Teacher’s Pet: How to Pick a Trick

Hello hello, and welcome back to Teacher’s Pet, a column on all things training!  Every other #TrainingTuesday, Brussels.Sprout, will share his how-tos for learning new tricks, updates on his own adventures in agility competition, and his favorite tips for helping you and your pup bond over training.

How to Pick The Right Trick For Your Dog

All dogs are undeniably perfect, but that doesn’t mean they were created equally.

One easy way to ensure tricks training stays fun is to work on tricks that are suited to your dog.  I mean, I may think I can do ANYTHING (including pick up this giant ball), but if I’m being honest with myself there are some things I’m just not gonna do, like leap over mom’s back while catching a Frisbee.  Or pick up a giant ball.  And that’s OK.

Work With What You’ve Got. Start by thinking about your basic dog’s shape and build and make sure what you want to teach is within your dog’s natural abilities – is she tiny? Top-heavy? Lean? Long?  This isn’t just about making training fun, it’s about keeping it safe. Trying to teach a heavy-set English Bulldog to twerk may be possible, but it could also put a lot of pressure on his front legs and that’s just not good.

Think About Natural Preferences.  Next, think about your dog’s natural positioning and preferences.  For example, notice how your dog lies down.  Is he a prim dog with exceptional posture who lies down with sphynx-like symmetry (ahem)?  Or is he some sort of super floppy doodle who immediately commences chilling on one side?  The second pup is going to naturally get and enjoy learning “roll over” much more than the first pup, who while smart enough to learn that trick, is likely going to find it physically uncomfortable and perhaps unsettling to be on his back.  Fun fact: I don’t know roll-over for this very reason.

Train Existing Tendencies. Now, watch your dog’s behaviors and tendencies and try turning them into cued tricks.  For example, I was a curious, but very tiny pup, which meant I often navigated the world by popping up onto my hind legs to try to get a better look.  This made teaching me how to “dance” super super easy. And sassy.

Capture Your Dog’s Personality. Tricks training should be fun, so have a sense of humor and pick a trick that either matches her personality or… seems to be ironically opposite!  If she’s a stylish lady, teach her to carry a teeny little purse in her mouth.  Or if your pup is a well-intentioned trouble-maker, teach him to cover his eyes act “ashamed.”  And keeping with the irony, I don’t know guys, maybe I should learn to smile on cue?

Did you miss the last teacher’s pet? Click here to see more!

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Brussels Sprout

Sprout is a perpetually pouty, 2 year old smooth-coated Brussels Griffon. This tiny little tastemaker loves sweater weather, brunch, giving back to less fortunate dogs, and teeny-tiny tennis balls. He is passionate about lengthy naps and higher education, with dreams of one day becoming an agility champion.

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