Teaching your dog tricks has many benefits for him and can be rewarding for you too.
But how do you teach tricks to a dog for the first time? A lot of pet parents don’t give it a try because they believe it is too challenging, time-consuming and/or only reserved for experts.
The reality is that it’s easier than you think. With some patience, consistency and positive reinforcement based training you can teach your dog to perform any trick.
We put together a brief guide to help you get started with your trick training, and listed 19 awesome tricks that you can start teaching your dog today.
Benefits of Teaching Your Dog Tricks
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Keeps your dog mentally stimulated: learning new tricks can be an outlet for your dog’s excess energy. Instead of barking or chewing on furniture, your dog will have his mind occupied with learning something new.
Improves your dog’s intelligence: the more tricks your dog will learn, the easier it will be for him to learn new commands later on. Your dog’s brain becomes more efficient with handling information with every trick training session.
Refines your ability to teach: with every dog trick you teach your pooch you become more efficient at teaching the next one.
Helps you understand your dog: when you teach your dog something new you learn about his mental abilities and motivations. Some dogs learn quick, others takes their time; some are motivated by food, others by toys. The more time you spend teaching your dog the better you will understand him.
Practical application: for instance, dog tricks such as the “shake” command can make grooming sessions a little easier. Whenever it’s time to cut your dog’s nails he’ll be ready to give you his paws. Another example, the “roll over” command can be used when you’re at the vet and want your pup to turn over for a check.
Improves physical wellbeing: certain dog tricks can help your pup with flexibility by stretching their muscles. They can also help build a stronger core, and help with stamina and endurance.
Improves your dog’s personality: teaching a dog something new can reinforce good manners and obedience. Your dog will become more confident, focused, and will have a greater control over his impulses.
A great way to bond: nothing bonds you closer to your tail wagging buddy as investing time into teaching him something new. With all the training sessions you will build more trust and bond closer to your dog.
How to Teach Your Dog Tricks
The items that are commonly used during dog trick training sessions are:
- Dog treats
- A clicker
- A leash (not always)
Treats are a great way to reward your dog once he performs a desired command. Using a dog training clicker gives your dog a cue that he successfully performed the command. He learns to associate the click with a specific response which often lands him a reward.
A leash is handy if you want to control your dog’s movement during trick training. And of course, a leash is core during leash walking training.
With these three items, you can train any dog any trick you want. Here are some things to keep in mind to get the most out of your training sessions:
Do not confuse your dog
Use a specific word to give a command and stick to it. Changing the word will only confuse your dog.
Start with one-word commands before you move to more complex phrases. Also, ensure you use a consistent tone when giving the commands. Only vary your tone during the advanced stages of training to avoid overexcitement early on.
Professional trainers use a technique known as Distance, Duration, and Distraction to vary training intensity. Start by teaching your dog a trick when you are closer to him. Move a step away and repeat the command. If he gets it right move another step away and repeat the command.
The duration technique works with commands that require the dog to hold a position, or perform a specific trick for a longer period of time. For example, you could ask your dog to “roll over” and “play dead” for a few seconds. Repeat the command while extending the duration of time by a few seconds.
Using distraction helps teach your dog to maintain focus regardless of what’s happening around. The distraction technique involves teaching your dog the same trick command while adding distracting stimulus around him. The distraction could be holding the training sessions in a busy environment like a public park, or it could be you placing his favourite toy near him during the sessions.
Teach one dog trick at a time
You cannot teach your pup to “shake” and “wave” all at once. Most dogs will only handle one command a session. Some dogs learn faster than others and can cover several commands within a day or week. But for training purposes, and to make sure your dog does not forget the command, only teach a single trick a session.
Treat, treat, treat
Positive reinforcement in the form of doggy treats will get you a long way. Praise your pup and throw him a treat every time he gets the command right.
Only reward the best responses
After your pup understands how to perform a trick only reward with a treat when he does it properly. If you want your pup to make a 360° spin, do not reward him if he only manages a 180°. Hold back the treat till he gets it right.
Make the sessions short and fun
Puppies, especially, have short attention spans and will zone out of training within minutes. You have to find a way to make the sessions short and sweet for maximum retention.
You could use play sessions as an opportunity to teach your dog tricks. Use the “Come” command to call your dog back when he retrieves the frisbee. When he gets closer, ask him to “Sit”. When he does, ask him to “Roll Over.”
Change the environment
The best place to begin dog trick training is at home. It is an environment your pooch is familiar with. When he successfully follows the commands at home, you can try the same training in a different environment. This trains him to obey commands even in unfamiliar locations regardless of any distractions.
It can be challenging at first but the more you teach him the easier it gets. Just stay patient and consistent and you will surely see results in no time.
Let your pooch work for it
By now your pup knows that a tasty reward awaits him for every command he performs. Try delaying this gratification until he performs the dog trick several times. If it is rolling over, let him roll over two or three times before giving him the treat. This tells him that the shouldn’t rely on doggy-treats to perform the commands. They are just an added bonus to all the fun that you’re both having!
Be consistent with the training sessions, schedule them on a weekly basis and write them down so you don’t forget. Dog tricks can be forgotten so don’t stop training your pooch even as he gets older.
Easy Dog Tricks for Beginners
To teach your dog tricks he should already know basic obedience commands such as “sit” and “down.” If your dog already does, you can start teaching him easy tricks like these:
- Sit in-front of your pup and move your hand towards his paw and gently tap it. Keep tapping the paw until he starts lifting it up.
- When he gives you his paw give a verbal cue such as “good!”
- Step further back and move your hand towards your dog again, if he moves his paw even a little bit give him a treat. Make sure that he is firmly seated on the ground while doing so.
- After you repeat step 3 several times, start pulling your hand back every time he reaches out with his paw so that your pup is just throwing it in the air.
- Begin to introduce the verbal cue “wave” so he can make a connection between the behaviour and the command.
- Now, start to wave instead of reaching for his paw while giving the verbal cue. Do this several times until your pup gets it right.
With this dog trick you could teach your pooch to kiss you or another pet on cue.
For this trick you will need your clicker and a handful of treats. You will also need sticky notepapers as target practice.
- Place the sticky note on your palm and bring it up to your dog’s nose. When your pooch touches the note with his nose, press the clicker and reward with a treat.
- Repeat the same process while placing your hand further away. If he comes your hand and touches it with his nose, press the clicker and reward him with a treat.
- Put your hand out again but this time introduce the verbal cue “Kiss.” When your dog touches the paper with his nose, say “Kiss,” press the clicker and reward with a treat.
- Stick the paper on your cheek and command your dog to “Kiss.” If he does it, click, and reward with a treat.
- The next step is practicing the trick without the sticky note. Bring your hand to your dog and tell him to “Kiss.” If he does, click and reward.
- If he does not, wait until he does so and reward him. Still not doing it? Give him a pat and repeat the process from step 2 again. Remember, you have to make him work for the treat.
This is one of the easiest dog tricks to teach, here’s how it goes:
- Start with your pooch in a seated position. Hold a treat in your hand and bring it to his nose so he can smell and follow it around.
- Now that your dog is locked in on the treat, raise your hand above your dog’s head slightly past the centre of his vision. This should make him stand on two legs to reach for the treat. Press the clicker and let him have the treat.
- Repeat the process again until he automatically stands on his hind legs whenever your hand is hovering above him. When he gets it right, move to the next step.
- Raise your hand above his head but this time move it in an up and down motion. Your dog now should be jumping up and down, following the motion of your hand trying to reach for the treat.
- If he does one or two hops, press the clicker and reward with a treat. Finally, introduce the word “Hop.”
- You have to sound excited when asking your dog to hop. Raising the ton tone of your voice in a high pitched manner will get him excited too and he will automatically jump up and down on two legs to reach for the treat.
- Timing is everything. Anticipate your dog’s jump and then say “Hop” when he starts jumping up and down.
- When you are successful with the initial steps start to do it again but this time without moving your hands. Ask him to ‘hop’ in an excited way and see if he does it. If he does not, be patient and keep practicing till he gets it.
Some dogs will naturally spin in excitement. If your pooch does not, you could easily teach him how to do it.
- Hold a treat in your hand and bring it to your dog’s nose. Let him smell and follow it with around with his nose.
- Move your hand in a circle ensuring your dog follows. When you complete a full circle, click and reward with a treat. Only click when your dog completes a full circle.
- The next step is making the circle smaller. This means rotating your hand around the dog so he does a full body spin. It is similar to what dogs do when chasing their tails.
- Let your dog sniff the hand with the treat then move your hand circularly towards his tail. Rotate your hand close to his tail till your dog completes a circle. Click and reward.
- Time to introduce our word for this dog trick, “Spin.” Hold a treat in your hand and bring it to your dog’s nose so he can smell it. Say the word “Spin” out loud while moving your hand away in a circular motion. if the dog makes a full circle while spinning, he earned the reward.
High-five is a casual way to teach your dog to shake hands with people. The steps are relatively easy to follow.
- Let your pooch sit in front of you. Put your palm out so he can place his paw on it. If he does not do it immediately, use your other hand to pick up his paw and place it on your hand. You can also try tapping it if he’s not responding.
- Try this again and if he successfully places his paw on your palm, click and reward him with a treat.
- Raise your hand a bit higher and let him place his paw on your palm. Click and give him a treat.
- Now raise your palm in a “High-five” position (perpendicular to your wrist). Your dog will have to raise his paw and place it on your palm in a “High-five” position as well. Press the clicker and give him a treat.
- Time to introduce the magic word. Raise your palm and use the cue “High-five” when he starts raising his paw. Press the clicker and reward him with a treat.
Useful Dog Tricks
A great way to introduce your pup to someone who is afraid of dogs.
- Ask your dog to sit with his bottom firmly touching the ground. Reach for your dog’s paw and tap it with your hand. Do this several times until he begins lifting it up.
- When he starts to swat at the air gently grab the paw, shake and give him a treat. Keep repeating until your pup automatically raises his paw every time you reach for it.
- Then introduce the verbal cue “Shake” while waiting to give your hand for just a bit to see his reaction. If he catches on to the verbal cue repeat, if he doesn’t go back to step 2.
Go to Bed
Great for when you have guests over and you want to send your pooch away to his bedroom.
- Grab a treat and let your dog trace it all the way to his bed.
- While he’s on the bed order him to go into the “Down” position. Then drop the treat between both paws. To release him from the “Down” position give him a “Go” command.
- After repeating step 2 a few times stand next to your pup and see if he goes to his bed and asks for a treat. If he goes there voluntarily reward him. If he lies down give him lots of praise and treats.
- If he’s not going to his bed on his own lure him with treats once again.
- Add a verbal cue by saying “Bed” every time he goes to his bed and lies down by himself. Don’t forget the treat.
- Add more distance and longer wait times as you progress.
If your pooch knows this dog trick your trips to the vet will be much easier for when the doctor wants to do a checkup.
- Make your dog go into the “Down” position.
- Grab the treat and place it by the side of your dog’s muzzle close to his nose.
- Move your hand towards his shoulder to put him flat on his side.
- Every time he goes on his side and his head is flat on the floor give him a treat.
- Once he is successfully lying on the side continue the motion with your hands till he rolls over completely.
- Now, introduce the word “Roll” every time you go through the steps.
- When he gets the idea move your hand less and make him go through the motion just by saying the word “Roll.”
This might be the most useful dog trick of them all. When your dog knows how to bark you can easily teach him to stop barking on command.
- First you will have to get your dog to bark. You can do this by getting him excited. Perhaps dangle a treat and don’t give it to him.
- You will notice him grow weary when the reward is taking too long to reach him.
- As soon as he lets out a bark, press the clicker and toss the treat to him.
