Tricks Contest: Pick Your Trick

The beauty of training a trick is that you and your dog will get so much out of the attempt, and it is just so much fun, that it almost doesn’t matter which trick you choose. If you need help picking your trick, just post a question here (or email me at barbara @—minus the extra spaces) and I’ll be glad to help. Here are some tips and resources to guide you in your choice:

Tricks will not be judged on their difficulty, so no need to try for something over the top. You only have until February 15th, so try something simpler than having your dog jump through a hoop of flames. Unless, of course, your dog already knows how to jump over fire and through a hula hoop, in which case you could probably combine those for a new trick in time for the contest. Many tricks take just a few days to teach, if you practice in two five-minute segments each day. Keep it simple, keep it fun, and enter the contest to win a free dog training session.

Consider teaching a trick that will help your dog. If your dog is shy, then big, bold tricks are best (like sit up, leap into my arms, high five, nose touch) whereas a very rambunctious dog might do well to learn calming tricks that require focus (like balance dog treat on nose, lie down with chin touching ground, roll over, go lie on your bed).

Consider size. Do you have a small dog or a large dog? It is often easier to teach a small dog to slalom through your legs as you walk than a large one. It can be easier to teach a large dog to shake your hand.

Consider your level of experience. Here are some good tricks to teach if you’ve never taught a dog a trick before:

  • nose touch (dog bops your hand with his nose)
  • spin (dog makes a tight circle in place, you remain motionless)
  • roll over (a classic)
  • shake (dog places his paw in your outstretched hand)

For more experienced tricksters:

  • sit up/sit pretty
  • back up
  • weave through my legs as I walk
  • hit it (dog whacks or targets something with her paw rather than her nose)

For more advanced trickmeisters:

  • schwing! (dog does a complete, tight circle around you, by backing around you from start to finish)
  • limp (Some trick humor: A dog walks into a saloon, limping, and announces, “‘I’ve come to find out who shot my paw!”)
  • flip (dog stands facing you from a few feet away; on cue the dog whips around 180 degrees in place, then backs all the way through your legs)
  • facial expressions on cue (ears or mouth are  good place to start)
  • two-dog tricks

Some videos and books to get you started:

The Everything Dog Training and Tricks Book: All you need to turn even the most mischievous pooch into a well-behaved pet (Everything Series) by Gerilyn J. Bielakiewicz

Remember, you must record your very first training session and the polished trick on cue in order to enter. Coming up: tricks video, different methods for teaching tricks, why the cue is the most important part of the trick, and how tricks can have useful, real-life applications.

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Despite the photo to the right, I have faith in humankind. It is time, though, to start collecting photos of kids and dogs engaging in happy, respectful interactions with each other. Anything from the “dos” list would do the trick. I also happen to have a few copies of Happy Kids, Happy Dogs: Building a Friendship Right from the Start that I got when the book first came out. I’ll send a signed copy to the first five people that submit photos that I can use for my collection. I’ll post your photoschildallowedtostandondog on the Top Notch Dog Facebook page, here on the blog, and as an email so as many people can see them as they see photos like the one to the right. Please email your photo to me and let me know the ages of both child and dog, and any other info you’d like to share about the photo. Dogs or puppies of any age welcome, pictured with babies or kids. (Hint: photos taken outdoors, and in which the child and dog take up most of the photo, are usually best.)

If there is anything about the photo to the right that bothers you, you may well already be coaching your child and dog through lots of appropriate interactions. But here are some ideas to get you started. These are all ways that are great for kids to interact with dogs; they encourage respect and empathy and allow adults to make sure things are going well. 

  • Watch adults interact with, touch and greet dogs in the safe, correct way 
  • Help an adult teach or show off the dog’s tricks (high five, spin, roll over, take a bow, go night-night, the list is endless!)
  • Help an adult teach or show off the dog’s obedience cues (sit, down, come, etc.)
  • Under adult supervision, offer gentle, slow petting on the side of the dog’s face and under the chin
  • Kiss their hand and then slowly pet the side of the dog’s face to “give” the kiss
  • Play find-it games under adult supervision
  • Help adult bake dog cookies
  • Help adult groom the dog
  • Help adult feed the dog
  • Help adult fill the dog’s water dish
  • Feed treats while adult grooms the dog
  • Help adult play fetch with the dog
  • Help adult take the dog for walks (adult holds the leash)
  • Sing quietly to the dog 
  • Count the dog’s spots, feet, ears, tail, eyes, and legs
  • Draw pictures of the dog