Fantastic dog tricks to copy - how to use dog tricks to stimulate your dog mentally
At the Meradog dog school for use at home, we want to show you possible ways to maximise your dog's mental (and therefore also physical) stimulation during dog training. A clicker is used to teach the dog a wide variety of dog tricks and commands. This not only strengthens the relationship with your dog, but also trains the abilities of both parties to read and understand each other. And with the dog food or dog biscuits from Meradog, your dog is guaranteed to learn the dog tricks easily and quickly.
Who better to accompany you and your dog through the dog school than a dog: Amy, one of the Meradog employee dogs came from Hungary to her new home in Germany at the age of 7 months. After a brief period of acclimatisation, she found the “normal” dog's life comprising eating, sleeping, walkies and a few hours of dog school per week too dull. After Amy had destroyed sofa cushions, cork tiles, tablecloths, remote controls and telephone books, it quickly became apparent that the dog needed to be occupied! Dog school, dog training and dog tricks to be performed at home were designed to arouse Amy's attention.
Introducing clicker training
Has it already clicked with your dog? One of the most important rules in dog training is to provide a reward promptly after the dog carries out a command correctly. In this case, promptly means that you have no more than two seconds to retrieve a treat from the bag and call out a friendly “well done” to your four-legged friend. Particularly when learning dog tricks, the dog will show the first signs of a desired behaviour for no more than fractions of seconds. To confirm this, we make use of an aid. A clicker generates a consistent pop sound that is designed to indicate to the dog: “Good, your reward is on its way!” This is where Meradog dog biscuits and especially the Meradog pure Well Done soft snacks are ideal. They are grain-free and small and therefore perfect for a quick reward without interrupting dog training due to prolonged chewing. In the Meradog on-line dog school, you will receive step-by-step instructions for developing dog tricks and dog graining in a structured manner. The basis is what is called "clicker training", which we will explain in more detail below.
Clicker training - approach 1 - “capturing” behaviour
There are two ways of teaching your dog a new command and to perform new dog tricks. In this way, you can “capture” a specific type of behaviour. For example, if your dog stretches itself, click and add a verbal command such as “bow down“. After several attempts, the dog will associate the action with the command and bow down when it hears the corresponding command.
Clicker training - approach 2 - "free-forming” behaviour
The second possibility is the process of free-forming an action. You can also develop the same dog trick as follows: Hold a Meradog dog biscuit or some Meradog dog food in front of your dog so that it lowers its nose to the floor without tucking in its hind legs and then confirm this action. There are always lots of different ways of reaching a goal. Experiment to see what works best with your dog and be creative in planning the learning process!
Dog school - tip:
When free-forming the dog trick, it is better in most cases if you only introduce a command when the dog has already mastered the action because words alone can quickly “wear thin”. However, you should also try to get a feel for what works for your dog. For example, Amy is an exception to this rule and needs a new verbal command from the start so that she knows that she is practising a new dog trick.
Unfortunately, what sounds easy is far from that in many cases. Unless you have plenty of practice, it is often not so easy to press the clicker at exactly the right moment. This confuses the dog and, at worst, can lead to frustration for both participants in the dog training. For this reason, you should practise clicking beforehand without the dog. Find a human partner, ask them to raise their fingers at random from the table surface and only click when he or she raises the right index finger. If no partner happens to be available, you can also practise on your own, for example, by watching television and clicking whenever you hear the word “the”. Once you can manage a very high ratio of successful clicks after considerably less than two seconds, you are finally ready to start training your dog.
And if the clicker training still goes awry every so often…
…there's absolutely no need to lose hope. There are studies that suggest that most dogs can learn a command during dog training even if only 80% of the clicks are correctly timed.
Take care when choosing dog tricks!
Carefully consider which dog tricks you want to rehearse. Of course, it's super if your dog can open the refrigerator door and bring your drink to the sofa. But will it really spurn the delicious meat sausage in the adjacent compartment? “Bark loud!” is also a very easy dog trick to teach and will certainly elicit astonishment when demonstrated to your friends. However, your neighbours will be less enthusiastic if your dog starts barking repeatedly at random in an attempt to secure additional rewards. The list is long: Opening doors and drawers, wearing clogs, throwing paper in the bin… of course there are many dogs that will not use what they have learned to cause mischief, but dogs are not selfless beings and will attempt to turn specific situations to their advantage. And when it comes to deliberately rewarding your dog, we offer a wide selection of delicious dog biscuits...
