- Showing emotion and acting silly
- Performing balancing tricks
- Playing housekeeper
- Preparing for the showdown at sunsetMinding Manners and Trying Out Some Tricks, I tell you how to get your dog to show happiness by wagging her tail on cue. In this section, you discover how to help your dog act out other emotions: sadness, embarrassment, or disgust. For each mood I suggest a hand signal. This discreet direction encourages your dog to focus on you and enables you to direct your dog without saying a word!
For this “Sad” trick, your dog lies down, places her head or nose between her paws, and looks up at you with a sad and soulful expression. Of course, I’m not suggesting you actually make your dog sad! It’s just a trick.
First, be mindful of when your dog’s doing this naturally. Perhaps it’s more an expression of exhaustion — I can always count on this behavior after a long walk. Using the clicker or other food inductions, praise your dog whenever she assumes this position. Once your dog catches on to the fact that you like this head-down posture, put a cue word on it like “Tired” or “Head down.” Remember, if you’re using the clicker method, you must follow each click with a food reward.
Two other methods are useful in helping your dog learn this trick. Deciding which method to choose really depends on the dog you have. Try out each method, and see which one your dog jives with. I call the choices “Gentle Hold and Stay” and “Lure Lassies.”
“Gentle Hold and Stay”: Using a pressure point
If your dog’s a real mush pie, she’ll let you manipulate her head gently into position during the “Sad” trick:
1. Get your dog into a “Down,” and position her head on the floor between her paws.
To encourage this position, pressure your dog very gently behind her ears, which serve as pressure points for the head-down position (see Figure 10-1). Never force your dog into any position. Once her chin touches the floor, instruct “Stay.” Check out Chapter Encouraging Self-Control before You Launch into Lessons for the scoop on the “Down” and “Stay” commands.
2. Click (if you’re using a clicker), reward, and praise a three-second “Stay.”
3. Slowly increase the “Down” time until she can hold herself in this position for ten seconds.
4. Introduce a word or phrase such as, “Are you depressed?” or “Are you sad?”
Have your dog respond by lying down and putting her head between her paws. What a heart-stopper!
The signal for “Gentle Hold and Stay” is to clasp your hands together under your chin.
Figure 10-1: Use pressure points for a gentle “Hold and Stay.”
“Lure Lassies”: Using a treat
If your dog has no interest in sitting still and truly resists having you manipulate her head, you need to be more creative in your approach to teaching her the “Sad” trick:
1. Get your dog into a “Down” and tell her to “Stay.”
See Chapter Encouraging Self-Control before You Launch into Lessons for the “Down” and “Stay” commands.
2. Hold her favorite treat between your thumb, index, and middle fingers so that she can smell it but not eat it.
3. Lure her head down between her paws by using the treat, and then instruct “Stay” once her head is resting on the floor.
At first, you may have to settle for a nose to the ground.
4. Hold your hand still for three seconds, then release (good click moment if you’re following that methodology — click and reward as you release your dog with “Okay”) and praise.
5. Slowly increase the time until your dog can be still for at least 15 seconds.
6. Introduce your catchphrase (“Are you depressed?” or “Are you sad?”) while you’re practicing the trick.
7. Once your dog follows your verbal prompts, add a signal. Rest your chin on the back of your outstretched hand.
8. Slowly wean your dog away from your presence on the floor.
Gradually stand up, treat in hand, and give her the reward the moment after you release her with “Okay.” Got that? Now tell her to “Stay” and begin stepping away. Reward her the instant after you release her from her pose.
Even though you’re removing the treat, praise her for a job well done.
When using food as a lure, cage it securely in your fingers and don’t release it until after you release your dog with the command “Okay!” (See Chapter Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically for more on “Okay.”)
“Sneezy”: Acting offended or annoyed
You can have your dog pretend to be annoyed or offended about something by having her let out a sneeze or snort. I call this the “Sneezy” trick.
Of course, the first way to teach this command is to praise your dog when she’s sneezing naturally. Anytime your dog sneezes, make a fuss — “Good girl!” It may take ten sneezes for her to catch on to what you’re so happy about, but once she does, you can start using a cue word to encourage her to do it on command, “Ahhh-choo!” or “Sneeze!”
You can also encourage the behavior and reward it. Do this:
1. Go to your dog and tell her to “Sit.”
2. Blow into her nose gently from a distance of about 2 or 3 feet.
Doing so should encourage her to sneeze.
3. When your dog sneezes, pinch your nose with two fingers and say “Ahhh-choo!”
You may want to teach your dog to sneeze on cue for a couple of other reasons. The next time you have guests over, you can ask your dog, “Who’s your favorite dwarf?” If you’re a theatrical sort, you can get your dog to sneeze with you for the fun of it. A sneeze-off!
The hand signal for “Sneezy” is to bow your head and gently pinch your nose with index finger and thumb. Try to get her to sneeze using only the hand signal.
Looking embarrassed or disgusted
I’ve saved my toughest mood for last. But oh, how endearing to see your dog hide her face behind her paw in embarrassment. Or, you can associate this trick with the emotion of disgust by having her simply scratch her nose in disgust. Eventually your dog will respond to a hand signal only, and you can lead up to it with questions like “I heard you met a fancy Poodle the other day” (to show embarrassment), or “Would you like some beans with your dinner?” (to show disgust).
Getting your dog to do this trick takes patience and repetition. First, catch her in the act as often as possible. Anytime your dog voluntarily scratches her nose, praise her enthusiastically. If you’ve got a clicker handy, use it only if you can click while she’s got her paw on her face. Poorly timed, the clicker can teach a dog to stop scratching her nose!
To practice these exercises, work with your dog when she’s calm and cooperative. If she has too much energy, she’ll quickly get frustrated and quit.
First, you must practice your “Paw” command (see Chapter Engaging Favorites). Then you’re ready to begin:
1. Take your dog into a quiet area and tell her to “Sit.”
2. Practice a few “Paw” commands.
3. Hold a treat down low and on the opposite side of the paw your dog has been giving you.
If your dog has been giving you her right paw, hold the treat to her left side.
4. When her paw and nose meet, mark the moment with a clicker or a “Yes!” and reward and praise.
You may need to gently hold the skin below her neck to brace her head into position as her paw comes up. If your dog lies down, place your hand along her ribcage to prevent it.
5. Stop the instant she makes a contact and give her a healthy helping of treats (known as a “jackpot”) and/or reward the session generously with a favorite game.
Avoid overdoing this trick. It’s not a common behavior like sitting or lying down, and your dog will grow frustrated with it if it’s repeated excessively. Short sessions ensure fun!
The hand signal for embarrassed or disgusted is to cuff the side of your nose.
If your dog is clueless with the preceding procedure, you’ll need to get more ingenious with your training techniques by using what’s called the induced training method.
To teach this trick using this method, have your treat rewards and your clicker handy:
1. Take your dog into a quiet area and instruct “Sit.”
2. Stick a piece of cloth tape — or clip a clothespin lightly — to the side of your dog’s nose.
Use only cloth tape, and stick it on lightly. You don’t want to hurt your dog by pulling out her hair along with the tape.
3. When she lifts her paw to knock off the tape or clothespin, click/praise and reward.
Initially, reward your dog for any attempts to remove the tape or clothespin with her paw. Gradually reinforce only full-fledged face-pawing as you shape the behavior to what you’re looking for.
4. When your dog catches on to the game, start to introduce a command such as “Hide your face,” and blatantly scratch the side of your nose as a hand signal.
Now you’re ready for showtime. Practice this trick in increasingly distracting areas before inviting an audience to witness your brilliant pal at work.
Are you wondering how your dog could be any zanier? Well, there’s zany . . . and then there’s zany on cue. If your dog is energetic and fun-loving or you can see real benefit in having her spin a few circles on a towel to wipe off her muddy feet, then these tricks are the ones for you. If your dog is a real looney-tune during greetings and other activities, these tricks are a perfect displacement for her unbridled enthusiasm!
“Chase your tail”
A dog chasing her tail is a funny thing to watch, and no one can argue that she has truly mastered the art of having fun with herself. Whether your dog’s a natural for this routine or not, it’s not a hard trick to teach.
