A dog that can moonwalk, skateboard or do a handstand? These are all tricks that trick doggers engage in, among other things. Trickdogging is about teaching your dog various tricks, for example doing a manikin or a roll up to cleaning out he laundry and bringing in socks. After all, who hasn’t dreamed of their dog running the household and having fun at the same time? Regardless of whether the tricks are only practised in private or if the goal is perhaps to appear on a big stage or on television one day, trick dogging offers both dog and human many advantages.
Above all, it promotes bonding and trust. The dog’s self-confidence also increases and the dog becomes more balanced and attentive. At the same time, a dog that has been exercised to the full is usually much better behaved. Working for food or toys is a good way to reward your dog, it keeps the dog happy and can prevent behavioural problems. But apart from that, it is simply a lot of fun for both dog and human, and that is the main focus of trickdogging at all times.
Every dog can learn tricks
Trickdogging is suitable for any dog, can be done anywhere and apart from treats you don’t need anything else, although a clicker can be very helpful.
The clicker tells the dog that his behaviour was correct and that he will get a reward for it. In this way, exact reinforcement is possible. To condition your dog to the clicker, have your dog sit in front of you. Then you click and immediately give your dog a treat. Repeat this several times. To check whether your dog has understood the principle, you can click when he is slightly distracted. If your dog looks at you after the click, he has understood the link. Instead of a clicker, you can also use a marker signal, a word that you say instead of the clicker sound.
Training through positive reinforcement
In trickdogging, training is done through operant conditioning with positive reinforcement. This means that for every correct behaviour you give a treat, everything else is ignored. It is important that you build up each trick in small steps and only increase the demands when your dog can do the step safely.
Getting the desired behaviour
There are several ways to get your dog to perform a certain behaviour, which I would like to explain briefly. Capturing is when you capture spontaneous behaviour and reward it, for example when your dog shakes. With shaping, you reward the preliminary stages of the finished behaviour and thus keep moving forward. A special form of shaping is the so-called free shaping. The dog is not given any instructions on what to do and tries to get closer to the target behaviour by offering it. For example, if I want my dog to touch an object with a paw, I first reward every movement in the direction of the object, then movements with the paw towards the object and then the touching. The use of a clicker is particularly recommended here. Another variation is luring, but you have to be careful that the lure is released early enough. Furthermore, you can build up behaviour with targets or with the imitation method “Do As I Do” by Claudia Fugazza.
During training it can always happen that your dog does not immediately understand what you want from him. The following behaviours show that your dog is overwhelmed: ears flattened, ears turned back, yawning, licking over the nose, stretching and stretching or shaking.
If you observe one or more of these behaviours, you should take a step back in the training, reduce the distraction, take a break, practice another trick or control the exercise set-up.
Designing the exercise
As a beginner, you should only practice with your dog for a few minutes at a time. If you are a bit more experienced, the training sessions can be longer, but should not exceed 20-30 minutes. Ideally, you should end the session before your dog loses interest.
Training tricks in different life situations
Adult, healthy dogs can practise and perform all tricks that are appropriate to their level of ability and physical condition. Very big and heavy dogs and dogs with long backs should not jump for example.
You can also start trick training with puppies, but no jumps or tricks that put a lot of strain on the musculoskeletal system should be practised. The puppy period is suitable for learning the basics, not only of the dog ABC, but also of trick training. Conditioning on the clicker, target training and introduction to free shaping or Do As I Do are also suitable for puppies. For senior dogs, if in doubt, the tricks should be discussed with the vet or physiotherapist. In general, older dogs can do all the tricks they like to do as well as tricks that are not very physically demanding or have a risk of injury. Paw tricks, looking for and bringing objects, slalom through legs or rolling out carpet are also fun for older dogs.
The first tricks
These tricks are especially good for the beginning.
- Give paw
- Slalom through the legs
If you’ve got trick fever now, then…
… download Pupy App and start with the first trick right away, order our book: “Hundetricks mit Nala: Vom Straßenhund zum Fernsehstar” by Frederike Spyrka