Most pet owners spend the majority of their training time working on basic manners like Come when Called, Stay, and Loose Leash Walking. Without a doubt, those are important cues and concepts for your dog to understand and be able to perform reliably. However, in my opinion, there is another type of training that deserves just as much attention: tricks! There are endless benefits to adding a few tricks to your dog’s repertoire of behaviours.
Tricks are fun!
First and foremost, learning new tricks is usually really fun! It is an exciting way to engage with your dog that will help you develop a closer bond with him at the same time. You will learn more about your dog’s learning style, strengths, and natural abilities. Many pet owners put a lot of pressure on themselves and their dogs to learn certain basic obedience skills really quickly. We don’t normally put that same kind of pressure on ourselves when we are training tricks, which helps to keep it a fun, relaxed activity. Also, because we are relaxing, having fun, and playing with our dogs, it’s easier to focus on the good things that our dogs do and not worry quite so much about their less desirable habits that we are trying to change.
Tricks are good mental exercise.
Dogs are natural problem solvers. The trouble is that, without proper direction, they are usually putting those skills to use figuring out how to entertain themselves by getting into mischief! Training tricks provides really good mental exercise and a more appropriate outlet for your dog’s creative thinking skills. For those days when the weather makes it impossible to go outside or your work schedule is overloaded and you just don’t have time to take your dog for his normal exercise, a quick training session can tire him out just as much as a walk around the block.
Tricks keep things interesting.
Spending some time training something fun can also boost your dog’s enthusiasm for training in general. Working on the same basic obedience exercises day in and day out can be monotonous and boring. Adding a new trick into the routine provides something fun and different. It allows your dog to use his body and his mind differently in order to get the end behaviour that you are looking for. Once you get your dog excited to be working on a trick, you can also mix in some other behaviours that your dog is less excited about performing. The less exciting behaviours become more fun through their association with the tricks!
Tricks have practical applications.
In addition to being fun, some tricks can have practical applications that make daily life easier for you and less stressful for your dog. For example, a friend of mine has a dog that really doesn’t want to come when she is called. The rest of the world is much more interesting and she doesn’t like to have her explorations be interrupted. After months of frustration, he tried a different tactic. His dog also loves to jump up in the air when she’s excited. He taught his dog to jump up into his arms as a trick – his dog had a blast learning this behaviour because jumping up was inherently fun for her and she also got lots of rewards for running to him and jumping up in his arms. Well, guess what? It’s now really easy for my friend to get his dog to come to him at the park. He just asks her to jump into his arms and she comes running!
Tricks can be taught to any dog.
It doesn’t matter how young or how old your dog is – he can learn a new trick. Trick training is a great way to teach puppies about how to work with their human, develop their problem solving skills in a positive way, and how to coordinate their limbs. Teaching tricks to older dogs can help to keep their minds fresh and bodies active. Tricks can also help nervous dogs build confidence and excitable dogs work on their impulse control. There is a trick out there for every dog to learn, regardless of his age, physical ability, or temperament.
Now that you know how great trick training can be for you and your dog, it’s time to get your clicker, some yummy treats, and start training!
Photo: Andrea Arden, via Flickr
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