Can Dogs Learn How to Do Tricks?

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Introduction

Dogs are intelligent creatures and can learn a wide variety of cool tricks! There are so many tricks you can teach your dog, ranging from sitting to jumping through hoops. Whatever level your dog may be on, it is relatively easy to teach your dog tricks at home as long and you have to time and patience to dedicate to working with them on a daily basis. Some tricks can be taught in just a single day a well so there is a little something for every dog, person, and schedule. 

Below, we will take a look at the history of dog tricks and how to teach your dog some simple doggy tricks! 

Signs of a Dog Learning New Tricks

Teaching your dog new tricks has its challenges. Just as we need time to learn a new skill or learn to read, dogs need time to adjust and learn their new commands as well. If you want to make sure your dog is actually learning the new tricks and commands you are teaching them, there are some signs you can look out for so you know they are picking up on their training. 

In the beginning, your dog is likely to struggle a bit with the learning process. A dog that is struggling with his or her new commands may bark in frustration, break eye contact many times, avert their eyes, look disinterested, or do exactly the opposite of what you want them to do. Some dogs may get frustrated and walk away as well and want nothing to do with the training process. 

However, if your dog is starting to pick up their new tricks well, you will be able to tell by their body language. Your dog will look you in the eye, they will respond correctly to your commands, they will remain focused and engaged on you and the commands, and not show typical signs of frustration like the ones mentioned above. 

Body Language

These are some signs you may notice if your dog is learning their new tricks: 

  • Staring
  • Alert
  • Listening
  • Wag tail

Other Signs

Here are some other signs you may notice if your dog is learning new tricks:
  • Responding correctly to the commands
  • Focused on you and the commands

History of Dogs Learning Tricks

Dogs have been learning new tricks and have been trained by their human companions for many years. However, training dogs many years ago was different than what we typically see today. 

Before WW1, dogs were trained for important tasks in order to help their family. They were trained to guard the family's property, to help hunt, to herd animals, pull sleds, and keep the home bug and rodent free. By the time the 1930's came around, the AKC (America Kennel Club) was established and they introduced the first obedience classes for dogs, but these classes were mainly aimed at dogs who performed in special competitions. 

In the 1970's, dog training for the public became much more popular when books, TV shows, and training guides became available to the public. Dog training in regular family dogs became popular and many families wanted to have well trained and properly behaved dogs. 

Although we still see some dogs helping out around the house today, training has become a bit less formal and many dogs are now learning special tricks that are more for entertainment purposes. For instance, dogs are often taught to speak, weave through legs and objects, stand on their hind legs, spin, and even jump through hoops and go through obstacle courses. 

Science Behind Dog Tricks

Despite the fact a dog that can do cool tricks is fun for people to watch, there are actually compelling reasons why teaching your dog tricks can truly benefit your dog. 

Firstly, it exercises your dog's mind and keeps them on their toes. Science tells us that in order for your dog to learn more and get smarter, you must challenge their minds. If they are never trained and never learn new things, it is hard for their minds to grow. 

Teaching your dog new tricks will also improve your bond with them. If you teach them something fun and less demanding than teaching them to "stay" or "sit," they will find the process of training much more enjoyable and less difficult. Plus, tricks they can pick up faster will yield more treats, thus the experience is much more positive as well. 

Training Dogs to Learn Tricks

There are so many tricks your dog can learn, so here we will focus on one main trick that is fun and easy to teach your dog. This trick can even be learned in one day by most dogs, so it is perfect for people who do not have a lot of spare time but want to challenge their dog and bond with them. It is important to note that all dogs will not pick on the "speak" command in one day, but it is possible!

You first want to find an object or a treat that will excite your dog and is likely to get them barking or at least a little bit vocal. Suggestions would be their favorite, ball, toy, or a high reward treat. 

Next, you want to try and get your dog to bark by waving the treat or the toy in front of them in order to get them to bark or even make any type of small sound. In the beginning your dog likely won't bark or be extremely vocal, so you want to reward even small, little barks and noises they make. As soon as your dog opens their mouth or makes any type of sound, reward them immediately with a high reward treat and say a phrase of your choice like "yes" or "good."

This may take some time before your dog understands what the "speak" commands means and that they need to bark in order to get a treat. If you remain persistent with them and keep the momentum going when they are just beginning to understand what their new trick means, there is a good possibility your dog will learn this new trick in one to two training sessions. 

How to React if Your Dog Learns a New Trick:

  • Keep the training sessions short and frequent.
  • Reward them with love, praise, and treats.

Safety Tips for Teaching Your Dog New Tricks:

  • Avoid putting them in high-stress situations.
  • Don't teach tricks that can seriously harm or injure your dog.