12 Tricks to Teach Your Dog

Most dog owners love spending time with their dogs – that’s kind of the point, right? These tricks are a great way to spend time with your dog.

As Barley and I work towards his Advanced Trick Dog Title, we’re coming up with all sorts of fun tricks to teach your dog. Whether you’re just looking to pass a rainy day or get your trick dog titles, these tricks are a great place to start!

Be sure to check out our blog post on shaping using successive approximations (and the video in that post) to get yourself familiar with how to train new behaviors like a pro!

All of these tricks require treats. I recommend reducing your dog’s meal size or increasing his exercise as needed. Our homemade dog treat recipes are super easy and super healthy – or you can just use your dog’s dinner kibble.

1. Bow

Downward-facing dog is a great stretch and shoulder workout dogs AND people – and it’s a super cute trick to teach your dog!

  1. Start with a treat in your hand and then push it forward between your dog’s front legs.
  2. If he bends his front leg without lowering his rear, he gets the treat. But if he lays down all the way, no treat.
  3. After 5 repetitions, put start luring your dog with an empty hand instead of a hand with a treat in it. Deliver your treat from a treat pouch instead.
  4. Start giving the verbal cue (“bow”) about 1 second before you do the hand motion. If your dog bows before you lure him, jackpot! Your dog will quickly start realizing that the word “bow” gets him paid really well.

It took a lot of practice to start fading out my hand motion – we got really reliant on it. Whoops! Try to start making your hand motion small ASAP to reduce this problem.

2. Sit Pretty or Beg

This trick is super fun to teach your dog – and it’s adorable. This trick isn’t a good idea for really big dogs, young dogs, or some dogs with back or hip issues, so keep that in mind.

  1. Hold a treat or toy above your dog’s head so that he lifts his front paws up to look at it or try to reach it.
  2. Click and give a treat when his paws leave the ground.
  3. After 5 repetitions, keep your treats in your pouch and just hold out an empty hand – but still reward generously.
  4. After getting it right 10 times in a row, add a verbal cue. Say the cue right before you give the hand signal.
  5. Start to shape the behavior by rewarding your dog for “sitting pretty” longer or higher.
  6. Fade out your hand signal by giving the cue just befor the hand signal and rewarding extra-well if your dog gets it without the hand signal.

3. High 5

This adorable trick is one of my favorite tricks to teach a dog! I teach this by teaching shake first, then putting our hands up high for a “high 5.”

  1. Put a tasty treat in your hand and hold it out.
  2. If your dog paws at your hand, click (or say “good boy”) and feed a treat from your OTHER hand.
  3. Repeat 5 times.
  4. Remove the treat from your hand and repeat step 2 without treats.
  5. Repeat 10 times.
  6. Put your hand higher and higher, until your dog is “high 5-ing” you the way you like.
  7. Repeat 10 times at the proper height.
  8. Add a cue by saying “High 5” right before presenting your hand for the high 5.

4. Back Up

This is a useful trick to teach your dog. You can use this trick as part of competitive obedience, as a way to get your dog out of the kitchen, as a way to build your dog’s body awareness and agility, and more.

  1. Sit down in a comfy chair with your knees apart.
  2. Feed your dog a treat right between your legs.
  3. When your dog takes a small step backwards (most will right away so they can see you better), click and feed a treat.
  4. Repeat 5 times, feeding right between your legs and clicking when your dog steps back.
  5. Now wait for your dog to take 2 steps back before clicking. Repeat 5 times.
  6. Gradually add more and more steps to your dog’s “back up.”
  7. When your dog is readily backing up 4 or 5 paces, add a cue by saying “Back up” right after you feed the treat.

5. Spin

This trick is a great introductory trick to teach your dog. It’s far easier than “roll over” and is jut as cute!

  1. Take a treat in your hand and lure the dog in a circle. Feed the dog when he’s facing you again.
  2. Repeat 5 times.
  3. Repeat the luring motion WITHOUT a treat in your hand. Do this 10 times. Feed from your other hand for each successful turn.
  4. Start to make your luring motion smaller and smaller.
  5. Add a cue (I use “spin” for a clockwise turn and “whirl” for a counterclockwise one) by saying the cue just before giving the hand signal.

6. Leg Weave

This flashy trick is surprisingly easy to teach. It also helps keep your dog’s back limber and is a great side-stretch. Barley and I actually start out most runs with a few leg weaves for his warm up!

  1. Start to teach by luring your dog through your legs with a cookie.
  2. Give him the treat after each leg wrap – feed him right in front of your knee.
  3. After five correct repetitions, leave the treat in your treat pouch and then lead your dog through your legs with an empty hand. Feed after each repetition. This step ensures your dog will listen without the cookie!
  4. Now start to make your hand movements smaller and add a verbal cue. You’ll get there in no time!

