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 @ topnotchdog.com—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.

Tricks Training

If you’ve ever taught your dog a trick like shake or roll over, you know how much fun it can be for everyone—you, the dog, and anyone watching. There are so many great things about teaching tricks: it’s fun, it helps you practice your training skills, it teaches your dog concentration and self-control, it keeps your dog strong and limber, it gives your dog something fun to focus on in the veterinarian’s waiting room, and it’s a perfect way for kids to bond with their own dogs. In fact, watching your dog do some tricks is a great icebreaker for shy kids or anyone who isn’t comfortable around dogs. 

Here is one of the masters showing how very fancy tricks are done. Some of my favorites are the really funny ones. Try to guess how he taught the tricks and you’ll realize that you could teach your dog any of these, too.

When you teach a trick, remember that half the fun is in coming up with an unusual cue. For example, the cue for my dog to lick his lips is “Want some ice cream?” When I want my tiny dog to hop into a little bowl just big enough for her feet, I say “Potluck!” I’ll have to put some of that up in a video in a future post.