“Sit” and “stay” are not very impressive skills since most people generally expect dogs to obey these basic commands. Responsible pet owners who want to have a well-mannered pet both in public and at home, will dedicate a fair amount of time to obedience training. However once the dog has completed all realms of the basic training skills, working to teach creative and unique commands can be an exciting way to bond with your dog. Below are some practical tricks that your dog can learn to make life at him with him, much more interesting.
- Open and close doors: While this might not seem like a great idea for those who prefer NOT to teach their dogs how to escape, it actually can be a very useful skill for him to acquire. This is particularly helpful for the elderly or disabled who may need assistance or who run the risk of seizures and may need a dog to learn how to get help. By tying a rope to the door and training your dog to pull the rope, little by little he can be taught to pull open cupboard, doors and drawers.
- Pick up toys or laundry: This kind of skill is particularly ideal for busy moms, or those who may be physically limited or unable to bend over. Begin with the last step: teaching your dog to drop an item that he likes (such as a toy) into the bin. Tell him to “go pick up your toys” and point, then praise and encourage him every time he retrieves his toy and drops it into the laundry or toy bin. Start switching the toy out in exchange for clothes, or small items like socks and underwear. Reward each bin drop until he becomes accustomed with doing so until the whole floor space is tidy!
- Fetching the leash: This is a fairly simple lesson to teach, and comes with a step of clicking, and giving treats. Help your dog identify the command “Leash” when he holds the leash in his mouth. Then practice giving commands (and clicks with each set), using actions like “take it” “bring it” and drop it” to help him learn the succession of what he must do when you give the “leash” command. Practice (and treats) will help him get this skill down.
- Slay-Dog: If you are fortunate enough to have a large dog, you can teach him to pull a small wagon or cart, by first hitching him to whatever you are trying to tow. Start slowly to make sure the dog responds to the commands, so that he won’t recklessly take off with the cart. Walk your dog on a leash in one hand, and with the cart in another, so he can observe it and become familiar with its noises, so he won’t be spooked when pulling it. Then hitch him to the wagon/cart with a harness and dog leash, so you can show him what your commands mean during these cart-pulling practice trips. Give different commands while you are walking, such as “pull” “slow” “stop,” until he gets the hang of it.
- Eliminate in the toilet: This is a more complicated process of training; so be prepared to spend several weeks at this endeavor. Begin by training your dog to do his business in a specific place (like an indoor waste patch) or a “practice toilet,” and once this becomes habit, move it steadily closer to the real toilet. Eventually, the practice “toilet” will be right on top of the regular one, and can eventually be moved so the dog will be already comfortable with balancing himself on the toilet rim, and eliminating in the bowl.
*Note: Not every breed can learn to be potty trained this way, depending on their size or personality.
- Walking backwards: This is a great skill for dogs to learn if they are ever in danger, such as being too close to the road, or accidently happening upon a wild animal or broken glass. Trainers can teach their dogs to back up by having them sit, and then walking toward them until they naturally back up. Every time the pup succeeds, use the clicker and give him a treat. Follow this training with repetition, using the command, clicker and treat every time.
- Collect garbage:A great way to set apart your dog from the mass of most rowdy canines is to teach him how to pick up trash. In the park, walk over to the piece of trash and put it in your pup’s mouth. Tell him to stay, and walk away from him. Then call him over, and tell him to drop. If you practice this (like playing “fetch” with him using plastic wrappers/tissue) he will learn to pick up trash when he comes across it. Be sure to always reward this good work with a tasty treat!
- Army crawl: Not only is this practical if your dog ever has to squeeze through a small passageway, but learning to army crawl is also good for his health! By teaching him to lay down, and inch forward slowing to get a treat, you can begin this process of learning to army crawl. The command “crawl” can be giving during training to help your dog correctly associate this action.
- Water retrieve: Many breeds are natural swimmers, retrievers and hunters. If your pup fits into this category, then the training will look more like play practice than strict instruction. Play a game of fetch with your pup near a body of water. Then throw the item into the water and command your dog to go after it. Though they might waver at first, confidence will build with practice. However, be careful what breed you try to teach! For example, bulldog breeds are heavy and are inclined to sink in water, so it would be best not to subject them to the danger of swimming lessons!
Fetch a drink from the fridge: One of the most useful tricks you can teach a dog, is how to bring a drink from the fridge. Most medium-sized or large dogs can be trained to open a refrigerator door and bring a bottle of water, soda or beer can to their owner. This is a complex command with a couple of steps that must be practiced patiently before the owner can expect to see results. The dog must also become comfortable with holding something very cold in his mouth, which may take time and patience. Practice, praise and plenty of treats will help your dog reach the goal. Look at this below video to see how it can be done!
In the companion article to this post, we’ll cover some fun tricks that you can teach your dog.