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Easy Tricks To Teach Your Dog
By John Willaims

There are different methods of teaching a dog tricks, whether it's a new dog learning old
tricks or an old dog learning new ones. No one way works for every dog, but one
principle that does hold true, that will keep your dog ready and willing -- even eager -- to
learn more is to keep training sessions fun and make sure that your dog is having at
least half of the fun; quit before he wants to and make the last exercise one that gets
him a big, happy payoff. When it starts being a chore or produces anxiety for your dog,
he'll lose interest, kind of like you did in that first period algebra class back in high

Keeping it fun means leaving the old fashioned notions of punishment for not getting it
right back in the past, where they belong. No choker corrections, no getting frustrated
and thumping the nose or grousing. When you feel yourself starting to get to a point
where you have to hold yourself back from scolding, it's time for the training session to
end, but end it on a positive note; go back to something your dog has down pat, even if
it's a simple “sit.” Give him the cue and as soon as he's done it, follow it up with a big
reward. You'll find you both look forward to the next session.

One of the simplest ways to teach tricks is to wait for the behavior you're wanting, mark
it immediately with the command word and/or hand signal you want your dog to identify
with it, and then reward the performance. Clicker training is a natural method to turn to
for trick training. “Click/treat” and then, as the lessons progress, just the click is a fast
way to mark the behavior, especially if you've established the click as the marker by
using it for more mundane behavior, like sit, down or stay.

When you're after a behavior -- a trick -- that requires a sequence of actions, one way to
achieve this is to mark each individual act with a command and a click, then begin
putting them together in the sequence and giving the sequence a command and/or
hand signal.

It's important to adapt your technique to best suit the way your dog learns, maybe
teaching a sequence of two behaviors and getting that down fairly pat, adding the next,
continuing on for however many different parts there are to the trick you're trying to get
him to perform. Some dogs will do better if you teach them to do several things in a
series at a time, let them learn two or three different sets of sequences, then combine
them. One thing you'll want to work on is leaving out the reward until the end of the
sequence, when you will also reinforce the command for that designated sequence. If
your dog expects that reward after each part you're not going to get a smoothly
executed trick. This is one reason a clicker is so handy -- you can mark/reward more
quickly very little, if any, lag time and leave out the interim reward markers altogether
that much sooner.

As you're able to leave out the reward markers in the sequence, you should also be
able to abandon the individual commands, perhaps even the hand signals as your dog
learns to consider the sequence as one whole trick rather than a series of different

You may find, too, that you have to up the ante on the rewards. Sometimes a clever dog
will decide that he's tricking himself out of treats by not pausing in between the tricks in
the sequence to give you time to reward him. Make it worth his while. Start out with
relatively low value treats, even individual kibbles of something other than his regular
food, then, as the trick gets longer and more involved, progress to something he likes
better, that makes it worth his while to skip the lesser goodies to get the big payoff.
And always, always, make it fun, stop the session before your dog gets bored and finish
up with something you can reward him for doing.

Provided By John Willaims of Find the
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