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Tricks Training​

A word (again) about targeting:

In trick training, targeting gets a lot of use as a way to get a behavior started... think about what your end behavior will look like: if you want the dog to use his nose to poke or push something, then you'll want him to use his nose to target.   What do you want him to target?  Your cheek?  A doorbell?  Whatever you want him to target, you can make this step easier by teaching him to target something that you can use over and over as a beginning for other behaviors... a sticky dot, a mark you can erase later, a targeting stick... use your imagination.

Remember this: to skew things in your direction (to make your dog REALLY want to play the game), work for 10 minutes BEFORE you give him breakfast, and use reinforcements that are Really Yummy.

To use a clicker or not: this depends on how comfortable you are in manipulating all the props: treats, clicker, the dog, whatever else you might need... I tend to use verbal markers in the prop-intensive behaviors (when I feel like maybe I don't have enough hands).

 Paw (shake)

With this behavior, your dog learns to place his paw in your outstretched hand; like a handshake, but better. (I say “pigs” or “gimme the pigs”, and lure with my hand next to the foot I want offered.  I use this to initiate nail-trimming activities, or to desensitize a dog to having their feet handled.)  To my mind, it changes things when the dog places his foot in your hand, as opposed to having someone grab the foot.  It’s manners.


  1. In front of your dog's face, hold a treat in a closed fist with fingers facing upwards.

  2. Your dog will investigate, sniff, and eventually ‘paw’ at the hand. At this point of the trick say ‘good.’ Give them a food reward (it's best to give the one in your hand, to make sure that he makes the connection between the pawing behavior and the reward).

  3. Repeat this sequence several times, and then present your hand without a food treat in it. Reward at the point they place a paw on it, and repeat this step several times.

  4. Now say "Paw" or 'shake', and simply hold your hand out flat. When your dog paws at it, say ‘good.” Reward again, and repeat the step until you think he's getting it.

  5. You can now incorporate holding their paw gently and shaking it

  6. If your dog balks at any point, back up in the progression and start incorporating a "jackpot" when the dog goes just a millimeter closer than before, then re-set your criteria there for future reps.

 Hand Touch (targeting)

This trick teaches your dog to move towards your palm and bop it with their nose!


  1. Start off with both hands behind your back with your dog in front of you.

  2. Move your hand with an open palm (as if you were about to give someone a handshake) in front of you dog. Your dog will most likely move towards it and sniff it, at which point say ‘good.’ and reward them.

  3. Put your hand back behind your back and repeat that several times so they’re confident in leaning towards and making contact with your hand with their nose.

  4. Repeat #3, but move your hand around so that your dog has to move to target it, rewarding first for nose-high placement of your hand, then getting more difficult... putting your hand close to the floor, or even moving it so that your dog has to bounce up to touch his nose on it.

  5. Now you can say ‘touch’ or 'target' before presenting your hand and reward in exactly the same way.  Repeat this until you can present your hand, hesitate, and the dog doesnt move to target it until you give the cue.

  6. Next is to increase how far away they have to travel to come bop your hand.

  7. Gradually increase the distance you stand from them, so that eventually they can be across the room and will run to you and touch your hand.


Your dog learns to walk in a tight circle on the cue ‘spin’


  1. Have your dog positioned in a ‘heel’ position next to your leg and facing in the same direction as you.

  2. Have a treat in a closed hand or between finger and thumb and place in front of their nose and then move your hand in a circle moving out and away from you (as if you were swimming breaststroke).

  3. As you complete the circle, reward them. Some dogs may need some extra encouragement with this trick, so reward at ½ a circle, and a full circle to start with and gradually then move to just rewarding at the full circle.

  4. Once this is fluid, you can now say ‘spin’ (or ‘twist’ ‘turn’.) and then move your hand in the same way and reward as before.

  5. Repeat multiple times and once they are becoming more confident with the movement

  6. You can reduce how must gesturing you’re doing each time until you simply say ‘spin’ and your dog moves.



Teach your dog to come and stand between your legs and look up at you.


  1. Have your dog in front of you to start with. Have a treat in your hand and place it in front of their nose.

  2. Move your hand slowly and gradually round behind you so your hand ends up between your legs from behind.

  3. Have your other hand ready to then pass the treat to going through your legs, to encourage your pup to move between your legs.

  4. Once their head and shoulders are poking out from between your legs, stop moving your hand, wait momentarily and then reward them.

