Hello! My name is Leah Spaulding, and I’m here to guide you through three cool tricks to teach your dog!
I am the vice president of a pet nonprofit organization called Their Voice and I have a huge background in the pet world from pet-sitting, working at a holistic pet store, and training dogs.
First, we’ll go over the necessary preparations before you begin training, and then we’ll dive right in with step-by-step instruction to teach your dog three cool tricks: play dead, dance, and sit pretty. Let’s get started!
How do you incentivise your furry friend to learn tricks? With treats, of course! You will need a supply of small, low-calorie treats at your disposal.
If you are looking for recommendations, training treats that my dogs love (and that are healthy and wheat, corn and soy free) include the following:
- Tricky Trainers Salmon Training Treats, which are soft and chewy training treats under three kcal each and come in a variety of flavors. They also have crunchy training treats if your dog prefers it
- Fruitables Skinny Minis Apple Bacon, which are soft, fragrant training treats, each only two calories. These are my rat terrier’s favorites.
- Natural Balance Duck Mini-Rewards are chewy bites that are five calories each. These also come in a multitude of different flavors, if your dog has a favorite.
If you know your dog is picky, I recommend getting treats from a pet supply store that has a guarantee on their treats (most of them do, believe it or not.)
Most treat suppliers stand by their products and will accept returns from pet stores if a dog didn’t like their product, so this won’t hurt your local pet store. Just make sure to hold on to the receipt!
If your dog is super food-motivated, you may be able to use their regular food kibble as a reward in the place of training treats. It’s certainly worth a try!
There are products on the market designed for carrying training treats. Personally, I like the kind of training treat pouches that can clip on and cinch with a drawstring for quick treat-dispensal like these.
If you’re not in the market for a treat bag, you can put a ziploc bag in your pocket (or in a fanny pack if you have one).
Another necessity you don’t want to overlook is to have an appropropriate location for training. Reducing distractions will help you to optimize your dog’s learning during training.
If you are training inside, move furniture to the side for lots of room for your dog to safely move around.
You’ll also want to remove any distractions, like turning off the television, waiting until no humans are eating in the house, and asking kids to play outside or in another room.
If you’re outside, pick a spot you know will have the least amount of people and other dogs walking by (like the backyard or a vacant park).
Now that you have training treats, a treat carrier, and a good spot picked out for the training to commence, you’re ready!
3 Cool Tricks to Teach Your Dog
#1: Play Dead
One of the coolest tricks you can teach your dog is play dead. I’ll go over the prerequisites for this trick, and In just three steps, I’ll tell you how to teach your dog how to do this trick.
Since your dog will need to lay on their side for this trick, your dog should know how to lay down as a requirement.
They will also need to know stay, in order to know to stay where they are until you use the release word you use with stay (like “yes” or “good”).
After that, play dead is just a few steps away!
1. Choose the Command
With the play dead trick, there are many different commands (or cues) that you can use. Feel free to use one of your creation, just keep it short and different from other commands you use.
If you don’t want to use “play dead” as the verbal cue for this trick, here are some fun suggestions:
- “Bang, bang!”
- “Expelliarmus!” (for the Harry Potter fans)
- “Pancake!” (because they’ll be laying flat)
- “You’re getting Sleepy!”
- “Are you lazy?”
You will also need to pick a hand signal to use. Most people choose to have their pointer finger “aimed” at the dog, with their thumb up towards the ceiling and the other fingers tucked in, imitating a gun.
2. Have Your Dog Lay Down and Give them a Belly Rub
Your dog will love this step! Ask them to lay down, and then rub their belly. It may take some time and patience, but they should eventually lay on their side. It could take days for your dog to be comfortable with this.
As soon as you see it, reward your dog while establishing the cues you have chosen (both the hand signal and the verbal command).
Practice this a few times each day for a few weeks. Once your dog responds to the cue alone without the belly rubs and practices the trick consistently without mistakes, you are both ready for step three.
3. Use the Stay Command
Time to progress to using the stay command with “play dead.”
Use the command and hand signal you chose for play dead, and once your dog is on their side on the floor, tell them to stay. Have them stay for a couple seconds, and reward with a treat after using the release word.
Over time, increase the seconds to a minute for how long your dog should stay in that pose.
A Helpful Tip
If you are having trouble getting your dog to lay on their side, try using a treat as incentive for them to lean toward their side by holding it near their shoulder. If they get up, just start over. Practice patience!
Play dead is a super fun trick to teach your dog, and they’ll love it because teaching them involves lots of belly rubs!
The prerequisites your dog will need to know before beginning training play dead include lay down and stay.
First, you will need to choose a verbal cue and hand signal to use with the trick.
Second, you will have your dog lay down, and use belly rubs as incentive for your dog to lay down on their side. As soon as your dog does so, use the command and hand signal and give your dog a training treat as a reward.
