One of my resolutions for 2014 is to teach Maya and Pierson more dog tricks. So far, I have been pretty good about keeping this resolution. Maya and Pierson have learned two new things this January.
TEACHING ALL THE WAY (aka head down)
You saw Maya do the “all the way” trick posted on January 6th. Now I have a photo of both Maya and Pierson doing it together.
Have your dog lay down in front of you. Tell them to stay, and then squat down and put the treat in front of them. If they reach for it, say “no”, “eh eh”, or “wait”. Slowly bring the treat (or toy) to the floor, leading their nose downward. Say “all the way” or “head down” the moment their chin touches the floor. Then say “good” and give them the treat or toy as a reward.
If they have a hang of this, move the treat down and a little out so that their entire muzzle is flat on the floor. Next, work your way up to where they don’t just touch the floor, but actually rest their head on the floor for a few moments.
Eventually, you will be able to say the command without having to put the treat in front of their nose and leading them into the position. Don’t worry if they don’t get to this point right away, like Maya. Train for only a few minutes at a time and be sure your training session always ends with a reward. So if your dog doesn’t get to the point where his entire muzzle is on the floor, that’s okay. Reward him if he is at least getting his chin to touch the floor. Reward your dog for what he can do and stop training before your dog gets bored or before either of you get frustrated.
The hardest part of this trick for both Maya and Pierson was keeping them from trying to crawl after the treat in my hand. It’s easier to teach this trick if your dog already knows to stay or wait.
TEACHING HOLD AND CATCH (aka balancing a treat on the nose then flipping it into the mouth)
The next trick is still in progress. I’m trying to get them to balance a treat on their nose, and then catch it when I give the release command. Once again, Maya was the first to get a hang of the trick. She will hold still without me having to hold her nose while Pierson still needs me to touch him. Both of them are still trying to learn how to flip the treat into their mouths rather than flip the treat behind them. Maya catches them more often than Pierson.
To teach this trick, hold your dog’s muzzle. Be gentle. Don’t make them uncomfortable, but hold on well enough that they can’t move around. When they seem to be holding still, give the “hold” command. Reward.
Next, add a treat to the mix. Hold your dog’s muzzle and gently balance the treat on their nose. This is a very tough one for most dogs because the can see the treat and really want to move so they can get the treat. Hold their nose gently and say “hold”. If they try to move out of your hand say “no” or “eh eh”, whichever your dog is more familiar with. If you dog doesn’t try to move out of your hand, hold for a few seconds. If he does try to move out of your hand, hold for only a split second. Try to only hold for just under the most amount of time your dog will hold still. You can gradually increase this amount of time over several training sessions.
When you reward them, let go of their muzzle and give the release command. I can say “catch”, but I use “okay”, which is the command I use to release them from “stay” or “leave it”. At this point, don’t worry about whether your dog flips the treat in their mouth. You want to teach them to balance it first.
Once you think they understand the “hold” command means to hold still, cradle their muzzle in your hand rather than hold it. After several successes, simply touch their chin when you give the “hold” command. Eventually, you can have them balance the treat on their nose without you having to hold them still at all.
To teach them to catch the treat rather than flip it backwards is not easy. The best way I can say to do this is to double-reward them when they do it. In other words, if you give the release command and the flip the treat behind them, let them get the treat as their reward. But if they actually flip the treat in their mouth, give them another great right away and give lots of extra praise. Make a big deal out of their success.
The hardest part about this trick for Maya and Pierson is teaching them to hold still. I think it was easier for Maya because I have sort of used it before when I tried to balance my glasses on her nose.
January is train your dog month. Dog training doesn’t have to be a chore. Teaching tricks is a lot of fun. So take up the challenge and remember to keep training sessions short and train often.
To see what’s next on our dog trick training agenda, come back on Monday to see.
Check out the blog hop below for more Train Your Dog stories, tips, and challenges.
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