  5. Repeat until it’s nice and fluid.

  6. Then say ‘middle’ and then move your hands as before.

  7. Over time reduce how much gesturing with each hand your doing so that you can eventually simply say ‘middle’ and they move into the correct position looking up at you ready for their reward.


 Figure 8 (Infinity. weave)

Teach your dog to make a figure of 8 pattern using your legs.


  1. Have both hands closed with treats inside both of them.

  2. For this trick, put one treat-hand near your dog’s nose to encourage them to move. Guide your hand backwards and behind yourself so you end up with your hand behind you, between your legs.

  3. Let your dog follow

  4. Meet this hand with your other hand immediately and move your dog with this hand now out to the other side of you and back round so you end up with that hand behind you and between your legs, and then reward your dog.

  5. Once this is easy (for both you and your dog), you can say ‘figure’ (or weave) before you move your hands at all to add your verbal instruction.

  6. Now work at gradually fading out how much gesturing each part requires.


 Paws Up (Hup)

Teach your dog to put their front paws on a slightly higher object (step, stool, rock, tree stump)- this makes for great pictures.


  1. With your chosen object next to you, have a treat in your hand and move your hand slowly and gradually so your dog follows the treat and takes steps towards it.

  2. At the point their feet meet the edge of the object, raise your hand slightly to encourage them to take a step up.

  3. As soon as their feet are up on the object, say ‘good’ and reward.

  4. Repeat several times until fluid and say, ‘paws up’ and then gesture in exactly the same way.

  5. Once they are confident with the movement and have started to learn the cue, you can start to increase how long they are up on the object for before you say ‘good’ and reward them.



Teach your dog to bow, lowering their front half of their body down while keeping their bottom in the air.


  1. Have a treat in a closed hand and place it in front of your dog’s nose.

  2. Gradually lower your hand slightly and move it gently towards their chest so that their head goes down a bit and their front legs start to move downwards.

  3. Reward this trick before they go into a down.  If you jackpot ONLY those behaviors that don't include the rear hips starting to fold, and reward lesser behaviors where the dog seems more tentative (like he's trying to figure it out), the progression will happen quickly.

  4. Repeat several times and then gradually increase how far their front legs are going down until they are in the ‘play’ position.

  5. Reward this trick each time they hit this position.

  6. Finish off by saying the word ‘bow’ (again some dogs may mishear for ‘down’ so another cue you could use is ‘bend’.) and then gesturing in the same way.

  7. Some dogs will find this hard if they have a very good ‘down’ already and may need you to place your arm gently underneath their hips to prevent their back end from going into the down instead of bow.

  8. Note: I taught an old dog of mine (Jinx, a rescued Pomeranian) to "do yoga" by playing with this stance... butt in the air, front legs outstretched, squirming slightly in "upward facing dog".  It was very very cute, and I loved when she did this on my yoga mat!


 Shake Head

Teach this trick so your dog will nod or shake their head.


  1. Start this trick with your dog in the sit position.

  2. Have a tasty treat between finger and thumb.

  3. Move the treat either side of you (or up and down) so that your dog follows the movement of the treat with their eyes but to the extent that they also have to move their head in the direction you want.

  4. Once they’ve gone side to side or up and down, say ‘good’ and reward them.

  5. Repeat several times so they get the idea that they are being reward for head movements.

  6. Now add your verbal cue ‘what do you say?’

  7. Continue to move your hand exactly as you had been doing so, and then reward.

  8. Repeat several times and slowly reduce the amount of luring you’re doing.


 Snoot, nose

Teach your dog to place their nose/muzzle in a circle made of your hands.


  1. Firstly, make a circle with your finger and thumb so there’s a little gap (this is where we want your dog’s nose to go).

  2. Take a treat and place it on your side of the hole so your dog places their nose into the hole. Release the treat once they’ve placed their nose in the hole.

  3. Now build up the time they hold their nose in that position for before you reward them.

  4. Once they’re confident, now you can add the ‘snoot’ word before presenting your circle to them.

  5. If they immediately put their nose there, say ‘good’ and reward them in that position.

  6. If they are hesitant because there is no treat waiting for them, wait for a few seconds to see if they can work it out, and then reward them.

  7. Build up the time they hover their nose in that position for before saying ‘good’ and rewarding.

Go to Page 2

hand target...
figure 8, weave...
take a bow...
Paws up, hup..
yes or no...
nose, snoot...


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