Clicker training - conditioning for dogs
To explain to your dog that the clicking sound means that it has done something correctly and it is about to receive a dog biscuit, take your dog (and a large quantity of dog food) and feed it a chunk immediately after every click. Repeat this procedure numerous times (how often will vary significantly from dog to dog). You can easily check whether the dog training and conditioning has already been successful. Send your dog away and wait until it is busy doing something else. Now click and watch what happens: If it ignores the sound, you must continue with the conditioning. However, if your dog turns its head towards you or runs over to you to collect its dog food, you have successfully conditioned it to the clicker and can now start with the dog school and the dog tricks.
Initial successes during clicker training
If your dog has made a particularly important step when learning a new dog trick, it also deserves a special reward. Instead of giving it just one chunk after the click as usual, give it approximately ten pieces of dog food or dog biscuits. It will then be particularly keen to repeat the behaviour so generously rewarded. Make sure that you only confirm these types of dog training milestones with a jackpot once. Otherwise, the jackpot will lose its attraction or you won’t make any further progress with the trick because your dog is constantly waiting for a jackpot at every subsequent step in the trick.
Dog school - keep exercises short and always end them with success
Observe your dog closely during dog training. If it becomes tired or shows symptoms of stress such as licking its flews or yawning, you should stop the dog training (or ideally beforehand!). Dog training should always be enjoyable for both participants and should never take place under duress. The dog tricks will be very challenging for your dog, particularly to begin with. It is better to schedule several short training blocks with longer pauses during which the dog can relax. You should also complete each block with a successful outcome. Then your dog will have a positive memory of the exercise and will look forward to the next round of tricks.
Clicker training - tips
Even if your dog is happy to come to you, you should not use clicking as a means of calling it to you. This will merely confuse it and render the click unusable for training dog tricks. The type of reward you choose can also have a major impact. A dog biscuit that your dog does not particularly like will not encourage it to cooperate with you. On the other hand, a particularly tasty dog biscuit or dog food can quickly make your dog too nervous to concentrate. Take care that your dog doesn't put on weight and, if necessary, deduct the reward from the daily dog food ration.
My dog doesn’t listen to me and simply runs wild or repeats all of the commands it has learned.
Try to establish why your dog is unfocussed during dog training. One possibility is that the reward for the dog trick is too good. Take a less attractive dog biscuit or dog food - these could be smaller bites or the usual dog food. However, the dog tricks may also be too much of a challenge for your dog. Have you already completed extended training sessions or is it possible that the dog trick is still too difficult? You could continue in smaller steps or select an easier trick for your dog. Bear in mind that beginners must first learn this special learning method for themselves.
My dog is listless on certain days and appears to take no pleasure in the dog training.
This does not necessarily mean that dog tricks are not for your dog, but it may do. Not every dog enjoys dog training. For instance, a Beagle may prefer to concentrate on search work or highly independent working dogs may perceive dog training merely as a distraction. You should also consider your own attitude. Perhaps you are stressed on the days when your dog is inattentive or maybe you are not that interested in the dog training? Your four-legged friend will sense this attitude and will no longer participate with the same level of concentration and enjoyment.
When I begin a new exercise, my repeatedly performs the dog trick that we practised previously.
This not at all unusual, as many dogs will experiment with behaviour for which they have previously been rewarded with dog biscuits or dog food in order to receive additional dog food. Ultimately, dog training is based on trying out and repeating different behaviour patterns. Be consistent and ignore the dog. It can also be helpful to alternate the training location or even your own position. For many dogs, this will signal a new start.
We can’t get beyond a certain point in a dog trick.
You may have completed the individual parts of the dog training too quickly and your dog has not fully internalised the preceding steps. Go back to the point in the instructions that your dog has already mastered and start again from there. Proceed in smaller steps or come up with an alternative training sequence. The instructions outlined here only represent one way of rehearsing the respective trick, but each human-dog team is different and each dog has preferences. For instance, some dogs begin by looking for solutions that involve the paws. Others in turn try to solve things with their snout. Try to get a feel for your dog's preferences and adapt the dog training along these lines as far as possible.
My dog is very nervous and is startled whenever I click during the conditioning phase.
Different types of clickers are available and some click louder than others. You can generally try the clickers in the shop and you can purchase a quieter variant. Another option is to hold the clicker in your pocket during conditioning. This will dampen the sound and your dog will no longer be startled. After the conditioning phase is complete, you can usually take the clicker back out from your pocket. The dog will already have formed such a positive association with the sound during dog training that it will no longer display any fear.
If I try to phase out a hand movement and use only the verbal command, my dog no longer performs the exercise.
This is also a frequently observed phenomenon in dog training. Virtually all dogs learn much better visually than by using verbal commands. It is in their nature: Dogs communicate extensively using their body language, but relatively little using different sounds. For this reason, your dog will tend follow your gestures and facial expressions rather than your words. Nevertheless, it is possible to call up dog tricks exclusively via verbal commands. Perform the same trick several times in succession without taking a break. Always use visual signals to begin with. Keep up this rapid pace until your dog performs the dog trick almost automatically and then leave out the visual signals. If your dog now performs the command in spite of this, reward it with a jackpot of tasty dog biscuits or delicious dog food. In this way, it will learn to perform the trick also without any visual support on your part.
Dog school - tips
For many dogs, having a paw enclosed in your hand is a little unsettling at first. Allow your trick student to become accustomed to this gradually. There are numerous instructions that suggest the following approach: Enclose a reward in your hand and hold it out to the dog. Sooner or later, it will start to scratch at it, at which point you must click and reward. After several repetitions in dog training, your dog will also touch your empty fist. You can then open your hand and reward the contact with your palm with Meradog dog biscuits or Meradog dog food. Personally, I have ruled out this approach for pedagogical reasons. If I hold something in my hand, then it belongs to me alone and Amy is not permitted to request it, neither by poking nor by scratching with the paw. If the method described does not work for you (some dogs are unreceptive to this type of contact) and you want to attempt this second alternative dog training, my advice is not to reward your dog with the dog biscuit from your closed hand, but to feed it a second dog biscuit so that at least it does not reach its original goal through its demanding behaviour.
Dog school - before you start:
There is some disagreement as to whether growing dogs should perform this exercise. Play it safe and rehearse this dog trick exclusively with adult dogs. This dog trick is also not suitable for very large breeds. Consider how your dog will go about sitting up and begging. Should it stand on its hind legs or simply raise its front paws while in the sitting position? The structure of the training is identical and differs only in terms of the height at which you end up holding the Meradog dog food or the Meradog dog biscuit. I have opted for the latter variant and chosen the command “Amy, how does a meerkat sit?”.
Your dog bows down by lowering its upper body while keeping its hind legs stretched. As previously mentioned in the dog school basic knowledge, this behaviour can also be captured, although this usually takes a long time because you always have to wait until your dog stretches. Particularly tasty Meradog dog food or Meradog dog biscuits will make dog training easier.
This exercise involves the dog rotating about its own axis. Use Meradog dog food or Meradog dog biscuits to motivate your dog and to rehearse this dog trick.
Dog school - prerequisites:
This is a trick that can easily be taught to a dog that already knows how to give a paw while lying down. To further boost its motivation, you can use the tasty Meradog dog biscuits or the wide selection of Meradog dog food. This will help you manage even the most challenging exercise in dog training.
Dog school - tip:
A nice command for dogs learning this dog trick is “how does the lovely lady lie?“.
A dog trick that is not particularly difficult to teach but requires a great deal of self-control from your dog! Therefore, be sure to use some particularly tasty Meradog dog biscuits or particularly tasty Meradog dog food to boost your dog’s motivation.
Dog school for professionals - a really dead dog!
If your dog masters the dog trick through distraction, try it using supreme discipline: Your dog should not respond to touch and should let its raised paw fall or even let it go limp when lifted. Step 4: Vary your position relative to the dog or practise at other locations so that your four-legged friend generalises the trick.
You can also significantly increase your dog's motivation to participate in this trick by using particularly tasty Meradog dog biscuits or Meradog dog food. Dog school - prerequisite: Give me five!
Dog school - prerequisites:
Stacking cups is a dog trick that will require your dog to demonstrate a great deal of dexterity. It also involves a chain of behaviour, which means that your dog must perform several behaviour patterns consecutively on command during dog training: Picking up the cup, carrying it to the other cup and placing it inside the other cup. This dog trick is easier to develop if your dog is able to retrieve on command. You will also need at least two sturdy plastic cups.
Dog school - tip:
If your dog does not retrieve on command: Let your dog discover what it is supposed to do with the cup on the floor. Start by clicking when the dog picks up the cup, then when it carries it and finally when it brings the cup in your direction. With the right reward such as the delicious Meradog dog biscuits or Meradog dog food, your dog will also master this trick in no time.
This is a dog trick that requires no coordination skills but presents your dog with an extreme mental challenge. Sticking out the tongue, e.g. when licking the flews, is an action that is performed subconsciously. Therefore, your dog will very probably have to think long and hard about what it is that you are confirming in this training session. To rehearse this trick, we suggest using particularly tasty dog biscuits or dog food. If your dog tends not to lick its flews thoroughly after eating, you can also carefully wipe a layer of liver sausage across the tip of its nose. However, you then run the risk that the dog will concentrate too much on the delicious liver sausage and will no longer pay any attention to the objective of the dog training.
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