If your dog chases her tail naturally, praise her while it’s happening. Use the clicker method or other positive reinforcements like food or toys to let your dog know you think the behavior is cool.
Take a biscuit, hold it level with your dog’s nose and command “Chase your tail” as you slowly rotate the treat around her body. I said slowly! Start slow; that’s an order! Reward half-spins initially, then full spins, then two, three, four spins, and so on.
The hand signal for “Chase your tail” is to hold your index finger up and swirl it in a circle. Accentuate your hand signal, and soon you’ll be sending your dog silent cues — no words needed!
This trick is great if you want your dog to wipe her feet. Just command “Chase your tail” while she’s standing on a doormat!
Around the legs: “Crazy Eights”
The “Crazy Eights” trick is fun for you to teach and fun for dogs of all shapes and sizes to learn. What could possibly be better than that?
1. Starting from the “Heel” position, take a giant step forward with your right foot only, and hold that position.
2. Point between your legs and use a treat to encourage your dog to come “Through.”
3. When your dog has perfected “Through,” use the treat to lead your dog once around your legs in a figure eight pattern, ending up back in the “Heel” position.
Obviously, you’ll have to rely solely on the lure of the treat; using a leash to lead your dog would leave you both hopelessly tangled!
4. Repeat Steps 1–3 until you’re sure your dog knows the trick well.
If your dog is having trouble, do one part at a time: First through the middle, then around the right leg — reward. Then through the middle again — reward, and so on. Practice this until she does it very well. Then you’re ready to proceed as follows:
1. Put all of the parts together by doing the same routine, but walk forward extremely slowly.
2. Each time your dog circles a leg, move the opposite leg forward.
3. If she doesn’t get confused, pick up the pace; if she is confused, keep working on Step 2 until you’ve perfected that.
After some practice, she’ll be tripping you and bringing the crowds to tears with laughter.
Getting Ready for Bedtime
While these tricks set up a perfect nighttime ritual, “Say your prayers” and “Go to sleep” can be used anywhere, anytime! “Go to sleep” is a more politically correct term for the trick “Play dead” or “Bang, bang.” Call it what you will, both of these are pure crowd pleasers and your dog will have fun learning them too!
“Say your prayers”
Having your dog say her prayers is a dear little trick. The goal is to get your dog to place her paws on any object and lower her head reverently. Are you laughing? I’m serious!
1. Sit your dog squarely in front of you and show her a treat. You should sit, too.
2. Lift her paws gently onto your lap.
3. Hold the treat between her paws and under your legs so that she has to drop her head between her paws to reach for it.
4. Tell her “Stay” as you let her lick the treat. Say “Okay” as you give her the treat, and praise her.
5. After you sense that she has caught on to this sequence and can hold her head still for 10 seconds, begin to use the phrase “Say your prayers.”
6. Practice having her rest her paws on other things, such as a bed or chair. Offer the treat over the back of a chair, for instance, always using “Say your prayers.”
“Go to sleep”
When I was growing up, the command given for this trick was “Play dead.” To me the whole dead thing seems a little depressing; I prefer “Go to sleep” — so much more peaceful.
When focusing on this trick, reinforce your dog with praise each time you see her lying on her side naturally. After a day or so, add a word cue like “Sleep” when you catch your dog resting on her side, and praise your dog just because she’s wonderful.
Teaching this trick isn’t too difficult if your dog has mastered the “Down” and “Stay” commands that I cover in Chapter Encouraging Self-Control before You Launch into Lessons. Get your dog to show she’s dogtired with these steps:
1. Instruct “Down,” kneel beside your dog, and gently roll her on her side.
2. Rub your dog’s belly until she’s calm, and praise her.
3. After a few days of this, your dog should be comfortable rolling onto her side. Start giving the command “Sleep–Stay.”
“Stay” should be familiar; if not, review Chapter Encouraging Self-Control before You Launch into Lessons. If she lifts her head, lovingly rest it back on the floor and command “Stay.” Initially have her stay two to ten seconds, varying it each time but rewarding her enthusiastically!
