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8 Amazing tricks to teach your dog

Yorkshire dog doing a trick

Train your dog to shake its paw, walk backwards and more.

© Shutterstock

Training your pet to do basic commands is important, but there are easy tricks that your dog can learn. Tricks give your dog mental stimulation and they’re really cool!

By Karen Wild, CCAB Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist

Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:53

One of the nicest ways to prevent your dog’s life from being boring and monotonous is to teach him some amusing tricks. Trick training is a brilliant way to form a special bond with your pet and it will stimulate him, both physically and mentally. Above all, it’s essential that he understands and reacts to the simple dog training obedience commands. Once he has conquered the “sit”, “down” and “stay” orders, teaching your pooch other stunts can be really fun.

There’s nothing better than training your dog to do some cool actions and tricks. Training actually keeps your best friend’s brain sharp and mentally active. Add a few of these cool tricks to your dog’s repertoire and he will soon be showing off his new skills to everyone! Finally, remember that reward training and positive reinforcement go a long way when teaching your dog to do new things.

1. Shaking Paws: Teach your dog to shake paws

This has to be the most popular of all the tricks you can teach your dog to do. It’s definitely one of the easiest. It probably takes just a few training sessions to show your dog how to shake hands, or paws in his case. The majority of canines are quite happy to use their paws and will of course, love the extra attention they receive for accomplishing this feat.

Hold your hand down low and encourage your dog to gently place their paw into it, praise your dog and give their treat. Say ‘Shake Paw’ so that your dog doesn't’ just learn to paw at you - they must only do it when you say the cue words.

It’s a great way to help your dog overcome any fear of having their feet handled, which will assist with grooming your dog too.

2. Walking backwards

Another trick you can teach your dog is to walk backwards. Training him to do so is a fairly easy task. All you need is a handful of treats and a bit of patience. Choose a corridor or narrow space, and walk slowly towards your dog so that he inches backwards a tiny bit without turning around. Say ‘Good dog’ and reward with a treat. Repeat, adding the words ‘Back Up’. This routine will certainly come in handy in everyday life. Tell your dog to “back up” when you need him to let you pass in a narrow space or to let you pass through the door. And without any doubt, it’s a definite crowd pleaser too.

3. Speaking and stay quiet

This is a fun challenge for your pooch and it can also come in handy too. Some dogs tend to bark excessively, sometimes out of habit. Teach your dog to stay “quiet” and to “speak” at your command, so that your dog will learn to bark only when you instruct him to do so. Choose a time where he is already barking, say ‘Speak’ then give a treat. As soon as he sniffs at the treat, say ‘Quiet’ so that he stops barking (because he is sniffing/eating)! Above all, it’s quite entertaining to impress your friends with your pet’s conversational talents.

4. Spinning

First of all, guide your dog into a spin, luring him with a treat. Hold your hand on his nose with the treat within, and lure your dog to follow your hand in a circular movement. You can say ‘Spin’ as you do so. Say ‘Good dog’, and give him the treat. Once he has mastered this, teach him how to change direction and spin either to the left or the right, at your command. Your friends will be amazed at this cool trick, not to mention the fact that he knows his left from his right side!

5. Rolling over

Although it can be initially difficult to teach your dog to roll over, with perseverance and patience it is possible. Approach the training in small stages, by first getting him to roll onto one side, using a treat to guide him. Once he has achieved this, you can then lure him to roll his whole body over. Give him time to build confidence so that he stays happy and relaxed. This trick is also the basis for others, like playing dead.

6. Sit and beg (or sit pretty)

The success of this trick almost certainly depends on the size and build of your dog. It also depends on his ability to balance on his backside. Because of this, it’s a bit difficult to train some dogs to sit and beg, and always make sure your dog is fit and healthy without any joint problems before you start. But there is nothing cuter than observing your dog sitting up and holding his paws out for a treat. Hold a treat on his nose, and gently lure him up into the sitting position, then lifting the treat a little higher so that his front paws lift up from the ground. Say ‘good dog’ and reward him. You can add the words ‘Sit pretty’ once he is confidently lifting up.

7. Playing dead or ‘sleep’: Teach your dog the ‘play dead’ or ‘sleep’ trick

This amazing trick will blow your friends’ minds! You hold your hand to represent a gun (or a magic wand if you prefer) and say “bang” (or ‘sleep’)! Your dog rolls onto the floor and plays dead, still as a statue... Hold the treat in your hand very still so that your dog stays still too. If you have previously trained your pooch to roll over, it’s not as difficult as you think. Your pals will certainly be impressed (and your dog will enjoy settling too).

8. Giving a kiss

In contrast to some of the more difficult stunts, this is probably one of the easiest tricks to teach your dog. Of course, not everyone loves a sloppy, wet, doggy smooch, and you need to make sure your dog is safe around people of course. If you prefer, find a photograph and ask your dog to ‘kiss’ this instead. 

Begin by placing a treat on your cheek (or on the picture), then as your dog moves their nose to it, ask your dog to “kiss”. Only give the treat if he lightly nudges with his nose. He will soon pick up the gentle sequence and you will get all the puppy kisses you want. As a result of this trick, you can also train your pet to just nose touch a ‘kiss’ when prompted to avoid lots of unwanted licking.

What is the hardest trick to teach your dog?

All training is a form of ‘trick’, so it’s more about what you are asking your dog to do around distractions that makes it harder. Any trick, or behaviour, you want them to do in front of other dogs or people, or around temptations of any kind make it harder for them. Of course, the further your dog is away from you, the harder it is too. If you don’t want to hold your hand up as a signal, so that it looks like your dog is doing the trick by themselves, that can be an advanced trick to teach.

Hind legs tricks are often harder since dogs do not naturally offer these for activities (unlike using their front paws to touch and reach things). Encouraging your dog, using praise, holding a treat as ‘wages’, are all ways to motivate them and keep their brains busy as they work out the new skill.