Training your dog to do tricks can be loads of fun! Common tricks like shake/paw, high five, roll over, spin, etc. are good party tricks! Although people love to see dogs do these tricks, some don’t see the value in teaching these “silly” and “pointless” things when there are more important things to teach. However, fun pet tricks aren’t just for show. Taking the time to teach your dog these tricks can strengthen your communication, and most importantly, it’s fun (and yes, it’s exercise!) for your dog!
Positive reinforcement is our preferred way to train dogs. Dogs love to please us, and keeping them happy with rewards of treats, toys, or praise is ideal. Use whatever your dog likes the most to keep them engaged. Keep it fun for your dog, and they’ll want to learn more!
Communication with your dog
Of course, we sometimes wish we could speak the same language as our pets! As much as we wish we could know what our pets are thinking, your dog also needs to understand how YOU communicate.
When you teach a trick, this usually comes in the form of treats, toys, or praise when your dog does something correctly (positive reinforcement!) This means your dog is having a good time and wants to please you! This can form the basis for how you communicate during other training as well, and can put your dog in the mindset of wanting to listen to you because they know they’ll get a good reward.
Exercise: Mental and Physical
Yes, trick training is exercise! Some tricks are physical exercise, such as “sit pretty/beg” which strengthens their core muscles (take this one slow at first while they build up those muscles!).
Other tricks aren’t necessarily physical exercise, but provide the dog with mental exercise which is just as, if not more, valuable.
When training tricks, often times you can see your dog thinking about what you’re asking of them. They are problem-solving to figure out what to do next! This type of exercise is definitely under-valued. Many dogs require mental exercise like training or puzzle toys to get their energy out- not all energy is physical!
Don’t think it’s impossible to train cats to do tricks! Following the same principles of positive reinforcement, cats can definitely learn to do tricks. Some cats may be more willing than others, and of course more energetic cats and kittens might excel more quickly than others.
Have you seen the Savitsky cats from America’s Got Talent?! Check them out- they’re an extreme example, but proof that cats can do tricks just like dogs!