4. Extend the “Sleep–Stay” time until your dog is up to 30 seconds.
5. Now it’s time to command your dog from an upright posture. Give the command from a standing position, bend to help your dog into position, stand back up, pause, and release.
Once you’re able to stand, vary the time you pause before releasing and praising your dog.
It may take a week or two for your dog to catch on, but soon she’ll “Go to sleep” at the simplest suggestion.
6. When your dog cooperates, introduce the trick command, “Go to sleep.”
The hand signal for “Go to sleep” is to place your palms together and raise them to the side of your face in a sleepy-time position.
Balancing tricks take a bit of coordination, but they’re very impressive. In this section, you teach your dog how to balance a treat on her nose, flip it into the air, and catch it in her mouth. You also encourage your dog to practice her posture by balancing a book on her head. With these tricks, your dog will be a hit wherever she goes, whether she’s joining the circus or preparing to make a good impression in polite society.
Flipping and catching a treat off the nose: The seal
In this trick, you teach your dog to balance a treat on her nose, then flip it up and catch it. Sound hard? Maybe you’ve seen seals do this with a fish. And surely your pup is smarter than a seal!
You need to break this trick into two parts: the balance, and the flip and catch.
Stage 1: Balancing the treat
The first part trains your dog to keep her nose still:
1. Line up treats on a nearby table.
2. Put your dog on a “Sit–Stay.”
3. Gently hold your dog’s nose steady for five seconds, reminding “Stay” if she gets restless. Click and reward her steadiness.
4. Repeat Step 3 five times.
Take a break, and pick up training again later that day or the next day.
5. Repeat Steps 1–3 above, but place a treat on your dog’s nose while you steady it, reminding “Stay.”
6. After five seconds, say “Okay,” and remove the treat that’s on her nose.
7. Reward her with a different treat, so she doesn’t become obsessed with the treat that’s on her nose.
8. Repeat this exercise four times, then stop for the day.
Practice this balancing act until your dog is proficient at balancing the treat on her nose for at least 15 seconds with no nose-holding required.
Stage 2: Flip and catch
Teach the flip and catch only after perfecting the balance.
1. Balance a treat on your dog’s nose, and then introduce the next concept (the flip) by saying “Okay” as you slide the treat from your dog’s nose to her mouth.
After a day or two you should notice that your dog tries to flip the treat herself. Praise her only if her flip follows your “Okay.”
If she flips prematurely, say “Ep, ep,” and practice the balance alone a few times before continuing.
To help your dog learn to wait for your “Okay” before flipping the treat, vary the balance time before sliding the treat into her mouth.
2. Balance the treat on her nose and command “Stay.”
3. Walk back 3 feet and pause.
Vary the length of your pauses as you practice.
4. Say “Okay” for the catch and make a big fuss when she does, praising your dog with lots of love.
Balancing books for good posture: Eliza Doolittle
One scene in the film My Fair Lady shows the central character, Eliza Doolittle, walking around the living room with a book balanced on her head. Okay, this isn’t an animal trick, but it’s still impressive — especially when your dog does it. As usual, I break down this trick into its significant parts.
Stage 1: Standing still
Here’s a quick refresher course, in case your dog has forgotten the art of standing still.
1. Kneel down on the floor next to your dog.
2. Place your right hand, palm out, under your dog’s buckle collar.
3. Slide your left hand under your dog’s belly.
4. Command “Stand–Stay” as you gently prop your dog into a standing position.
5. Relax your right hand and slide your left to rest on your dog’s thigh.
6. Pause, count to five, and release with “Okay.”
7. Slowly increase the time to one minute.
8. Now repeat Steps 2–7 but from a standing rather than kneeling position.
9. Begin to let go with your left hand; then let go with your right, as you steady your dog with calm “Stay” commands and a relaxed posture.
The hand signal for “Stand” is a level hand, arm extended, palm down.
Once your dog catches on, you’ll find a million uses for this command: wiping muddy paws, brushing, drying off, or imitating Eliza Doolittle.
Stage 2: Slowing down
Slowing down is another little trick that I’m sure you can think of a million uses for. Plus, your dog can’t possibly balance a book on her head and fly across the room at the same time.
To get started, you need two people: one to lead the dog forward and one to hold her back.
