How To Teach Your Dog Some Important Tricks (And Some Not So Important Ones)

Written by: roboguru

Picture of How To Teach Your Dog Some Important Tricks (And Some Not So Important Ones)

Everybody loves their pets. Whether you have a dog, cat, guinea pig, snake, whatever, you love that animal. Something that's important for all animals to be able to do is answer a command (or do tricks). These commands/tricks can save your dogs life (Sit! Do not run in front of that car!) or just be something funny that your dog does for attention (Dance!). Since it's Pets Month here at Instructables I thought I'd make an Instructable showing how I taught my dog to do 2 important commands, and two not so important ones.

Yay! Frontpage 3/11/08!

Step 1: Materials

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You will need:

A Dog
Some type of dog treat (and a lot of it)
A crapload of patience
Maybe some tape for trick number 4

Step 2: Sit!

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Sit is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog because it is the bridge to so many more commands. It is much easier to teach your dog to lay down if it knows how to sit. It's important to remember to do this when your dog is calm, and to stop when she stops being calm. She's not learning anything if she's freaking out, that just means she's confused.


1. Grab your treat bag and take your dog where there aren't going to be distractions for her.

2. Once your dog is standing still, grab one of the treats.

3. Now that your dog is looking at the treat, move it up and slightly behind her head so that she will have to sit down to look at it.

4. If she doesn't sit down when you do this push down on her lower back while you're doing step 3. This should make her sit down.

5. As soon as her rump hits the floor, say Sit in a strong voice. Only say it once or it will confuse the dog.

6. Repeat this until A. Your dog is overloaded on treats, B. Your dog is freaking out and confused, or C. Your dog can sit.

Remember, this takes time. Don't expect your dog to get it in one session! Even if she does you should do the exercise again the next day, or even sooner, because odds are that she already forgot it.

Step 3: Down!

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Sorry, we aren't to the ridiculous tricks yet. This one is still important! 
Now that your dog sits on command it is time to get her to lay down on command. This is important for when you have people over to your house and you want your dog to stay near you and not bother them. This one is easier than Sit.

1. Once again, grab the treat bag!

2. Get your dog to sit down. Always have your dog sit before you have her lay down.

3. Grab a treat and get your dog to look at it.

4. Once she's eyeing the treat put it down in front of her so she has to lay down to get it.

5. If your dog crawls or gets up for it, repeat step 4 but knock out one or both of her front legs (gently of course) so that she has to lay down.

6. Now say Down in a firm voice, only once.

7. Repeat until... well the same stuff as last command.

Step 4: Up!

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Now for the ridiculous tricks. If your dog can sit, she can go up. You may know this trick as Beg. Most small dogs do this easily, even naturally, but it's especially funny when you get a larger dog to do it.

Get that treat bag and...

1. Tell your dog to sit.

2. Now that she's sitting grab a treat and hold it high above her head.

3. She'll go up on her hind legs for it.

4. Once she's up, say Up or Beg in a strong voice, only once.

5. Repeat until she's got it.

Like I said, this is an easy one.

Step 5: Close The Door!

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NOTE: This trick may not be good if your dog is heavy enough to break through a glass door, or if you are worried about your dog scratching your door.

That said, this is also a pretty easy trick. It's pretty cool to say Close The Doorand have your dog do it.
The key to this one is having a dog who will go after food pretty aggressively

So get those dog treats and...

1. Lightly tape a dog treat to the door you want to close.

2. Now, bring your dog into the room and have her sit. Hold her so she won't just grab the treat.

3. Say Close The Door in your strong voice, saying it only once and then let her go.

4. Pet her and say good dog when she grabs the food and the door closes.

5. If she doesn't close the door while getting the food, try putting it higher, so she has to jump and put her weight on the door.

5. Repeat.

Step 6: Now you know...

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Now you have taught your dog 2 useful tricks and 2 useless ones. If you haven't succeeded just be patient and keep trying, your dog will get it eventually. Remember, if your dog gets irritated or confused, take a break and try again later. And finally...

Happy Pets Month!

Step 7: Tips

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Take breaks. You and your dog will come back more ready to learn than before. A frustrated dog will not learn well.

Progress to doing the trick without a treat reward quickly. The more dependant the dog becomes on the treat, the less obedient she will be later on.

Use hand signals when you give the command. It will give your dog something else to recognize.

And in the words of Goodhart... Some people feel the need to punish their dog for not "obeying" but this is almost certainly counterproductive and will end up doing more harm than good. No striking, no hitting. 

Another important tip from jdege ... If you are trying to force a sit, do so lightly, and do it with a hand on the tail, with your fingers pushing lightly against the inside of the stifle (knee). Don't just push down straight - you could cause serious injury. Dogs' joints aren't very resistant to pressure from unusual directions. Humans have tree-climbers in our ancestry, so our shoulders and hips are built for pressure from odd angles. Dogs weren't, and so dogs' aren't.