Dogs are wonderful companions who love to please their owners. That is why dogs are so trainable. Granted some dogs are more easily trained than others but they all enjoy learning. Once your dog learns the basic commands all good doggy citizens should know, consider training a few more complicated tricks. Teaching a new trick challenges your dogs’ mind, enhances his focus and intelligence. And working together is a bonding experience for you and your dog.
Even the most complicated trick can be broken down into smaller steps each building on the previous. With a great deal of patience and plenty of good treats you can teach your dog just about any trick using the ‘cue, action, reward’ strategy.
Some tricks are best taught by using a method called shaping. You catch the dog doing the desired action and reward it. Shaping can take longer because you have to wait for the dog to do the action on his own. It works well for tricks like “Yawn”.
A clicker can be especially useful in teaching more advanced tricks. A clicker is simply a mechanical noise maker used to reinforce desired behaviors. A positive marker can be delivered more quickly and more precisely with a clicker than by treating alone. A verbal marker word can be added such as “yes” or “good”.
To utilize a clicker it must first be loaded. Simply press the clicker and immediately give the dog a treat. Once your dog understands that a treat follows a click it is much easier to reinforce the actions your want. It is important to click during the desired behavior not after it is completed. Click and treat for even small movements in the right direction.
Your dog will begin showing you the learned behavior hoping for you to click and thus treat. It is now time to introduce a cue with the click. Cues (commands) are best kept to one or two-syllable words that are easy for the dog to understand. The idea is to give the cue and click when the dog performs the desired behavior.
Work in a quiet place without distractions when beginning. Keep training sessions short (5 minutes). Always end on a positive note. Some hard tricks may take several months for even smart dogs to master.