|This is NOT Chaz’s favorite trick.|
“Make him do it again!”
Chaz knows lots of tricks, twenty-three to be exact. I just listed them in my journal and here’s how they stack up:
3. Lay down
5. Down (don’t jump)
6. Up (jump up to where I’m tapping)
8. Other paw (switch to shake with right vs. left paw)
9. Bye-bye (wave a paw)
11. Leave it (ignore whatever has caught his interest)
12. Dance (on his hind legs)
13. Speak (loud bark)
14. Whisper (growling/rumbling sound)
15. Say yes (soft bark)
16. Gimme 5
17. Other paw
18. Bang (falling “dead” on his right side)
19. Boom (falling “dead” on his left side)
20. Roll over
21. Gimme 10 (while sitting in one place)
22. Do the wave (jumping up with his paws up and sitting back down)
23. Wait (leaving a treat balancing on his nose until “OK” is given, then tossing it up and catching it)
As I mentioned last week, Chaz, our Border Collie mix, was not interested in being trained. He did not even want to learn “sit” but we knew better than to give up. Border Collies, among other herding and working group dogs like Old English Sheepdogs and Siberian Huskies, are very task oriented. By instinct, they need a job to do or they will become bored and mischievous which further translates to frustrating and expensive.
Chaz certainly didn’t learn twenty tricks in a day so how does one get started? Find a class. We found a free class offered at our local PETCO. Check with your local pet stores or ask friends and family for recommendations. You can spend a little or a lot. Just find a class where you and your dog are comfortable.
While the class helped with basics, like “lay down” and “shake,” we used books to learn lots more. Books that were helpful included:
- Dog Tricks: Eighty-Eight Challenging Activities for Your Dog by Arthur J. Haggerty and Carol Lea Benjamin
- Dog Tricks for Dummies by Sarah Hodgson
- The Everything Dog Training and Tricks Book by Gerilyn Bielakiewicz
Once you learn the basics of teaching tricks, the sky’s the limit. We taught Chaz “bang” based on instructions from a book. When we noticed he always “died” to the right, we taught him that “boom” meant to go left. We did this by situating him so that he was blocked from going to the right.
Another strategy is to catch your dog making a mistake, give the mistake a name, and reward him for it. Chaz learned “whisper” this way. Originally we were working on “speak.” Sometimes he’d grumble instead of bark, so we started saying “Whisper. Good boy whisper,” whenever he made the grumbling noise. He quickly learned that “speak” and “whisper” were two different tricks.
A class and your public library are good places to get started with dog training. From there, use your imagination, set up situations that guarantee success, and give lots of praise and hugs. You and your dog will be well on your way to having fun, as well as creating some surprising entertainment!