Posts Tagged ‘dog tricks’

Dog Trick Training Goals for 2014

February 3, 2014
Pierson on a Leash with Look Command

Because Pierson knows the “look” command, it is easy to get his attention so he can learn new dog tricks.

On Friday, I went over how I’ve managed to keep my New Year Resolution to teach Maya and Pierson more dog tricks. So far we are on the right track. But a resolution shouldn’t end after just one month. I want to keep going. So I’ve made a list of tricks and have resolved to teach at least one a month:

*Heel-Sit – Maya and Pierson know heel and they know sit, but they don’t know how to do both at the same time with a specific command. Yes, they will sit at my side if I stop walking at a walk, but I want them to be able to do it when I call them from across the yard or something.

*Sit in a Specific Spot – I think once they learn to heel and sit at my side on command, it will be easier for me to teach them to sit in a specific spot I point to. This will help me with photo-taking.

*Stand – Stand means to stand up on four feet after being in a sit or down position. Sephi knew how to do this one, but I don’t think I taught Maya. Or if I did teach it to Maya, I haven’t made her do it in so long that she’s probably forgotten.

*Back up – To back up means to walk backwards. I think it will be easy and fun to teach. It can be especially useful if Maya and Pierson are trying to crowd me for their treats or toys.

*Cover Your Eyes – I don’t think this one will be easy, but I think it would be fun to try anyway. They both know how to shake, and I saw in a book how I can get them to cover their eyes.

*Wave – I started this one with Pierson some time back but didn’t stick to it. Once I have a better idea on how to teach it, and when I commit to teaching more consistently, I think both he and Maya will get it.

*Roll in a Blanket – I bet Pierson will learn this one easily since he’s done it on accident a few times. He will already grab his blanket on command so it is a matter of getting him to roll over with it in his mouth. Teaching this to Maya will probably be more difficult since she has no interest in the blanket.

Pierson Playing with Blanket

Pierson was getting stir crazy in winter. He wrapped this blanket around his head by himself while playing.

*Jump Up – I won’t teach this to Maya because I am worried she may develop arthritis. She’s a Lab and I understand Labs are quote prone to this. Pierson, on the other hand, is quite bouncy. It will be a breeze to teach him to do this on command.

*Put Toys Away – This one will be the most challenging. I can already get them to pick up a toy, but to teach them to put it in their toy box will be a bit more challenging. Putting toys away is completely backwards from what they want to do with the toys!

I got many of these ideas from the “101 Dog Tricks” book by Kyra Sundance and her dog Chalcy. She has some great ideas on how to get dogs to put toys away and cover their eyes. The book does not give detailed step-by-step, like what showed on Friday for teaching “all the way” and “hold”. But since I am a certified dog trainer, I can fill in the blanks easily enough.

This list may change or be taught in a different order. But having a list will help me stay on track with our dog training resolution. If Maya and Pierson learn each trick so quickly, why am I taking a whole month between each? There are a few reasons for this:

1. Reinforcement – Repeating the same trick for several days helps them retain what they’ve learned.

2. Gives Confidence – By having Maya and Pierson do dog tricks they already know, they have the confidence and the desire to learn more.

Synchronized Spinning

Synchronized Spinning – Maya and Pierson have this trick mastered. So if they don’t succeed at a new trick, I give them the command for another trick they know well so that training ends on a positive note.

3. Keeps Training Fun – Learning is more fun when you do things right. If you’re being told you’re doing things wrong more often than you’re being told you’re doing things right, then learning becomes a chore. When dog training becomes a chore, it is more challenging and, therefore, more frustrating. We enjoy training and we want to keep it that way.

Dog Tricks for Treats

Learning is also more fun when you get lots of treats. 😉

Do you like teaching your dog new tricks? What are some dog tricks you want to try?

January Train Your Dog Challenge

January 31, 2014

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.

Head Down All the Way Dog Trick 002

Maya and Pierson have both mastered the dog trick where they put their heads all the way to the floor.

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.

Pierson Balances Dog Treat on Nose

“I can see the dog treat. Why can’t I eat it?”

