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Making a game of dog training

Updated on November 13, 2014
GollyGearHope profile image

Hope Saidel is co-owner of Golly Gear, a bricks-and-mortar and online shop featuring fun, affordable and practical small dog products

Teach any dog new tricks!

In just a few minutes a day, your dog can be rolling, bowing, fetching, playing "dead" - just about whatever you can imagine and she is physically capable of doing!

The secret is to "break down" the trick into its tiniest increments and reward for each and every little bit.

And yes, you do have to reward each and every time your dog does something you like! That way, when Fido doesn't get a treat, he'll learn to try something else that gets him "paid!"

Let's face it - even if you have a job you love, in a place you love, working with people you love - you wouldn't do it without the paycheck, would you?

Roll Over!

It took only two weeks, just a few minutes every day, to teach Teddy (French Bulldog) this trick.


Getting started

It's always fun to get fast results, so try to start with something your dog already does - at least a little bit. Teddy, my French Bulldog in the video, loves to roll around on his back in the sun. So I started with that - rewarding him whenever I saw him doing it. He also has a habit of "diving" into the floor on one shoulder when he's frustrated, flirting, or wants attention. I think it's a doggy equivalent of stomping his feet! But I turned it into a positive, again rewarding whenever I saw him do it. I also started using a hand signal (turning my fist over to the side) and a word - "Roll." After just a couple of two-minute sessions, he started offering these behaviors when he saw me reaching for the cookie jar.

It took about a week to put the behaviors together. When he seemed to understand pretty well, we began trying for the other side. He heavily favored going to his left, so I rewarded any motion to his right.

The silliest part is that I still have trouble, sometimes, telling my right from my left. So I've stopped using the words "left" and "right" and just use the hand signals now!

What trick will you start with?

You can teach your dog any of the tried-and-true tricks - or come up with your own! A friend of ours combined "roll over" with "play dead." Her dog's cue to perform the trick was pretending to "Shoot" the dog with a finger. Adorable - and creative!

  • Roll over
  • Play "dead"
  • Bow
  • Gimme Paw
  • Spin
  • High Five (or four, for most dogs!)
  • Crawl
  • Dig
  • Beg
  • "Huh?" (The dog tilts its head to the side.)


Break it down!

Whatever trick you choose, decide what behavior you want before you start.

Break the trick down into its tiniest bits and decide what portion you want to work on before you start a training session.

For example: if you decide to teach "shake hands" picture in your mind what the finished behavior looks like. Where does it start? With movement from a single paw. If you dog favors one paw over the other, work on that side first. Look for the slightest movement of the paw and reward it. After the dog gets a few treats for paw movement, up the ante a bit - the paw has to come off the ground before the reward is given. Be sure not to get stuck at one level for too long. If the dog isn't catching on, put it away and try again later. He may "get it" after having some time to think about it!

And think how you can expand on the tricks you've taught. After your dog is reliably giving both paws, put them together rapidly to simulate "prancing" in place!

Juno "shakes" - Both paws - one at a time!

Clicker Training Kit
Clicker Training Kit

Get started with Clicker Training

The Clicker Training Kit has everything you need to get off to a fast and fun start with dog training:

Book - Clicker Training for Dogs by Karen Prior



Click-A-Trick Cards with step-by-step instructions

Never, Ever

have a training session when you're upset, angry, frustrated, or disgruntled. You'll get nothing accomplished and both you and your dog will be unhappy.

© 2012 Hope

What tricks does your dog know?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I also prefer positive reinforcement. Have you tried using a clicker in training your dogs?

    • diy-plan profile image

      Jim Brown 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      We have a sheltie that can run out for pass - catching a tennis ball more than 30 yards out. He can do many jumping and rolling tricks but his long distance Frisbee catches are a sight to see.

      Best to you!

