Many dogs are more than capable – and more than happy – to learn something new. It can give them mental stimulation, time spent interacting with their owner, and can often be fun and rewarding. If the dog is willing then there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to learn something new – just call yourself the dog whisperer.
Some simple tricks to teach dogs
These will vary from dog to dog. Most dogs can be taught to sit and lie down with relative ease, especially where food is involved (they don’t call ‘em hungry hounds for nothing!). Practicing recall such as stay and come can take a bit longer but stick with it – it’s encouraging to know that you can let your dog off lead and they’ll come back to you with ease.
Give dog obedience classes a go
Found yourself to be the owner of a particularly naughty pooch? The first port of call should be your local vet practice; they may have local dog trainers that they’re able to recommend. If you are seeking the expert advice on differing dog behaviour, be sure to make sure they are accredited.
Not for you? Learn how to master dog obedience training at home
It’s important not to use negative reinforcement – it can often exacerbate a problem. Reward good dog behaviour and be patient, instead, as learning things can take time (just like with us humans!).
Rewarding your dog for learning a new trick can vary from dog to dog; some are very food-orientated, whilst others will only cooperate for a toy. It doesn’t matter which toy you choose – they’ll just be glad of your time and attention, even if it’s with an old toy. When it comes to food-based training, the safest way to reward them is with a small amount of their normal food. It’s not extra food on top of their usual meals, plus it may help to avoid stomach upsets.
Try not to disrupt your pet’s normal routine – feed them as usual, wait until they are calm, and then start asking them do your trick. You can start to reward them when they begin to get an idea of what you’re asking them. Some owners find clicker training useful and others teach their dogs tricks on walks instead.
Does breed make a difference?
Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a list of breeds that we can point you towards as the easiest dogs to train. Some may be thought to be quicker learners whilst others may be more set in their ways – but with a good animal-owner bond and the right type of bribery, most dogs can be incentivised to learn alongside their owner. So don’t just write off your dog as a master trickster if they have a stronger will than most!
What about age?
The younger you teach your dog a trick, the better (within reason, of course – if you need to take them outside when puppy training, make sure they’re fully vaccinated and have been treated for parasites). Puppies and younger dogs tend to be full of energy, and so teaching them new things is a good way to help them channel that excitement. Plus, dog training from a young age can sometimes mean learning good behaviours before bad habits set in.
Providing your dog is in good health and wants to interact with you, there is no reason an owner cannot try to teach an older dog something new – contrary to the popular saying… It’s a good idea to consult with your vet before undertaking any new activity or training classes, especially with older dogs, to make sure they are suitable for your pooch.