1. Position yourself in front of your dog with treats and your partner behind your dog, holding a leash attached to your dog’s buckle collar.
2. Using your “Stay” signal, command “Stand–Stay.”
If your dog moves, reposition her calmly and quietly.
3. To signal your dog to move forward, slowly close your fingers, move your hand forward, and say “Slowly.”
4. After each step, reward your dog with a treat as your assistant pulls gently back to stop the dog from taking more than one step at a time.
Repeat this until your dog begins to slow after each step on her own, no tug necessary.
5. Now see if you can do it without a partner, using “Shhh” if your dog gets too excited.
Try doing this part of the trick from a distance: Leave your dog in a “Stand–Stay” and stand 3 feet in front of her. Command and signal “Slowly,” and praise your dog for moving with caution.
Stage 3: Balancing the book
This next step is a big one. If your dog’s not ready for it, slow up yourself.
Consider the type of book you use. Paperbacks sag and don’t balance well. Avoid books with jackets or glossy covers — too slippery. A bare, hardcover book works best. Also, use a book that doesn’t weigh too much and that suits the size of your dog; your Chihuahua may only be able to handle a book of postage stamps.
To help your dog learn to balance a book on her head, do the following:
1. Gently place the book on the dog’s head, centering the book so that it rests evenly.
2. Steady her head by gently holding her muzzle with your right hand, giving the “Stay” signal with your left hand in front of her nose, and repeating “Stay.”
3. Calmly remove the book, and reward your dog generously.
Gently hold your dog’s nose as you proceed to get her comfortable with the book-on-the-head routine. Work up from 2 seconds to 30 seconds, which is likely to take a week or more.
4. When your dog begins to learn the routine, lift your right hand off her muzzle ever so slightly as you leave the “Stay” signal in place and remind “Stay.”
5. Slowly increase the time your dog can balance the book without your help and the distance you can move from her.
Is your dog letting the book slide? Either you’re going too fast or your dog is following you with her eyes as you step away. Help her keep her focus steady by holding the hand signal for “Stay” steady at nose level, then moving it slightly up or down if she needs re-centering.
Stage 4: Putting it all together
If I had to pick the toughest trick in the book, this would be it. So drum roll, please. Here goes:
1. Standing close to your dog, place her in a “Stand” position and tell her to “Stay.”
2. Place the book on her head, remind “Stay,” and step away 2 feet.
3. Keeping your “Stay” signal level with your dog’s nose, command “Slowly” and give the hand signal.
4. Immediately remove the book after one step, click, and reward.
Take a breather and stop at this point. Good job. Pick up practice the next day.
5. Work on this step for a few days to build your dog’s confidence. Progress to two steps, and then three, four, five, and so on.
6. Now send me a picture of your dog imitating Eliza Doolittle for the next printing of this book.
If your dog has her fetching and retrieval skills down, you can get her to play the role of maid or trash collector. Fortunately, unlike your spouse or the kids, your dog won’t think you’re a nag when you ask her to pick up the laundry and take care of the trash. Your dog will view these chores as one big game and rush to get started.
To do these tricks, your dog should understand how to respond to target discs (from Chapter Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically), how to carry objects (Chapter Go Fetch! Finding and Retrieving Tricks), and the “Give” and “Take it” commands (Chapter Go Fetch! Finding and Retrieving Tricks).
Before you get started
In Chapter Prepping for Training — Mentally and Physically, I introduce you to targeting. Before you can master the tricks here, you need to teach your dog how to deliver to a target:
1. Place an 81⁄2-x-11-inch piece of white paper in the middle of the floor.
The paper represents the “target.”
2. Stand next to the paper, and encourage your dog to retrieve and “Give” you the object by signaling with an open palm.
3. Next, teach her to drop the item on the target itself. Lower your open palm to the target and say “Deliver–Give.” Gradually remove your palm and simply point to the target as you say “Deliver.”
4. Command “Deliver–Target” as your dog stands over the paper. At first, reinforce all decent retrieves, but then address only the ones that land on the paper by praising “Good–Target!”
5. When your dog is reliably dropping the object on the paper when you say “Target,” gradually move farther from the paper as you continue to train.
