How to Teach Your Dog New Tricks

September 21, 2020 5 min read

How to Teach Your Dog New Tricks

It isn’t hard to teach your dog new tricks, as long as you train gradually with steps, always be enthusiastic, and follow the simple dog training principles below!

Conditioning
Psychologically, the idea of ‘conditioning’ means a behavior becomes more frequent, or more likely to happen, based on a creature’s (in this case, a dog) environment! ‘He has been conditioned to want to help me out’.

This is the bread and butter of dog training! If you want to easily teach your dog new tricks, this is a principle you’ll want to pay attention to. Everything involves conditioning, and we are doing it all of the time without even realizing it. There are 


Classical Conditioning
Most handlers don’t automatically consider this when teaching their dogs new tricks, but it is always present. The dog forms psychological (or subconscious) connections to an outcome.

For example, your dog is used to being fed at a certain time, or when he hears that dog bowl, so he begins to salivate.

Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning uses rewards to reinforce the behavior. In fact, this kind of conditioning is the most popular form of dog training almost every novice (or even experienced) dog trainer uses! If you’re rewarding your dog with a treat after he performs a successful trick, you are using operant conditioning.

● Reinforced behavior via physical rewards


Always Stay Positive when Teaching Your Dog New Tricks!

Always stay positive and upbeat when you’re trying to teach your dog new tricks! You want to make dog training seem like fun for your dog as possible, like a game! Use plenty of praise in a happy, cheerful voice. Offer rewards to increase your dog’s enjoyment. Make it seem like you are overjoyed with your dog’s progress!

The last thing you want is a dog who has become frustrated or discouraged because he doesn’t know how to please you and doesn’t want to participate anymore. A dog who is frightened of failing is even worse.

  • Cheerful attitude
  • Plenty of praise
  • High pitched, Happy voice
  • Offer rewards to increase enjoyment
Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

Positive Reinforcement

In dog training terms ‘positive’ reinforcement simply means the addition of a reinforcer to encourage a behavior, although you always want it to be something valuable when trying to teach your dog new tricks.

Offering a treat after your dog finished that trick is a form of ‘positive reinforcement’ because it will help encourage him to perform the trick again. Giving enthusiastic praise is positive reinforcement. Anything you ‘offer’ to encourage your pup to perform that trick for you a second time falls under the category of positive reinforcement!

Positive=addition

Reward Upon Completion

You always want to reward your dog immediately after successfully completing a trick! This is what your dog is working for, what ‘drives’ him. Think of it in terms of simple psychology; give your dog a reason to want to perform.

  1. Dog treats (training rewards) can be a form of positive reinforcement.
  2. Simple, enthusiastic praise upon completion can encourage your pup.
  3. Physical affection can be all your dog wants!

Lure and Reward

If you hold a strong-smelling treat in an enclosed fist, right next to your dog’s face, he’ll easily catch the scent even though he can’t see it! If you begin moving your fist around (with the treat), his nose will start to follow it like a hook!

The ‘lure and reward’ dog training technique takes advantage of this and is exactly what it sounds like. You want to ‘lure’ your dog through an obstacle, then reward him after he has passed that obstacle!

This lure and reward dog training method is extremely useful when teaching your dog new tricks like hurtles, ‘jump the hoops’, army crawls, tunnels, plank walks, and basically anything else that requires a little bit of encouragement multiple times while training.

The Dog Clicker

Have you seen those simple ‘buttons’ dog trainers use to make a clicking sound? The dog clicker helps ‘bridge the gap’ between a trick and the reward, ensuring a dog his reward is coming, and he completed his trick successfully.

The idea is simple! It might take an owner several seconds to reach into their pocket and retrieve a dog training reward, offering a chance for other behaviors to occur and confuse the dog. On the other hand, it takes a mere fraction of a second to press a button!

As soon as the dog has finished his trick, press that button to let him know he did a good job and the reward is coming!

● Dog clickers were first used to train marine animals, like dolphins!

Dog Jumping While being trained

Simple Agility Tricks to Teach Your Dog

Professional agility dog trainers will almost always follow all of the dog training principles above when teaching their dog new tricks, to the point where they become second nature!

Hurdle

Begin small, with a bar low to the ground, and ‘lure’ your dog over it with a treat reward, offering the reward only when the dog has stepped over the bar. After you’ve done this a few times, raise the bar several inches. Though the dog has to now ‘step over’ the bar, he knows he will get rewarded once it is crossed.

Continue in this process until your dog has to jump over the bar in order to receive a reward. Rember to move slowly with gradual advancements, so your dog doesn’t become discourages!

Plank Walking during Dog Agility Training

Plank Walk

At first, your dog won’t understand what you want. The thin, tall ‘plank walk’ will discourage him. Always move gradually!

Step 1: Begin with a plank of wood on the ground. Your dog isn’t dealing with any kind of heights, so this isn’t going to make him nervous.

Using the ‘lure and reward’ technique we covered earlier, lure your dog along the plank, offering treats every few steps. By rewarding him as he walks along the plank/board, you are teaching him this is what you want him to do. You’re also boosting confidence and keeping him interested!

Gradually decrease the number of treats you give, until you are only offering one in the middle and one at the end.

Step 2: Begin raising the plank, little by little. At this point, only a foot off of the ground is fine. Don’t discourage your dog, and let him build confidence. You could set the plank on two milk crates for good height.

The idea is to have some small height, but still not so much that your dog is frightened of falling.

Step 3: Continue raising your plank by a foot or so ever so gradually. The training process could take several days for a beginner, as long as you move so gradually your dog doesn’t realize the difficulty is increasing. He wants that reward at the end!

Tunnel

Begin with a very short tunnel, ‘luring’ your dog through with a treat. Do this a few times, until your dog understands he’ll have to walk through the short tunnel in order to receive his reward.

Now you can increase the length of the dog tunnel, but only a little bit! Increasing the length too much too fast can discourage the dog. By continuing this way, your dog tunnel can eventually be 15 feet, 30 feet, or more in length!

Agility Dog Training with Tunnel

*This tunnel is designed to be shortened easily, specifically for dog training purposes.

Always Stay Positive and Make Dog Training Fun!


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