5 Reasons to Teach Your Dog New Tricks

Teaching your dog tricks isn't frivolous fun, it has major emotional and physical benefits. Learn how to build your dog's confidence and improve your training skills through trick training!

Dog learning a new trick

Trick Training Provides A Physical Challenge

Many tricks require new or different physical skills compared to a dog’s typical day-to-day life. While your dog may be active in everyday life, we can use tricks to challenge their body in new and different ways. Tricks can involve balance, flexibility, and body awareness.

For example, your dog can learn to zig-zag weave between your legs. They will have to bend their body as they goes around. If your dog learns to back up, they make different motions than regular walking. And if we teach your dog to raise a front paw to wave - or a back paw for a fake pee trick, they have to shift their weight and balance on just three legs.

Trick Training Provides A Mental Challenge

Dogs love training! If we only put a dog through their paces and review tricks, they aren't going to be challenged in the same way as if they are problem-solving and learning a new skill. Running through everything they know can be good to show off what they can do, but it doesn’t help them learn.

You could take trick training and basic skills to the next level. For example, your dog might have learned “On” and “off” or “up” and “down” - the exact words don’t matter! You might use this for the couch or the car. But can we have your dog get on a smaller object like a large rock or a picnic table bench? What about something smaller? A medium-sized rock or a step stool? What about something even smaller? Your dog must learn to balance and place their feet on these objects.

We could also add in the challenge of brand-new tricks. There are always more tricks a dog can learn. Some tricks involve props, while some don’t. You could teach tricks with more physical elements, such as jumping onto your back or through a hoop, or for less action-orientated tricks, you can teach touching a sports team logo on a signal, finding a hidden object, or going the direction you indicate.  

Trick Training Encourages Positive Interaction

Are you ready for a dog trainer secret? Everything we teach a dog is “just a trick” the dogs. Sometimes, we are more serious if something is important to us. When we get more serious, sometimes we are not as fun to be around or less generous with the rewards. In trick training, the stakes are low, so many people tend to use a lot of treats, toys, praise, and interaction. This usually results in dogs who love doing tricks!

Your friends and family may not understand how hard it has been to get your dog to be calm and relaxed around other dogs. But if you show off one silly trick, they are often very impressed! Trick training is perfect for helping others appreciate how awesome your dog is!

Tricks can be used to build positive associations with strangers. If your dog gets very nervous or excited, you and your dog can show off tricks for visitors rather than having people get up close to pet your dog. When your dog is more experienced, they might like to do tricks with the other person at a distance.

Trick Training for Confidence Building

Trick training can be a great way to build confidence in nervous or shy dogs. Through trick training, dogs learn that their behavior has (positive!) consequences, how to learn new skills and persistence. These skills can be used to build confidence to interact with the world, around varied environments, and with other people or dogs. 

We can start with very easy tricks like getting on and off a surface. It might initially be moving from one dog bed to another or on and off a towel on the floor. Over time, it can become raised objects, items that are harder to balance, or even smaller things.

Tricks might initially be “chase a treat” or hand target. Over time, we can work up to very complex tricks, such as retrieving items, interacting with props, or weaving between your legs.

Ultimately, all tricks are personalized. You can make a circle with your arms and have a dog jump through. It might be at your standing height with a young, athletic dog, but for a senior dog or small dog, you might kneel on the ground so the dog is just stepping through the circle!

Trick Training  - Learn How to Learn

At the end of the day, tricks don’t matter, making it an excellent place for dogs and people to learn about dog training. If we really mess up a trick, no problem. We can put it to the side for a while or even forever! That’s not the case for some real-life skills or for service or competition dogs. 

Through trick training, a person learns how to break a skill into small pieces and gradually add challenges and reward techniques for an individual dog. We aren’t perfect, and it’s better for us to make errors throughout trick training than with skills or behaviors we care about more.

Dogs learn how to keep trying, that different words can apply to different behaviors (as in, everything you say does not mean sit!), and how to work with a person. Once a dog loves training, any other skill we teach will be much easier for a dog to learn.

Now that you know why trick training is so valuable - go and teach your dog a few new tricks! If you need more ideas or want support, we offer one-on-one personalized training for you and your dog.