Young or old, with positive reinforcement, your dog can learn a new trick.
It’s good to have the basics down: sit, lie down, stay, come. Once those are sharp, you can start moving on to what’s next.
Some breeds are a bit easier to teach than others. Dogs like Basset Hounds and Beagles can be a bit more stubborn when it comes to new tricks, but every dog’s tail starts wagging when they make their owner happy.
The first step to teaching a new trick has nothing to do with your dog and everything to do with you. You always want to start teaching in a good mood. If it has been a long, exhausting day at work — today is not the day to teach.
Teaching requires two key things: patience and knowing when your pup is done.
Many professional trainers highly advocate clicker training. You can actually clicker train without the snappy device, though. Create a word that becomes the click. A simple “Yes!” works perfectly. The instant your dog does what you want, you give this cue and he knows he’s done something you like. He’ll repeat it next time, or try what he thinks you liked.
There are two ways to pick a new trick. First, you can decide one and find a way to get your dog to perform it, then reward. Or, you can see a behavior your dog already does and add a cue.
Surprisingly, the second method takes more time than the first.
To teach a basic trick like “shake,” start somewhere easy. Have your dog sit in front of you, and you kneel. Touch your dog’s paw just enough to where he picks it up while saying “shake.” As soon as he picks his paw up say, “Yes!” and give a treat.
Gradually, use your hand less as a guide and more as an open palm. Your dog may be confused at first, but he will try different things to get the outcome you like. When he succeeds, reward.
Tricks, depending on difficulty and with daily practice, one to two weeks to perfect. This depends a lot on your dog’s desire to learn and please. It’s also a surefire way to earn your week’s BarkPoints!
Remember, don’t get frustrated with your pooch! The same way you wouldn’t get frustrated with a kindergartner learning to say spaghetti, you should always pay attention to when your pup is getting easily distracted or stops performing. This means he has had enough for the day.
When you pick up the next day, start a little easier than you ended in the last lesson. It’s like a recap. Little by little, your dog will become a trick genius!