- Dangle another doggy treat and when he barks let him have it. Do this repeatedly while introducing the verbal cue bark.
Fun Dog Tricks
Dogs love fun, and what’s more fun than dancing?! You might find this dog trick to be intuitive for your pup if he already knows the stand command.
- Try to get your dog to stand on his hind legs by luring him vertically with a treat. Grab the treat and move it in an upwards direction, slightly past your dog’s line of vision.
- Try the first step several times, each time aim to increase the duration of him standing by just a few seconds.
- When your dog is in a standing position (moving or hopping around) grab his paw and reward him with a treat. Repeat this step a few times till your dog is comfortable with the movement.
- You can then introduce a verbal command like “Dance.” Every time your pup stands up and starts moving around. Give the verbal command and treat.
- If you went through the steps several times you will notice that when you say “Dance” your dog will come running at you with both paws in the air.
If you cannot get your pup to tango, then you will want him to have a voice like Adele. Just like barking, you can teach your dog to howl on command. This dog trick is easier than you think, and often comes out intuitively.
- Make eye contact with your dog and start howling.
- Keep howling until your dog starts to howl with you. Reward him with a treat immediately when he joins in.
- Start howling again and when he joins toss him a treat again.
- Add a verbal cue like “Sing” every time a song comes on. When your dog howl’s throw him a treat.
What are the odds you will meet a dog that skateboards? Well that cool pup could just be your dog. Here is how you train your dog to skateboard.
- Let your dog stand next to the skateboard. Allow him to place two paws on the skateboard without it moving.
- When your dog places two paws on the skateboard, reward him with a treat.
- Now tie a rope underneath the front part of the skateboard. Call on your dog to put the front paws on the skateboard (he should be able to do this after repeating the initial steps). Ask him to stay as you gently move the skateboard forward. If he stays for longer reward him with a treat and lots of praise.
- Now try that the third step again this time pulling the skateboard a little further. Your dog should be used to the board moving and should be willing to stay on it for longer.
- Now take away the rope and call your dog over excitedly. Point to the “Skateboard” and he should glide over to you with both paws firmly planted on the board. This will take lots and lots of practice so be patient and consistent.
Impressive and Unique Dog Tricks
Imagine if your dog could solve math problems. Crazy right? But it is entirely possible if your dog already knows the barking dog trick.
- Start with simple arithmetic like addition. You can teach your dog to bark in succession to solve an addition problem.
- The easiest way to do this is by teaching a new cue that prompts your dog to stop barking.
- Let’s use 2+6 as the reference problem. The answer is “8” so your dog should bark repeatedly and stop at the 8th bark.
- One way to train your dog to stop barking is by breaking eye-contact. This works for almost all dogs since you are no longer giving them attention.
- Have a treat in hand to begin the dog trick training. Prompt your dog to start barking. When he reaches the answer break eye contact and that triggers him to stop. Turn to him again and reward him with a treat.
- Your dog understands that turning away is the sign for him to stop barking.
- Repeat the same equation multiple times until your dog can recognize the answer from the command/equation.
- With this dog trick you can use addition, subtraction, division, or multiplication. Whenever your dog reaches the answer turn your back, and reward if he stops barking.
As far as dog tricks go, this might be the most unique one. Did you know that you could teach your dog how to play the piano? Just follow the steps below:
- Have your dog stand on his hind legs to reach the piano. You have to teach him how to press different keys repeatedly.
- With the paws resting on the piano, teach your dog to press different keys by pointing with your finger.
- He will need help understanding what your pointed finger means. Point at a key and place his paw on it so he presses it. When the key makes a sound reward your pooch with a treat.
- Point at a different key and place his other paw on it to press it. When the piano makes a sound, toss a treat to him.
- The next step is to reward your pup when he successfully presses a key on his own. Point at a key to his right or left and if he presses it, reward with a treat. Make sure the sound is firm when he’s pressing before giving him a treat.
- Now, point at random keys and have your pup press all of them.
- Now all you have to do is prompt him to the piano with a magic word. You can use “Beethoven,” or “Piano,” whatever you want it to be.