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.

Pierson Tries to Balance Dog Treat on Nose

I still have to touch Pierson’s chin in order to get him to hold still and balance the dog treat on his nose.

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.

Maya Balancing Dog Treat on Nose

Maya is good at balancing a dog treat on her nose.

Student Dog Maya Wearing Glasses

Maya already knew how to hold still and balance a pair of glasses, so teaching her to balance a treat on her nose was easy.

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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Learn More Dog Tricks – A New Year’s Resolution

January 6, 2014

Pierson's Fuzzy Feet

The first half of 2013 went pretty well with dog training. Then I got lazy in the summer. Sure, Maya and Pierson earned lots of treats by doing dog tricks, but they didn’t learn anything new. I only reinforced tricks they already knew. So one of my resolutions for 2014 is to teach Maya and Pierson more dog tricks.

I started this resolution out right on January 3rd when I taught Maya a new trick. I call it “all the way”, which means put your head down all the way to the floor. Maya figured out what I was trying to get her to do in the very first 3 minute session! Pierson was much too excited about the treats to get it the first time around. But by the third training session, which was on the 4th, he got it! Since our training sessions are short, it took Maya less than 3 minutes to learn and Pierson less than 9 minutes.

Teaching the trick was very simple. I put them in the down position, and then led their noses down to the floor and out. I put both the “stay” command and the “all the way” command together. Sounds simple, right? It was for me. But I have a really good training relationship with my dogs. We understand each other well. Maya and Pierson are good at figuring out what I want them to do, and I understand their limitations and try to work with them accordingly.

Pierson Head Down Looking Up

Me – “All the way.”
Pierson – “Okay, but I want that cookie in your hand.”

I think dog training works a lot better when you train together regularly, even if it is with stuff the dogs already know. Maya and Pierson get treats almost every day. And they know they always have to earn those treats. So when the treats come out, they are automatically ready to listen and take action. Plus, I keep the training sessions short. Three to five minutes at the most. It keeps us from getting bored, ensures I can find time, and several small sessions help them retain information better than one long session.

So what’s new on the dog training agenda? I sure would like to make it easier to get good photos of them. This means I need them to sit where I tell them instead of wherever they want. I would also like for them to stay in the position I put them in. So if I want their head to face a certain way, I need to teach them that stay means to not move at all. Maybe I will call it a “freeze” command. I’ve already started this a little with trying to get them to balance a treat on their nose.

I also want to do a different version of the “look” command where I have them look certain directions without me having to point. These dog tricks will really help me when I make more pet travel videos or take photos of them wearing their dog seat belts or using other pet travel products from my retail site. Although they will be learning these things for work, I will make sure it is fun. Maya and Pierson love to learn and I want to keep it that way.

We have a few more resolutions in 2014, including staying fit. But they aren’t “new” resolutions. They are just promises to keep doing what we are already doing. Maya and Pierson are already very fit and already eat healthy. We resolve to keep up with that trend.

So what is a New Year’s Resolution you have with your dog?

Top 10 Things My Dogs Do to Make me Smile

May 11, 2013

Every day is a joy with Maya & Pierson. And it’s the little things they do that bring it. In no particular order, here are a few of the cute things they do:

1. The breakfast dance and howl – Maya sit and stay while I fill up their food bowls. But before we get to the sit command, there is the dance. Pierson sometimes adds a cute howl, too.

2. Random spin – This is the very first thing they do when it comes to breakfast, dinner, or treats. I don’t even need to say ‘spin’ or ‘turn around’ any more. Ever since I taught them this trick, they do it automatically when they know its eating time.

Yay! Maya & Pierson have mastered synchronized spinning!

Yay! Maya & Pierson have mastered synchronized spinning!

3. Play – Playing with them or Maya and Pierson playing with each other is very entertaining. There is nothing especially cute about the way they play. They play like any other dogs. But when I see them having so much fun, I can’t help but to be happy too.

Dogs Playing in Sprinkler

At first, Pierson was afraid of the sprinkler. But after seeing Maya have so much fun in it, he decided to get in on the action.