    • Rosaquid profile image


      7 years ago

      Our current dogs are very well-behaved. They are outdoor watchdogs, mostly to keep livestock off of the property, a job of which they are very proud. They obey basic commands and stay right with us on walks, despite the neighbor dogs that rush us occasionally. They don't do any tricks, but our past dogs, those we raised as the children were growing up, were great at all the fun doggie tricks. I love almost all dogs. Thanks for this fun lens.

      PS: We had a house cat that could sit, come and roll over on command. Cats have shorter attention spans than dogs, but otherwise, the training methods are about the same.

    • iamradiantrose profile image


      7 years ago

      Our dog Misha is a rescue. We have taught her all the standard dog things but we are very sad that at 8 years old, she still doesn't know how to play. If we try to initiate any kind of play she looks at us like we're nuts! LOL Congrats on the front page...great lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I don't have a dog right now and wish I did. You reminded me of my aunt's dog Poopsie who would play dead on command but would be wagging his tail, so my aunt would say, "Dead dogs don't wag their tails" and the tail went dead too.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow! Wish I could try this to my pet dog!

    • PamelaDW profile image


      7 years ago

      Honey likes to give me "high five."

    • sagebrushmama profile image


      7 years ago

      Love your lens! The kids have taught the dogs to shake, and that's about it. Blessed!

    • StewartClan profile image


      7 years ago

      @purpleslug: You might try holding his lead right up high, so that he cannot pull it any further forward. Try a half-choke chain if you are currently on a full choke-chain right now, that will help stop too much pulling on your puppies neck. Also, you could try one of those leads where if he pulls, the lead puts pressure on your dogs nose, which makes them stop in their tracks. They are not hurt, it just reminds them that they cannot pull too far ahead. All the best!

    • StewartClan profile image


      7 years ago

      My jack russell will sit for a treat. She will stop jumping around if I give the command "steady". She will also go down to the end of the bed if I lift the duvet and say "downtheend" all in one word like that. Sometimes I wonder if she has taught me, because she lets me know when it is time for her dinner, and if she needs to go out to the loo. Great lens, so good to see it on front page!

    • Scotties-Rock profile image


      7 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

      My Brodie can turn around in a circle while standing on two legs, but I cannot get him roll over. :(

    • TwistedWiseman profile image


      7 years ago

      Catch, she loves to play it with me :)

    • bikerministry profile image


      7 years ago

      Boo, our Min Pin, sits, down, stay, walks on a lead (4 or 5 of my steps, then a treat) and sits when I stop walking. We're working on heel, she pulls away - so distracted by literally anything!! Congrats on front page, great lens. Blessings.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Our 3 mo. old puppy, sits, says please (sits up), stay, and shakes hands. He has a real problem with going for walks. I can not make him heel. He seems to think he is training for a sled dog. He is coughing and choking the whole walk.

    • GonnaFly profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      Our pooch also does his repertoire of tricks when he's hoping for a treat - he can roll over, spin, shake hands, wait etc and we've been trying to teach him bow (every time he stretches) BUT he just won't heel when he's out walking. He's only small (5kg) and 12 years old so we're not too stressed over this :-)

    • EbooksFreeWeekl1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Struggle with getting her not to jump on people. This is an ongoing uphill battle. She's still a puppy and easily excitable.

    • kindoak profile image


      7 years ago

      Walking without a leash right past all other snarling dogs ;)

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image


      7 years ago from Omaha, NE

      PS just wanted to congratulate you on your front page honors! Love this lens, very helpful and entertaining too! Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile image


      7 years ago from Omaha, NE

      I taught my Miniature Schnauzers to "Dancie" for a treat. They will jump around in a circle on their hind legs. Very cute!

    • octopen profile image


      7 years ago

      My belguim shepard does agility and can shake, knows the command for fetching different objects and can give these objects to certain members in the family! Briefly, we taught her to fetch us lemons from our lemon tree outside!

    • RedShoesGirl profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens. My dog is quite old-15 years, so it is too late to train her, but for my next puppy I have big plans ;)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My awesome dog was able to do all sorts of tricks. He loved learning. I miss him everyday.

    • MrMojo01 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I taught my dog to bark when I say "do you say please"


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