10 Tricks to teach your dog

by Nancy Boland

Basic obedience should come first, but once you’ve mastered the essentials, teaching your dog a few tricks can help keep him stimulated, and gives you another way of interacting with him.

For optimum success, keep training sessions short and sweet: short bursts are more effective than long drawn our sessions. When teaching something new  make sure the treat you offer is sufficiently motivational, and worth the hard work. Some dogs will find certain tricks easier than others; and some dogs learn quicker than others, especially if they are food motivated.


This is usually one of the first things people teach their dogs, and forms part of basic obedience training. Teaching your dog to sit can also be a productive skill to use when out and about. It can be used as an alternative  to jumping up when meeting people  and he can learn to ‘Sit’ before crossing a road will teach him some semblance of road safety.

The sit is very easy to teach. Hold a tasty treat in your hand just in front of your dog’s nose and allow him to smell it but not eat it. Very slowly bring the treat up and back over his head; as his nose comes up following the treat, his back end will lower until he’s sitting. Once he’s sitting, praise and reward him. Practice regularly so that he gets used to hearing the word and as he gets used to the command, phase out holding a treat in your hand but continue with the praise.

trick 4


Ask your dog to lie down, and then holding a treat just in front of his nose, use it to lure him forwards in a commando crawl. Move the treat slowly and keep it close to the ground; praise and reward every small movement at first, gradually increasing the distance you ask him to go until he’s crawling at a faster speed.

Leg weave

This looks really complex but is actually very simple to teach. Hold a small treat in each hand and stand with your feet spaced far enough apart so that your dog can comfortably pass through them. Start with your dog in front of you, and lure him through your legs by holding the treat in your right hand behind your right leg. Move it forward and around your right leg as he follows it. As he comes level with your knee, praise and reward, and then use the treat in your left hand to encourage him to move through your legs again, but this time luring him round to your left hand side.

This is a great one for increasing coordination and agility, but does require a lot of concentration, so build it up in easy stages. As he starts finding it easier you’ll find he becomes faster, but don’t rush him while he’s still learning, especially if he is prone to having a short attention span.


While your dog is standing facing you, take a small treat in one hand and place it right in front of his nose. Very slowly lower the treat towards the ground just between his front paws; as his nose follows it his front end will go downwards while his back end stays in the air, making it look as though he’s taking a bow, or attempting the downward-dog pose in yoga. Reward and praise him. Gradually increase the time he stays in the bow as he learns the trick.

dog trick 3

 Roll over

Ask your dog to lie down, and then use a treat to lure him into lying on his side by placing it just in front of his nose and bringing it slowly round towards his shoulder. When he’s comfortable about doing this, bring your hand round a bit further towards his back, so his nose follows and he rolls right over. Once he’s confident with the rolling over action you can attach a cue word  so he begins to associate it with the trick.

trick 2

Shake paw

Place the treat in the palm of your hand and make a fist. Allow your dog to sniff at the treat, leaving a small gap between your fingers so that the treat seems obtainable to maintain his attention span. Wait until he paws at your closed fist, praise him and let him have the treat. Repeat this process and as he begins to get the idea, attach a cue-word again, either ‘shake’, or ‘paw’ so that the word becomes associated with the action. Remove the treat once he begins to master the technique.

trick 1


Learning to catch a treat isn’t always as easy for your dog as you might think, and it can take time for him to perfect the necessary coordination, so be patient if he can’t quite grasp it at first. Make your throws easy to start with, throwing upwards and towards his mouth — and use slightly bigger treats so he can see them easily. As he starts to get better at catching the treat, you can begin to use smaller ones and to throw them a little to the side to make it more challenging.

Balance the treat

This requires a huge amount of self-control from your dog as well as the ability to stay motionless until you release him. Ask him to sit while you place a biscuit on top of it. Use a treat which isn’t as tempting to begin with, so he isn’t incredibly eager. To begin,  hold the biscuit in place for a second, then take it away, praise him and remove it.

Gradually increase the time you hold the treat there, then progress to letting go of it and increasing the time you can do it. Build up the time he can manage to keep it balanced on his nose, and either finish the trick by telling him ‘OK’ so he can eat his treat.

 Wipe your face

Make it look as though your dog is cleaning his face by gently sticking a Post-it note to the top of his muzzle. Most dogs will bring a paw up to wipe the annoying piece of paper off. When he does, praise and reward him and repeat. Once he gets used to the motion, attach a cue word of your choice until he’s made the connection and then stop using the post-it note.

 Possibilities are endless…

Teaching your dog new tricks is a great way to keep him mentally stimulated. There’s always more than one way of teaching a trick if the methods here fail to inspire and you may find a more successful method the more you practice and bond with your dog. But the important thing to remember is to be creative, keep things interesting and always have fun!

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