A person slightly bent over feeding a dog who is on their hind legs

12 Easy tricks to teach your dog

By BBC Maestro

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and you can even train an excitable puppy some basic cues. Dogs of all ages love to learn and share new experiences with their people, so we’ve pulled together a selection of easy tricks to teach your dog, which you’ll both enjoy. 

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Why is it important to teach basic dog tricks? 

Learning a new trick together is a great way of connecting with your dog while teaching some valuable life skills. Cues like “Sit” and “Down” are essential for everyday situations like crossing the road or meeting new people. 
 
It’s also important that you and your pup have fun together, and a shared challenge is a wonderful way to bond. Enrichment has a really big part to play in your dog’s mental wellbeing, and teaching your dog a new trick every now and then is an excellent way to mentally stimulate them. 

How to train dogs to do tricks 

Any dog can learn new skills given the right training and environment. You’ll need time, patience and calm surroundings, so your four-pawed student is able to concentrate. 
 
Choose a time of day when you’re both feeling alert and keep the sessions short. Be patient: it could take quite a few sessions for your dog to get the hang of a new trick. And most importantly? Have some treats to hand to reward and reinforce.  

Fun tricks to teach your dog

dog with paw up

Here are some of our favourite basic dog tricks (with a few fancier ones thrown in). 

1. Sit 

The simple-seeming “Sit” cue is the cornerstone of many other tricks, as well as being an important safety command for your dog to know. Steve explains it simply and clearly: 
 
Start with a treat and let your dog sniff it, then, with his interest engaged, lure his head up, because the law of physics tells us that when his head goes up, his bum goes down. As his head goes up, mark the behaviour with “Good” as his bum touches the floor, give him a treat, give him some fuss and then go again. The next time, we introduce the cue – in this case, the word “Sit”. So, as his head goes up, say “Sit”, then as his butt goes down, say “Good” and treat. 

2. Down

Sit mastered, try Down, which is another one of those basic dog tricks that’s essential for everyday life with a dog. While they’re sitting, lure them towards the ground with a treat. When their nose lowers towards the floor, say “Good” to reinforce the behaviour. Repeat this until the dog’s grasped this stage, then start drawing the treat towards you, leading naturally to the full Down position. When your dog realises how comfy this is, it should become a natural position for them (ideal for dog-friendly pubs).  

3. Stay

Next up is “Stay”. While your dog is in Down, don’t give them a treat straight away. Say “Stay”, wait a few seconds, then say “Good” and reward them with the treat. Make sure they get this before they start to stand again. Gradually increase the length between saying “Stay” and giving the reward, while increasing the distance between you and your dog as well. 

4. Shake Paws

With the basics in place, it’s time for some fun tricks to teach your dog. Start with a treat in your closed hand, and encourage your pooch to get the treat. As soon as their paw touches your hand, open your hand and let them take the treat. After you’ve done this a few times, add a command (“Shake paws,” or “How do you do” if you fancy something a bit cuter) before they get the treat. The next stage is to hold the treat in our other hand. When your dog puts their paw in your open hand, say “Shake paws” (or whatever command you’ve chosen), and reward them. 

5. Wave

This is the natural progression from shaking paws. Again, start with a treat in your closed hand, and wait for your dog to paw at it. Raise your hand so your dog has to “wave” their paw. When they wave, introduce a cue (“Wave” being the obvious one) and reward them with the treat. Gradually increase how high you hold your hand so they really do look like they’re waving a paw in the air. 

6. Roll over 

Another of the classic easy tricks to teach your dog. Start with your dog in the Down position, then place a treat in front of their nose. Bring this around slowly towards their shoulder, which encourages your dog to turn. You can gradually move the treat further towards their spine. Hopefully, they’ll follow it with their nose, which naturally leads into a roll. Introduce a cue word such as “roll”, then reward with that tasty treat. 

7. Play dead

It’s not the best name, but “Play dead” is a great little trick. If your pooch has mastered Roll over, you’re almost there already.  Follow the steps for Roll over, but reward them when they remain lying down on their side. You’ll need a different cue word for this to encourage them to stay still instead of rising from the roll.  

8. Spin

Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose, and slowly move it to one side so they turn their head towards it. Move the treat in a circle around your dog, making them spin to track the treat. When they’ve turned in a full circle, praise and reward. Keep repeating this until you think your dog understands the action, then add the cue word “spin”. 

9. Kiss

This is simply a case of capturing a canine natural behaviour. The next time your dog licks your face, try marking the moment with praise (or a click if you’re clicker training) and reward with a treat. Keep doing this for a few days, then introduce the word “Kiss”.  

10. Speak

The “speak” trick sounds amusing, but it’s actually an effective way to train your dog to bark on command. As with the kiss trick, you’re waiting to capture a natural behaviour. Let your dog see you have a treat in your hand, but don’t give it to them until they bark. When they do, mark and reward. After a few days of this, introduce a cue word like “Speak”. 

11. Catch a treat

This time, the treat itself takes centre stage. This is really simple to do but trickier to master. Use a fairly large-sized treat to make it easier. Throw the treat in the air towards the dog, and encourage them to catch it before it lands. You can do this by pouncing on the treat yourself if it lands on the floor, so the only way the dog can enjoy it is by catching it mid-air. 

12. Take a bow

Every good performance ends with a bow. Ask your dog to stand in front of you, and slowly lower a treat from their nose to the ground, between their front paws. When their nose instinctively follows the treat, their bum will lift in the air, looking as though they’re making a deep bow. Say “Good” and give them the treat. Instead of using a cue word, you can try teaching the bow by bowing yourself. Your audience will be charmed by what a polite pair you are. 

Tricks to teach your puppy 

woman with her dog

Puppies are wonderful little sponges that simply soak up information, and they can start learning tricks as soon as you bring them home. Your focus will probably be on things like toilet training, bedtime and responding to their name; however, to an excited young pup, every lesson is as fun and rewarding as learning a trick. 
 
If you can teach your new addition the basics like Sit, Down and Stay, you’re getting off to a great start together. From there, you could even try a more challenging trick like shaking paws, which really would be unbearably cute to watch. 
 
Spending time teaching your puppy cues and basic dog tricks will strengthen your bond and enrich both your lives. Your puppy will naturally want to play with you, and if you can introduce an element of learning into your playtime, perfect.

There are plenty of tricks and treats in Steve Mann’s online dog training course. He covers all elements of dog training, including tricks to teach your puppy, making sure that every aspect is enjoyable and rewarding for your dog. 

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