7. Car Wash

This dog trick is cute and useful. I’ve taught this trick for clients whose dogs are nervous around other dogs – some dogs like to get between their owner’s legs for comfort. I’ve also taught this trick to a female jogger who wanted her dog to know how to get between her and strangers.

In this trick, your dog stands between your legs and will move with you when you move. Here’s how to teach it:

  1. Widen your stance as needed.
  2. Use a treat to lure your dog behind you, then between your legs.
  3. Feed right from your beltline if your dog is tall enough. I like to feed just above the dog’s head to reward the dog for looking up at me – I think that’s way cuter!
  4. Reward your dog for staying longer.
  5. Toss a treat away, then repeat.
  6. After 5 repetitions, lure your dog in without a treat (using an empty hand).
  7. Add the cue (I use “carwash”) by saying it right as your dog turns back towards you from collecting the tossed treat.

8. Dog in a Box!

This shaping game is one of my all-time favorite tricks to teach your dog. It’s a bit more difficult than some of the other tricks on this list, but it’s worth the effort!

  1. Sit down in a relatively empty room with a cardboard box that’s big enough for your dog. Shallow-sided boxes make things easier.
  2. If your dog looks at the box, moves toward the box, or makes any other sort of movement towards the box (no matter how small or accidental), click and reward. I highly recommend using a clicker for this to mark the precise moment your dog does something.
  3. Toss the treat away to reset your dog.
  4. Repeat, gradually shaping your dog towards putting his paws inside the box. The video above makes this a bit clearer – it’s easier to watch than to read for this trick.

9. Paws Up

This trick is a good core workout that also helps stretch your dog’s back and hips. My vet recommended that Barley does this a few times before every trail run to help loosen him up. If your dog is balancing on something unstable, it’s also a great core workout!

  1. Start by luring your dog so his front paws are on a platform.
  2. Give him the cookie when he succeeds.
  3. Add a cue (I use “paws”) and start to fade out the treat and hand motion. Barley now puts his paws on things whenever I point at them.

This trick is generally very fast to teach as long as you vary what your dog puts his paws on quickly – try your knees, the couch, a fire hydrant, stumps, and more. You can also teach this trick via shaping, as demonstrated here.

10. Say Cheese (Selfie Trick)

This challenging trick is a great project for more experienced dogs and handlers. The video below explains it best – it’s a bit tricky!

There are two potential approaches for teaching this trick. I’ll outline the one that I found more successful here, but I describe both in the video above.

  1. Put yourself in between two objects. I used two large armchairs.
  2. Toss a treat behind you to get your dog behind you (inside the “funnel” you’ve created). Pick which arm you’ll hold your phone with and which shoulder you’ll want your dog to rest his chin on.
  3. Hold a treat over your shoulder, then lure your dog down towards your sternum. Release the treat at your sternum. If your dog struggles here, start by just feeding him at your shoulder, then your collarbone, then your sternum.
  4. Feed another treat behind your head.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until your dog is coming right back to your shoulder after the behind-the-head treat.
  6. Start adding the cue (I’m using “say cheese”) right as your dog comes back towards your shoulder.
  7. Start to remove the funnel by pushing the chairs awawy from you, inch by inch.
  8. Post the results to Instagram and tag @Collie.Without.Borders to show off your work!

11. Snoot Challenge

This fun trick to teach your dog was really popular on Instagram in summer of 2018 – and it continues to be a favorite. Adorable videos of dogs shoving their noses into heart-shaped hands filled my feed!

Here’s how to teach this cute dog trick:

  1. Frame your hands as a circle that’s big enough for your dog’s “snoot.”
  2. Say “good” when your dog moves closer to your hands, looks at your hands, etc. Don’t use a clicker – you don’t have any spare hands.
  3. Gradually shape your dog’s behavior to get the final result you want.
  4. The video above makes this clearer – it’s easier to watch than to read these instructions.

12. Crawl

Army crawling is really difficult for most dogs – because it’s such a good workout!

  1. Start by telling their dog to lie down, then slowly dragging a treat forward along the ground.
  2. If your dog takes even a small step forward, release the treat. Over time, increase the distance your dog has to crawl to get the treat.
  3. As soon as possible, start practicing at least some repetitions with an empty hand. This prevents over-reliance on the treat.

You can also start teaching this by having your dog crawl under something, then gradually rewarding them for crawling out from under the table. This method is easier at first, harder later on (because you’ve got to fade the table out of the picture)!

To avoid a dog who will only listen when you’ve got treats in your hand, quickly switch the luring your dog forward with an empty hand and feeding from your other hand.

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