- Move away from your dog and say “Beethoven.” If he rushes to the piano and starts playing, praise and give him a treat.
- You do not need a clicker for this dog trick. Your dog already associates the piano sounds with a rewarding treat.
Private Ryan (Army Crawl and Salute)
- Lure your dog with a treat and ask him to lie flat on the ground. His belly should be touching the ground.
- Place your hand or forearm slightly over your dogs shoulder area, almost like creating an obstacle for him to move through.
- Use the other hand to let your dog track the treat and crawl away from your other arm.
- Keep going until he’s completely moved away from your first arm and then release the treat.
- Repeat the process again but this time don’t use your arms, just a verbal command “Crawl.”
- As he gets better at the “Crawl,” increase the distance and duration by a few seconds every time.
Teach your dog to salute before and after performing the army crawl.
- With your dog in a seated position, gently raise one of his paws and bring it to his temple. Make sure his bottom is firmly seated on the ground. Press the clicker and reward your dog with a treat. Repeat this process a few times till he naturally starts to lift his paw.
- Now incorporate a verbal command like “Salute.” Press the clicker and treat every time he performs the action after the verbal command.
- if he’s doing the first two steps consistently, increase the distance between you and your dog while giving the verbal command.
Tricks That You Can Teach Your Dog Without a Clicker
Most of the dog tricks we discussed can be taught without a clicker, the key is to replace the clicking sound with an affirmation word like “Yes!” or “Good boy/girl.”
Whenever your dog acts on a command, say the words “Yes” or “Good dog!” with an excited tone. This helps your furry friend know that he got it right. Some pet lovers will use a clicker together with affirmation words, there is no wrong or right approach here as long as the training is based on positive reinforcement.
This is a classic dog trick that requires your dog to know the “Down” and “Roll” commands well.
- First, ask your dog to go into the “Down” position. When he does it, give praise and a treat.
- The next step is to ask your dog to “Roll” on his back. You want to make sure that he holds the position by lying flat on his back (or shoulder) and doesn’t roll completely over.
- Now that you want him to maintain the position hold the treat back for a few seconds. Instead of asking him to “Stay,” you can introduce the verbal cue “Play Dead” so that he can hold the position.
- Once you repeat this several times he will start to make the connection between the action and the verbal command. So now only give him the treat after he performs the action on your command.
- Now, instead of using the “Down,” and “Roll,” commands, simply tell him to “Play Dead,” he should be able to do it by now!
- As he progresses make him hold the position for longer, and you can also increase the distance gradually between you and him to make it more challenging.
Who doesn’t want a hug from their favourite tail wagging buddy?
- Sit across from your dog and gently grab both paws and place them on your shoulders. Reward with a treat.
- With each time try to extend the duration of time your dog is holding the position. Hold the treat for a bit and then reward.
- Begin using a verbal cue such as “Hug” every time, and reward every time your dog responds to the command.
- As you go increase the duration of the “Hug” until you give a realize command.
- If your dog is a natural jumper you can right away start incorporating the verbal command “Hug” and reward every time your dog holds the position. You should only reward when your dog performs the command after you’ve given it, otherwise ignore him.
- Don’t reward your dog if he’s jumping up before you give him the command.
This dog trick will test your pup’s resilience to the end. How long can he hold a treat above his nose before gobbling it?
- Start with your dog in a “Sit” position.
- Take one treat and place above his nose. His immediate instinct will probably be to move around to get the treat.
- If he starts squirming around, take away the treat and try it again. Keep going at it until he is still enough that you can balance the treat on his nose.
- Repeat the process again. Keep your hand close in case your dog decides to eat the treat. If you take the treat away immediately, he will understand that he should wait to eat it.
- Once you are able to balance at least one treat, introduce a second command like “Go” to prompt release him from the position so he can eat the treat. Balance the treat on his nose for several seconds until you allow him to eat it.
- Increase distance and duration as your pooch becomes better at restraining himself from eating the treat.