4. Cuddle – My dogs aren’t allowed on the furniture. So cuddle time is extra special. Maya is an especially good cuddler.

Maya and I on Porch Swing

Maya and I enjoy cuddle time on the porch swing.

5. Sleep on their backs – It’s so funny how Maya and Pierson can sleep in such odd positions on their back. It makes me laugh every time.

Lab Sleeping on Back

Maya really loves to sleep on her back.

Pierson Sleeping on his Back

Pierson loves to sleep on his back up against this wall.

6. Eagerness to learn cute dog tricks – Teaching Maya and Pierson tricks is so much fun because they are so eager. The attentive looks on their faces as I hold the treat and get ready to give a command is priceless.

Dog Tricks for Treats

Maya & Pierson love doing dog tricks for treats.

7. Maya’s heavy sigh – Actually, it’s more like a sigh and grunt combined. I can’t even describe it properly, but it’s cute.

8. Lay at my feet – Both Maya and Pierson want to lay under my desk when I work. It’s funny when they try to compete for the spot.

9. Maya when she gets excited – Maya got a compliment the other day. Someone told me, “That has got to be the happiest dog I have ever seen.” And it’s true. Maya is always up for an adventure and it shows on her face, in the way she walks, and in the way she whines with excitement.

10. Pierson’s fuzzy feet – The hair between Pierson’s toes stick up and make his feet look oddly shaped. They make me laugh every time. And it’s not just Pierson’s fuzzy feet, it’s all Maya & Pierson’s doggy parts. It’s the way Maya’s lip sometimes curls, the way she investigates everything with her brown nose, the way her ears flop around when she runs. It’s the way Pierson carries his tail when he walks (or prances), the way his eyes seem to lighten when he looks at me, the way his fluffy butt looks like big gray bloomers, and the way his body is white with black spots while his legs are black with white spots.

Pierson's Fuzzy Feet

I did share this photo before, but I couldn’t resist sharing the photo of Pierson’s cute fuzzy spotted feet again.

What cute things does your best friend do to make you smile?

Maya’s New Trick from “101 Dog Tricks” – Teach Your Dog How to Play Dead

February 8, 2011

Maya now knows how to play dead.  It was super easy to teach her.  It took about 5 minutes a day for less than 15 days.  It was really difficult at first so I stopped the moment I got her to do it at least once.  But after the 10th day, she caught on pretty well.  We perfected it on the days after and now she does it almost every time.

The book, “101 Dog Tricks” by Kyra Sundance and Chalcy, say that the prerequisite for learning this trick is stay and rollover.  Maya knows stay, but not rollover.  It’s actually difficult to teach her rollover since we have mostly hardwood floors and it hurts her back.  Perhaps we will try it in the spring.  Despite not having the rollover trick down, Maya learned play dead easily because she loves tummy rubs.  In fact, I did not use treats as her reward for doing this trick.  A tummy rub was the perfect reward for her on this one.

To teach your dog how to play dead, you can use a the finger point like a gun as your hand signal and the queue “bang!”.  I used “play dead” as my queue, but you can use “bang!” or even “boo!”.  I also used a different hand signal.

Start by putting your dog in the down position.  Then kneel in front of him, hold a treat to the side of his head, and move it towards his opposite shoulder.  You can help him a little but don’t push him.  Once he is on his back, give him the treat, tell him what a good dog he is, and rub his tummy.  Once he gets this down, do it standing and hold off on the treat and tell him to stay.  Make his stay until you give the release command, “okay!”, then give him his treat.

Maya is not quite to this point yet.  I may not take it to this level as I love to give her the tummy rubs.  Sephi knows this trick already.  She won’t go on her back, but she will stay until I give the release command.  Taylor this trick to you and your dog’s preference.  And learn more fun tricks from “101 Dog Tricks” by Kyra Sundance and Chalcy.

Dog Training Can Be Fun – Just Look at Maya

January 9, 2011

Remember the post where I said I was going to teach Maya some dog tricks from the book, “101 Dog Tricks”?  I was finally able to set aside some time and teach Maya how to shake hands with either her left or right paw.  I also taught her to spin circles.  These tricks were super simple to teach her and took almost no time.

