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Two Practical Tricks To Teach Your Dog
It is amazing the number of tricks you can teach your dog. If you are lucky and have a dog that is highly motivated to learn you can teach them virtually anything you want. The key to teaching a dog is to break the trick down into simple steps that build on each other and reward each closer approximation to the full trick. This is really not as complicated as it sounds; it just takes some thought on your part.
The other easy way to teach a dog a trick is to take something they already do, give a command, and then reward the dog for doing it. This type of training, which is actually conditioning, takes a bit longer since you have to watch the dog and catch him or her doing the desired activity in order to give the command and then the reward. However, it is amazing how fast your dog will catch on.
There are two "tricks" that I teach each of my dogs that are not just fun to show your friends but that actually have a very practical aspect as well. Those three tricks are "Tinkle and "Dry Off". You can call them whatever you want of course, but they are great little commands that will make your travel, doggy bath time and even your trip to the vet much less stressful.
Treats Make The Difference
Bribery gets you everything when it comes to training dogs and kids. I don't like to use commercial dog biscuits as they are full of all sorts of things so I tend to use small pieces of boiled chicken, hard boiled egg whites or kosher hot dogs cut up into very thin slices. I use the kosher hot dogs because they are free from additives and preservatives. Use what your dog likes which can certainly be commercially available dog treats. If your dog has a weight problem or if they are a treat hog (I have two of those) cut the treats down to just a nibble to avoid the high calorie count. Smaller dogs need very small bites, keep that in mind as well.
The Tinkle Command
Ok, I know what you are thinking and it is something like, "Does she really mean that tinkle?". And the answer to that is yes I do. Teaching your dog, male or female, to pee on command is a lifesaver when you are traveling. If you make a stop you don't want to have to walk around endlessly waiting for your dog to find just the right spot to "go". My dogs all know the tinkle command and have since the first days of house training.
This is a conditioning type of command that is based on natural behavior. Any dog at any age can learn this provided you are willing to put in the time. Start when your dog or puppy has been in the house or crate for an appropriate period of time. Make sure you have a treat or two in your pocket and go outside with the dog. When you see him or her start to sniff and circle, squat or lift the leg give the "Tinkle" or whatever word you want to use command and then be quiet. Don't keep repeating the command as this can distract the dog. Repeat only if the dog moves to a new spot. As soon as he or she starts to urinate repeat the tinkle command and the words "Good Fido". When the dog is finished immediately provide the treat and some well deserved pets and praise.
Your dog will look at you with that "my owner has gone mad look", but keep doing this every time you take the dog outside. Within two or three days you should be able to start saying, "Tinkle" and the dog starts to find a spot to go. Keep up the reinforcement until the dog is following the command. Never punish or yell at the dog if he or she fails to go, just put them back in the house or crate and try again in 10-15 minutes. Your timing is critical to this learning process.
Next time your vet needs a urine sample, you are traveling with your dog or you need to put your dog in the house to run out for errands you will be thankful this trick is mastered.
The Dry Off Command
This is a simple to teach command which will allow you to control your dog's annoying habit of spraying water everywhere. It is also a great command to teach your pooch if you take them to the lake, beach or even out for a walk on a rainy day. They can shake themselves off before hopping into the vehicle, eliminating a bit of moisture from inside the car.
Dogs will automatically shake to dry their coat when they are wet. To prevent the dog from shaking when in the bath or when stepping out simply keep your hand on the back of their neck. You don't have to grab the hair or skin, just keep your hand firmly in place since they start by shaking their head and front quarters, then move down the body.
When your dog steps out of the tub or you lift the dog out, keep your hand on the neck and remove your hand and give the "Dry off" command. The dog will immediately shake, trust me this will happen, and you just give praise and a treat. Within a few bath times your dog will be shaking on command. Keep in mind they won't wait for you to give the command, you have to time this one as well to ensure you give the command before the behavior starts. It is also essential that the treat be provided immediately after the dog stops to make a strong cognitive connection for the pet.
I don't use "Shake" for this command, but you certainly could. I use "Shake" to designate lifting up a paw, so to avoid confusion the dry off term just makes more sense.