6. Gradually trim the target paper size until it’s a palm-sized square.
Now the target paper can be used to instruct your dog anywhere. You can carry it with you and place it anywhere you want your dog to drop something. Pretty cool!
Completing each step of target training can take a few weeks. Don’t sweat it — at times you may feel like you’re hitting a brick wall, and then suddenly your dog will put it all together.
Collecting the laundry
The idea of this trick is that when you say “Laundry roundup,” your dog will go to each room, collect the dirty clothes, and put them in the basket. Miraculous!
If your dog is a laundry thief, you may be skeptical, but hear me out. Laundry bandits are often the top candidates for this task. After all, they’re already interested. All you need to do is redirect their efforts.
Stage 1: Picking up laundry and delivering it to a target
Start this trick by teaching your dog a few new vocabulary words. Get together with a few pieces of clean laundry and a low-sided laundry basket. Proceed as follows:
1. Place the basket on the floor of a small room (bathroom or hallway). Click/praise your dog each time she sniffs or approaches the basket. Command “Basket” as you reward her interest.
Continue to reinforce/command “Basket” until your dog will approach the basket on cue.
Now you’re ready to teach your dog to pick up laundry and go to the basket.
2. Take out a dirty sock and encourage your dog to pick it up.
Either click each time your dog shows interest in the sock, or use your fetching command from Chapter Go Fetch! Finding and Retrieving Tricks: “Take it.”
3. Introduce other apparel as you add the word “Laundry” to your cue command: “Take it–Laundry.”
4. Now get your dog to deliver the sock to the target (see the preceding section).
5. Advance to trying this with multiple socks; they should be lumped in a pile on top of the target paper.
Stage 2: Putting laundry in a basket
Once you’ve mastered picking up the laundry and delivering it to a target, you can advance to having your dog put the laundry in a basket. Here’s how to make that association:
1. Go back to your small room with both the sock and the basket.
2. Place the target paper in the basket, and show your dog the target and how to get to it (large dogs can just reach their head over; small dogs may have to jump on a box or climb a ramp).
3. Say “Take it–Laundry” as you offer your dog a sock. As she holds it, direct her to the basket using the command “Target–Roundup.”
4. Reinforce any behavior in the direction of the basket, even if the drop is a little off.
Continue to practice three more deliveries. Any more might end in frustration — either yours or hers!
The first few training sessions should reward any basket attempts.
5. Once your dog is making the connection between the sock and the basket, reward/praise only successful deliveries.
If your dog is still confused, try encouraging her by luring her head over the basket with a treat or toy, or by clapping your hands over the basket.
The first time your dog makes a successful delivery, celebrate. Quit the lesson and go have some fun. Great job!
Stage 3: Picking up and delivering laundry throughout the house
You should progressively reinforce only successful deliveries. Once that’s accomplished, you’re ready to start cleaning up your home:
1. Go into a familiar room. Place the sock on the floor and instruct, “Take it–Laundry” as you point to the sock. Then say, “Target – Roundup” as you encourage your dog to follow through with the delivery.
If your dog hesitates or seems confused, you may need more practice in the small, quiet room.
At this point you should be able to fade off the familiar cue words “Take it” and “Target,” relying on “Laundry–Roundup” to get your dog going.
2. Slowly increase the number of laundry items by spreading two, and then three, pieces around the room. Send your dog with the command “Laundry” each time. Be sure to click and praise each retrieval.
3. Position the laundry basket 3 feet away from you. Prompt your dog toward the basket by saying “Laundry.” When she understands your direction, say “Roundup.”
You may help your dog a little by pointing to the basket.
4. Stand across the room from the basket and send your dog, pointing at the basket and saying, “Laundry” and “Roundup.”
5. Gradually progress to more pieces of laundry in the same room — then aim for a house-wide roundup!
Do you have a small dog? Too small, in fact, to place her head over the roundup basket? Cut a hole large enough for your dog to slip her head through in the side of a plastic basket.
If you have a big house and rooms and rooms of dirty clothes, you can send your dog out on clothes patrol: Start introducing her to the concept one room at a time with an identical basket in each room. Eventually one basket can be placed on each floor. Start your progression in the rooms closest to the roundup basket and work your way up.