Maya already knew how to shake paws, but she didn’t know the difference between left and right.  The book actually has you use one hand signal and two commands.  The two commands are “shake” for left paw and “paw” for right paw.  Despite the different commands, I think Maya figured it out by whichever hand I put out.  If I put out my right hand, she gives her left paw, and vise versa.

Spin circles was a little more difficult, but not by much.  The book actually teaches to spin either clockwise or counter-clockwise.  I have only taught Maya clockwise.  The command for clockwise is “around” but I say “turn around” instead.  Maya actually learned it so well that I don’t have to say anything.  I can actually just turn my hand in a circle and she does it.

How much time did I spend?  Less than 5 minutes a day for about 15 days.  I know my recent post about procrastinating was less than 15 days ago, but I have actually been working on these tricks for some time – just not every day in a row.  The “shake” for example, was started when I first bought the book and did a review.  However, I procrastinated and worked with Maya maybe once or twice a week – less often during the holidays.  But after the holidays and after my procrastination post, I worked with her every day until she completely understood.

These tricks aren’t very useful in the everyday scheme of things, but they sure are cute.  And just look at how much she enjoys it.  Remember that teaching your dog tricks is a good way to help your dog learn that training can be fun.  Teaching your dog tricks is also a good way to bond and establish a good relationship with your dog which will eventually lead to an all-around well-behaved dog.

“101 Dog Tricks” Challenge – Ongoing Review of Book by Kyra Sundance and Chalcy

November 27, 2010

101 Dog Tricks: Step by Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog

This book, “101 Dog Tricks” by Kyra Sundance and Chalcy, cannot be effectively reviewed until I try teaching my dogs some of these tricks.  So I am starting with my younger dog, Maya.  Why am I starting with the younger dog?  Not because Sephi is too old (no dog is too old).  And not because Sephi is less motivated to learn than Maya.  But because Maya has some behavior issues and the best way to improve upon these behavior issues is to build a closer bond and to better develop communication.  Training, any kind of training, makes a better-behaved dog.  The book, “101 Dog Tricks”, states this and I know it from experience.

So this is my challenge.  I am going to start with a trick that Maya doesn’t know and work with her a little bit each day.  When she has learned that trick well enough for me to record on camera, I will post the video here.  I will also post the day I started with the trick, how often I worked with her on it, and how many days (or weeks) it took her to learn it.

But first, let me give you a review on the first part of the book:

The Introduction of “101 Dog Tricks” goes over the proper training methods.  Firstly and most importantly, remember that any dog training endeavor takes guidance, consistency, and motivation (or as per our 4/19/2010 blog post,, time, patience, positive reinforcement, and consistency).  The proper training methods which the book explains includes how to find what motivates your dog, how to help your dog be successful, how to keep training fun, the benefits of using both verbal cues and hand signals, and using luring to teach versus using force or manipulation.  Although this section of the book is very short, it is informative and very easy to understand.

Chapter One of “101 Dog Tricks” goes over the basic commands like sit, down, stay, and come.  Since Maya already knows these, we won’t blog about them.  Look for other blog posts on how to teach your dog these commands.

Remember, this is not a chore.  I will only do this for as long as Maya and I are having fun.  Also, I won’t teach Maya all 101 tricks.  She may not be inclined to do some of the tricks and I may not want to teach her some of them.  Speak, for example, is not one I want her to learn.  Sit Pretty may be a trick that is uncomfortable for her to do.

Other things I may not try simply because I don’t have access to the proper equipment (such as an obstacle course).  And one more thing – I will not teach the tricks in the order of the book.  I will probably start with the easiest and the ones which I think will be the most fun.

Although Maya knows how to shake already, I am going to start with teaching her to shake with either the left or right paw.  Other fun tricks we may try include Carry my Purse, Tidy Up Your Toys, Act Ashamed, Turn Off the Light, Soccer, Hoop Jump, Jump Rope, Crawl, and more!