Teach your dog tricks

Think you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Think again

It's not just for pups. Old dogs really can learn new tricks and it can be a whole world of fun for both of you. The tricks below are just a selection from the pages of "Wonderdogs Tricks and Training" by celebrity vet Katrina Warren and professional trainer Kelly Gill. Train your dog to be a Wonderdog too! 

A true Wonderdog must be able to retrieve different objects with his mouth, before he can master all the required tricks. Flynn likes to be helpful at home and will carry bags, slippers and flowers. He's a real ladies' man.

What you need

  • A soft toy to start (dogs prefer to hold something soft)
  • A confined area
  • An excited dog

  • In a confined area such as your backyard or inside your house, attract your dog's attention to a soft toy by moving it around and teasing him with it. When he wants to play with it, gently roll it along the ground, so that he wants to chase it. Don't throw it far. Encourage him to pick up the toy, telling him excitedly to FETCH.
  • When he has the toy in his mouth, gently call him to COME and reward him with a treat or another favourite toy. You need to teach him to keep the toy in his mouth and bring it back to you. If you step towards him, he will probably drop the toy but if you move away from him, he is more likely to come to you. As he does step towards you, encourage him verbally in an excited tone.
  • If he drops the toy, make a game out of it and quickly send him to FETCH it again. Praise him for bringing the toy towards you but don’t take the toy off him too quickly as he may be reluctant to bring it back to you next time. Practise these steps, encouraging your dog to chase the toy, FETCH it and bring it back to you in exchange for another toy or treat. Once this trick is mastered you can move on to teaching him to fetch different items. Sometimes dogs love holding their toys so much that they don't want to let go. This can usually be solved by offering a tasty treat while you gently take hold of the toy with your other hand. The treat will nearly always win over the toy.

This trick showcases your dog’s athletic ability. Once perfected, there are no props required and applause is guaranteed!

What you need

  • A dog who will SIT and STAY
  • A Hula-Hoop
  • A favourite toy
  • A corridor

  • Hold the hoop at a right angle to the wall of the corridor. The bottom of the hoop should be touching the floor.  We use the wall as a barrier so your dog has no choice but to go in the direction you are asking.
  • Ask your dog to SIT and STAY on one side of the hoop.
  • Get her attention as you put her favourite toy or a treat on the other side of the hoop.
  • Encourage her to go through the hoop to get the toy or treat. She probably won’t even notice the hoop until you slowly start lifting it off the ground, making her jump a little.
  • As she lifts her feet to jump say the command ‘THROUGH’ and then ‘YES’ when she makes it through to retrieve her toy or treat.
  • Repeat the above steps, always commencing with your dog in the SIT position. Only raise the hoop a centimetre at a time and only when you are confident your dog is competent at each height.
  • Once the hoop is a certain height, your dog may choose to go under rather than through it. If she does, ignore her and return to the starting point.
  • Practise in the corridor, so she is always confined by the wall, before attempting the trick in an open space. When you do venture somewhere else, start at a low level again and use lots of praise and rewards.
  • Now you can teach your dog to jump through your arms. Basically you just follow the above steps, replacing the hoop with your arms held out to form a circle.

TIP: For puppies, this trick must be performed low to the ground so they don’t damage their growing joints. Some dogs may be too big to jump through your arms, so for their safety, stick to hoops.
Extract taken from Wonderdogs: Tricks & Training by Dr Katrina Warren & Kelly Gill, published by HarperCollins, RRP $24.99. Available in bookstores now.

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