Trick training isn’t just about learning cool tricks to show off, there are plenty of benefits to incorporating some time for trick training into your dog’s daily routine.
Improve Your Bond
Using positive reinforcement training techniques increases your dog’s positive associations with you so that your dog will be more keen to train with you in future. Trick training helps improve a dog’s focus and engagement as it learns to have fun while working with its owner. Increased focus and engagement will help in other training areas such as loose lead walking and working around distractions. Trick training is a time to have fun with each other and can lead to dog sports such as freestyle heelwork to music and disc dog.
Trick training is a great way to tire out a dog mentally. It’s very important to balance a dog’s physical and mental stimulation as giving a “hyper” dog more and more physical exercise without giving thought to mental stimulation can lead to creating an “athlete” that requires tons of physical exercise to wear out, is always “on” and never relaxes. Mental stimulation is calming and can be used to help settle a dog. Training and using their brain for twenty minutes is said to be roughly equivalent to an hour walk so it is especially useful for puppies that can’t walk for long periods due to developing joints, elderly dogs or dogs on crate rest after surgery. A huge benefit of trick training is that it increases a dog’s learning ability – the more tricks that you teach a dog, the quicker the dog can learn new things.
As well as providing great mental stimulation trick training can be great physical exercise too. Tricks such as sit pretty or begging are great for strengthening muscles which can help prevent injuries. Tricks such as backing up or putting their paws up on props builds a dog’s awareness of their body and its movements.
Builds a Dog’s Confidence
Trick training, while great for all dogs, is particularly beneficial for nervous or anxious dogs as it builds their confidence and gives them a sense of achievement. When you have built up a repertoire of tricks these can be used to keep your dog focused on you - a dog focused on its owner won’t be scanning the environment for scary stuff or things to bark at! The positive associations that are built through learning the tricks and performing them can be transferred to other scenarios. For example performing tricks and having fun at a distance from other dogs can help build the dog’s confidence around strange dogs and form positive associations in that scenario.
Tricks can come in use in many situations. The touch trick can be used to move your dog around without force, teaching heel, keeping a dog focused while passing strangers / other dogs, and as a recall.
Tricks such as touch, shake paws and chin rests can be used for cooperative care. This can help make vet visits, grooming and administering medicine a much more pleasurable experience for both dog and owner.
For dogs that are shy of strangers or kids they can perform a wave or shy trick at a distance to keep everyone safe and happy.
Tricks are also a really good way to break up your walk and keep your dog focused and engaged. Next time you are out walking, why not try asking your dog to perform a trick then reward them with the following:
- Power walk for a bit
- Let your dog sniff that lamppost
- Let your dog off leash for some exploring in a safe space
- Throw a ball or frisbee
Now that you know the benefits of trick training, do you think you’ll have a go? If you already do trick training, what’s your favourite trick to perform or the hardest trick that you have achieved together? Remember keep it fun and positive!
Hi guys, I’m Laura McIvor – self confessed animal lover, aspiring dog trainer and creator of Bonnie’s Dog Blog NI. I am passionate about positive reinforcement training techniques, and animal welfare and enrichment. I live with my partner and together we have a rescue border collie, four degus and soon will be welcoming a rough collie puppy into our ever growing family. We reside in Northern Ireland, UK and love to support the growing number of local and independent dog friendly establishments, products and services in our “wee country”. As well as covering dog friendly locations in NI (with our handy interactive map) the blog also covers Bonnie’s daily life, training progress, product reviews and more. You can also follow our adventures on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter