you are having trouble with this exercise, please contact your local dog trainer for help.

    By Cara Lederman, ABCDT
  • Skateboarding With Your Dog - February 2013

    Teach Your Dog To Skateboard

    Teach your puppy to ride a skateboard!

    A lot of people love exercising with their dogs. And thanks to seeing skateboarding dogs on TV, many owners might wonder if their dogs could learn to do the same. Here are some easy steps to teach your dog to skateboard.

    Some dogs will either love or hate the board. Natural-born skaters, such as bulldogs and Jack Russells, catch on quite easily, while the ones that hate it will try chewing it up. However with enough practice, any dog can learn how to skateboard.

    Teaching your dog tricks and obedience cues actually helps make him smarter while providing sheer entertainment. It also relieves stress and helps physically and mentally.

    • Step 1: LURE: Make sure the treats you use are Grade A treats and something your dog absolutely loves. First, get your dog used to the board by leaving it out for him. Let him smell it and get excited about it. Once he’s used to it, it will be easier to get him to climb up on it. Make sure the board doesn’t move when your dog steps on it; either put it on carpet or lock the wheels. Once his paws touch the board, mark the behavior and reinforce with praise and treats. Make sure it’s always a positive experience; otherwise it can create stress and fear in your dog.

    • Step 2: REINFORCEMENT: Walk over to the board; if your dog climbs up on the board, mark the behavior as “good” and reward lavishly with treats. The quicker the reward comes, the quicker he’ll repeat the behavior.

    • Step 3: CUE WORD: Once your dog gets used to climbing up onto the board, you can add a cue word “skate” or “step” or any word you choose, just be consistent. Make sure he understands stepping on the board is what you are marking.

    • Step 4: MOVEMENT: Start slowly rolling the skateboard and praise your dog lavishly for staying on the board and remaining calm. Give him a treat when he rides a small distance and gets off. You could even attach an O-ring hook to the front of the board, loop a string or rope to it, and pull your dog a small distance. Remember to praise and treat the behavior. If at any point he has trouble or gets scared, go back to the previous step he excelled at.

    • Step 5: THE TRICKY PART: The hardest part will be getting him to push the board on his own. Your dog needs to understand he gets rewarded for being on the skateboard as well as the movement of the board. Once he is on the board with all four paws, take one of his paws and put it on the ground. He should push off as he tries to get his paw back on the board. Lots of praise will help reinforce the behaviors you are trying to accomplish.

    With enough practice, and by making this a fun activity for your dog, he should be skating in no time. Make sure all of the training is extremely positive, and you and your dog will have a blast regardless of whether he becomes a pro skater or just gives you both a ton of laughs in the meantime.

    By Azure Long, ABCDT
  • Train Your Dog To Bow Down & Crawl - May 2013

    Two Cool Tricks to Teach Your Dog: Bowing and Crawling

    Train your dog to bow down

    First up is Taking a Bow, which is also know as a Play Bow. You will see dogs exhibiting this body posture naturally when playing with other dogs. With this training tip, you can get your dog to give the bow on command. Taking a bow is a great way to end when showing off your dog’s tricks. Before you start, you will need some yummy treats and a clicker, if you so choose to use one.

    How To Teach Your Dog To Bow

    First, hold a treat at your dog’s nose. Slowly begin to move it downwards, being careful not to pull the treat too far from your dog’s body. If you hold it away too far, you may cause him to move forward, instead of down. Allow your dog’s elbows to touch the ground for a few seconds before luring him back up.

    Once your dog is standing back up, click and treat. If you choose not to use a clicker, you can mark the behavior with “Good,” or “Yes”. After he is consistently following the lure, you can add the cue. Say “Take a bow” and give him a few seconds to complete the command. If he does not, lure him with the treats again.

    Consistency is the key to any training regimen

    Make sure you work with your dog on this everyday. Eventually he will take a bow without the lure. You might come across a few problems while teaching this trick. If you do, here are a few solutions.

    Overcoming Problems When Teaching Your Dog To Bow

    If your dog is lying all the way down instead of just putting his front legs down, try this: Put your arm under his stomach while luring with your other hand. In addition, If your dog is having a hard time learning to bow all at once, you can break it down into steps. We call this shaping the behavior; each time the dog gets closer, click and treat.

    How To Teach Your Dog To Crawl

    Teaching your dog to crawl is another fun trick and it is fairly simple to teach. To begin, kneel next to your dog while he is lying down. Practice on a soft surface such as grass or carpet. Make sure you have treats your dog loves and that he is hungry when you teach this exercise. Put a treat in your hand and bring it to your dog's nose. Very slowly, move your hand forward. When your dog crawls correctly just an inch or two, mark the behavior with a "Good!" and then give him the treat. Practice this several times.

    Make sure your luring hand is not too high above the dog’s nose or else he will sit up. If your hand is too low, his bottom may pop up. Try to move the lure in a straight line from his nose and remember that slow movement is the key to success.

    In order to increase the length your dog crawls, you'll need to stand next to him. Use a long wooden spoon with peanut butter on it or attach a small cup to a yard stick and have treats in the cup. For this exercise, you reward your dog when he crawls for a longer period of time. When he succeeds with this nine out of 10 times, begin to say "Crawl" before you start the lure.

    Practice this for 5 minutes a few times a day. Eventually, your dog will be crawling on command and without the use of a lure. Remember to always reward your dog and keep training exercises positive and fun. Your dog will love showing off this trick.

    If you experience any difficulties while teaching either of these exercises, consult your local dog trainer.

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