Picking up the trash
Once your dog knows how to pick something up and put it in a basket, the possibilities for turning her into a top-notch housekeeper really expand. Picking up the trash is a natural. The goal here is that when you say “Trash it,” your dog will pick up whatever trash she sees and put it in a trash can.
Is this another request that leaves you speechless? Has your dog spent most of her life pulling trash out of the bin, rather than putting things in it? Once your pal has learned to retrieve properly, you can trust her around anything, including the garbage.
Trash bins are often light and flimsy. You can weigh yours down with several books or rocks in the bottom so that it doesn’t tip over and frighten your dog.
For props, you need a trash bin with a flip-top that’s sized for your dog. The top of the bin should be 4 inches lower than her chin, so either get a small bin or a booster box for your dog. You also need some trash that’s safe for her to practice on — never ask your dog to mouth sharp edges or rancid food items.
As with all complex tricks, I break this one down and teach it in stages.
Stage 1: Getting to know the trash can and learning to open it
Start by introducing your dog to the trash can. Place it in a small room. Click/praise and reward any interest. When your dog catches on, start saying “Target–Trash,” combining the new command with the old.
1. Encourage your dog’s interest in the trash can by rubbing some butter or peanut butter along the inside edge of the lid.
2. When your dog makes contact with the trash can, click, say “Trash,” and reward.
3. Now for lid training. Take the lid and hold it front of your dog. Click/praise and reward a nose touch. Add the words “Touch–Trash” as your dog grows friendly with the concept.
4. Put the lid on the can, and encourage your dog’s interaction by instructing “Touch–Trash.” Encourage and reward any interactions with the lid.
5. Gradually phase out rewarding all interactions and only focus on the ones that involve an upward flip of the lid.
Stage 2: Delivering trash to a target
Now for some trash. Start with an easy-to-handle item like an old animal crackers box or, for your small fry, an empty gum package.
First practice delivering to the target as I describe earlier in the chapter. Next place the target on the lid. Reinforce initial retrieves, then place the target in the can. At first, remove the lid to ensure success, then challenge your dog by putting the lid back on. Repeat “Target–Trash it” as your dog works to get the trash to the target.
Stage 3: Placing garbage in the can
Now comes the hard part: getting your dog to place the garbage into the can.
1. Start at the can, leaving the flip-lid off. Place the garbage into your dog’s mouth and say “Trash it,” leaning over the garbage with your head and using your clicker or saying “Yes!” to reward her first attempts.
Your dog will probably look confused. Gently help her place her head over the trash bin (just like you do with the laundry basket trick). If you find she’s hopeless and frustrated after a few tries, just be patient.
2. Click/reward every attempt initially, then fade off and reinforce only those drops that are on target.
3. Place items of trash around the room and send your dog out for them one at a time, pointing to each object and saying “Trash it.”
Stage 4: Opening the lid to drop in garbage
Finish this trick by getting your dog to push the lid open and drop the garbage in.
1. Sprinkle some trash around the room (don’t worry — your pal will take care of it!).
2. Stand next to the trash bin, this time with the flip-lid on.
3. Point to each piece of garbage and instruct your dog to “Trash it.”
Help her out initially, rewarding each entry. You know she’ll catch on eventually.
Never move on to the next step of a trick before your dog has completely mastered the previous step. If you try to rush ahead before your dog is ready, you’ll both just end up frustrated and unhappy.
A fun variation on this theme is picking up toys. Follow the preceding steps, substituting toys for trash and the toy box for the trash can.
The Action Hero: Evading the Bad Guys
Action movies often show the hero ducking, crawling, and peering around corners. In this section, your dog does a few evasive maneuvers — crawling across the floor, running for cover, and making sure the coast is clear. It all ends with a big showdown at the O.K. Corral.
Crawl, baby, crawl: The snake
In this trick, your dog crawls across the floor on her belly — perfect for when your action hero needs to sneak around out of sight. This trick always amazes me, and it’s fairly easy to teach. Your dog must be proficient in “Down;” see Chapter Encouraging Self-Control before You Launch into Lessons if you need to brush up on this basic skill.
1. Find a low object like a coffee table. Gather up your treats and a clicker, if you’re using one.
2. Give your dog the “Down” command.
3. Hold a treat under the table and in front of your dog’s nose. Bring it forward slowly so she has to stretch. The second she stretches her body out, click/praise and reward.
The first few days you should reinforce one crawl step at a time.
4. Wiggle your hand forward as if it were a mouse in the grass, gradually increasing the distance your dog crawls before you reward her.
5. When your dog crawls out from under the coffee table, be prepared for her to stand up.
Kneeling at her right side, hold your left hand above her shoulders and pressure them slightly before you reward her. (If you’re using clicker training, only click for crawling behavior. If your dog pops up, no click. Pretty soon she’ll catch on: Want a click? Keep crawling!) Slowly increase the distance your dog must crawl before you reward her.
6. Gradually, progress from giving your command as you kneel close to the ground to giving the command while standing upright.
Tricks look coolest when the commands are given from an upright position!
If your dog’s having trouble keeping her belly planted on the floor, lay your right hand across her shoulder blades and apply the least amount of pressure possible.
Think you’re hot stuff? Try this crawl routine.
1. Place your dog in a “Down–Stay” and stand 3 feet in front of her. Instead of calling her, kneel down and say “Crawl.”
2. Release her with “Okay” the moment she gets to you, and celebrate.
Job well done! Now you can work at getting her to crawl to you from across the room. Good luck! Once she gets the crawl, stretching it out (literally) is fun.
Running for cover
“Run for Cover” is a two-part trick, but trust me: It’s so endearing that once you and your dog put it all together, she’ll be using it whenever she wants attention. First, teach your dog to crawl under an object. Use a treat to lead your dog under the object you want her to go under (I use a table covered with a drooping tablecloth). Each time you lead or lure your dog with a favorite treat or toy, command “Hide–Under.” Practice this exercise five times a session, anywhere from one to three sessions per day.
Now send her under the table with “Under” and command “Stay.” Release her with “Okay” and a great big hug. Gradually increase the amount of time before the release.
Now it’s time for peekaboo!
1. After sending your dog “Under” and instructing “Stay,” say “Peekaboo” as you use a treat to lure just your dog’s nose out from under the table.
2. Click/praise and reward the instant your dog’s nose appears.
If she has her whole head out, lure her head back saying “Under” as you start again.
Although it may take a week or two of repeating this exercise to master the perfect “Peekaboo,” once learned, it’s never forgotten.
Bang! Shoot-out at the O.K. Corral
This trick combines two commands: “Ask nicely” (from Chapter Engaging Favorites) and “Go to sleep” (from the earlier section “Getting Ready for Bedtime”). Together, they create a cool stunt that will wow audiences everywhere.
First, get your dog to sit up by using the “Ask nicely” command, adding a command such as “Put ’em up.” Make the shape of a gun with your thumb and index finger and point it at her. Practice that quite a few times.
The way to teach a new command for an old trick is to first link them, then phase out the old command. So when your dog starts this trick, you need to give her the commands “Ask nicely–Put ’em up.” Emphasize the new hand signal, and slowly eliminate the “Ask nicely” command.
Once your dog is sitting up, it’s time for the “Go to sleep” command. Link it with “Bang” as you “pull the trigger” on your hand gun. If she has trouble, gently help her over to her side. Often the dog gets so excited that she falls down anyway. Practice the two steps together several times, rewarding for each improvement and phasing out “Go to sleep.”
Now, put it all together:
1. Put your dog in a “Sit–Stay.”
2. Stand 3 feet away and command “Put ’em up” as you take aim.
3. Pause a few seconds and say “Bang.”
Mission accomplished! Now practice at progressively farther distances.
As outlined, this trick would be considered politically incorrect. You can always insert new words for the same actions to change the flavor of the routine. For example instead of “Put ’em up” you could say “Did you wash your paws?” and then “Go to Sleep,” rather than “Bang, you’re dead.” So instead of sending your 3-year-old to bed with nightmares, you’ll be encouraging her to wash up before bedtime!
by Sarah Hodgson