Jump to section
Your dog mastered puppy class and has her basic obedience down. She can 'sit', 'stay', 'down', 'roll over', 'speak', 'bang and you're dead', and all sorts of other cute fun tricks. You, your dog, and your friends and family are all getting sick of your trick routine, and so you start to wonder if maybe you can teach your dog some of the advanced tricks you've seen dogs do on TV or at the circus. Maybe your 'sit, stay, down' routine doesn't wow your friends anymore, but a backflip or having your dog get you a soda from the fridge sure would.
If you and your dog have mastered basic obedience and are looking for something new and exciting, advanced tricks may be for you.
Since you and your dog have already mastered a good deal of training together, you know by now how important it is to break activities into very small steps. As you consider your training goal, think how you can break it into small steps and utilize the training that your dog already has. Remember not to rush from one step to the next in your excitement to master the activity. It takes time and repetition for your dog to truly master each step so that she won't forget it when she goes onto the next. That said, dogs learn naturally in sequential order. You may have found that your dog knows 'down' comes after 'sit' in your training routine and does it before you ask. You can utilize this tendency as you train advanced tricks.
You probably already know what motivates your dog, so bring her favorite treats and toys to training. If using treats, keep in mind that advanced trick training will require rewarding the many stages of building the trick, so use small, low calorie treats that won't hurt your dog's waistline. Be patient with yourself and your dog. You may have developed an expectation that your dog gets things quickly and will perform well, but don't be frustrated if your dog takes longer to learn advanced tricks. Be open-minded and ready to break steps into smaller parts if your dog is struggling.
The Mark and Reward Method
Sound means treat
Associate a unique sound with a treat. Keep working until your dog looks to you for a treat whenever she hears the sound.
Lead your dog to perform the first step of the behavior you are looking for. You can do this by luring with a treat or toy, physically positioning your dog if she is comfortable with that, or letting your dog naturally act until she stumbles on the behavior you are looking for.
Mark the desired behavior with the sound and reward with the treat.
Keep practicing the first step until your dog is performing it effortlessly before moving onto the next step.
Build the next step on top of the last one, making sure that your dog completes the first step before doing the next one to get the reward. Use treats in learned steps as necessary to motivate, but also use sound to indicate correct behavior, even if you don't use a treat every time.
The Teach Goals Method
If your dog is motivated to figure things out and naturally enjoys working with you, you can use her problem solving and working together skills to teach based on the goal of the activity.
Show the goal
Show your dog the goal of the advanced activity, whether it is to get a drink from the fridge, find something hidden, or get from point A to point B through some obstacle like a jump.
Make it easy
Make achieving the goal easy, like having the bottle on the floor or the hidden thing just around the corner, or the obstacle a small easy one.
Reward and build
Reward your dog enthusiastically for achieving the goal, then ask her to wait while you make it more difficult. Make it more difficult in slow steps, so that the goal is still clearly in view.
Let her work it out
Let your dog work out how to achieve the goal through each new obstacle on her own, only correcting if she breaks a "rule" as you develop them, like going under instead of over a jump. Use prior training communication to establish rules.
The Mirror Me Method
If your dog is watchful of you and especially empathetic with you, she may be able to learn advanced tricks by watching you do them.
Go through the obedience your dog already knows, saying the command and doing the activity with your dog. Once you have practiced for some time, try modeling the command without saying it and see if your dog has caught on.
Build the advanced trick slowly, mirroring one small step at a time for your dog and making sure she has mastered it before moving onto the next step. Always build steps sequentially, letting your dog go through all old activities while learning the new step.
Once you have put the entire trick together, practice with your dog repeatedly over time until she is doing it perfectly in sync with you.
On her own
Ask your dog to do the behavior, using the word you have taught for the behavior. Help her along by demonstrating for her if she gets confused. In time she will be able to do the entire behavior without your help.
By Coral Drake
Published: 02/15/2018, edited: 01/08/2021