Third, use the command stay to increase time that your dog is laying down and use the release word.
# 2: Dance
Many dogs may naturally dance (stand up on their hind legs and move around) when they are excited. My dog Bean did it naturally, and it was really easy to reinforce.
For other dogs, it may not come as easily, but I’m here to help guide you through each of the two easy steps.
Your dog does not need to know any other tricks to learn this one, but please keep in mind this trick is for dogs with healthy backs and legs–some breeds may not be able to do it, and some dogs are old enough they should not do it.
1. Choose the Command
There are many fun verbal cues that you can use with the trick. I personally use dance, but I wish I would have thought of these first!
- “Cut a rug”
- “Do a jig”
- “Happy dance”
Once you’ve decided on a verbal cue, it’s time to start the steps of learning the trick!
2. Hold the Treat High
This training involves using the luring technique, which means using a treat to guide your dog to move a certain way. Hold a training treat high above your dog’s head.
When your dog’s front paws leave the ground, give your dog a treat immediately and use your verbal cue.
Keep working on this until your dog stands tall on their hind legs. This can be done by raising the treat ever so higher each time.
3. Use a Twirl Hand Motion
Once your dog has the last step down, use a slow circle motion to lure your dog to spin in a circle. This will take time and patience as your dog learns balance!
First, lure your dog with treats to stand on their hind legs. Reward immediately with a training treat and use the verbal cue. Practice makes perfect! Work on this until your dog gets on their hind legs every time.
Second, use a low circular motion with a treat in your hand to get your dog to move in a circle while on their back legs. This will take time and patience but it’s so worth it! What an endearing trick.
#3: Sit Pretty
Sit pretty is an easy trick to teach, but it’s so cute to see! In just two steps, I’ll teach you how to train your dog to sit pretty.
Your dog will need to know sit before we begin!
1. Have your Dog Sit
Use your dog’s previous knowledge to have them sit down.
2. Lure them with a Treat
With treat in hand, raise your hand right above your dog’s nose until your dog slightly raises their body up to meet with the treat. Use your command and reward with a treat! Repeat until your dog has a proper sit pretty.
Ensure your dog know sit before you teach this trick!
First, have your dog sit down.
Second, lure them upward with a training treat. Reward with a treat and use the verbal command. Keep practicing!
#4: High Five
High five is a super easy yet endearing trick for your pet to learn. In a couple effortless steps, I can teach you how to have your dog high-fiving you in no time. You’ll be the envy of your friends and family with such a cool dog!
I recommend your dog knowing sit and shake hands as prerequisites for this trick. They are really easy to learn, and can both be found here.
1. Choose the Command
Many people just go with “high five” for this command for obvious reasons, but there’s lots of room for creativity if you so choose. Here are some ideas!
- “Gimme five”
- “Up high”
- “High paw”
With a verbal cue chosen, it’s on to the next two steps!
2. Ask your dog to sit and use the motion for shake hands.
As your dog moves to shake hands with you, raise your hand up a few inches and say your command. Give your dog a treat!
Slowly increase the distance your hand is raised each time until your dog is reaching out in a high-five!
A Helpful Tip
Don’t grab your dog’s paw and force them to reach out. This can create a negative experience in training for your dog.
Ensure your dog has a good handle on sit and shake before moving forward to learning high five.
Choose the command you wish to use for this cool trick.
Ask your dog to sit and use the motion as if you’re shaking their hands. As they reach out, put your hand a little high and let them reach a bit.
Use your verbal cue and a training treat. Over time, slowly increase the height of your hand until your dog is high-fiving you! Patience is key!
Want to Learn More?
Whether you are interested in training your dog to do more cool things, or you are struggling to teach your dog even the most basic of tricks to your dog, I recommend Brain Training for Dogs.
Why do I love this program? The program is force-free and focuses on scientific research, positive reinforcement, and was created by an experienced and certified trainer.
Dogs sometimes have a different learning style. For instance, I taught my rat terrier how to shake hands by picking up his paw and rewarding it with a treat.
With Bandit, my mixed breed, he learned by touching my hand (treat in a fist) to open it, eventually learning shake hands.
The program also takes into account different training methods for each trick, so you can find one that works for your dog.
The program also includes video guides, so you can learn by seeing. There’s even a video that will show you how to teach your dog to bow–another cool trick you could teach your dog.
Thank you for joining me on my breakdown of three tricks that you can teach your dog just for fun. Enjoy the bonding time you have with your pet, and remember to practice patience.
If you are interested in learning more tricks, you are in luck! Officially
Pets has a plethora of articles on training if you are eager to learn more! Check here for easy tricks for beginners.
For unique tricks like teaching your dog how to skateboard, click here.
To teach your dog how to bark on command, click here.