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Teach your dog to retrieve something you’ve thrown; a classic trick


  1. Teaching this trick assumes a few things:  your dog has toys that he'll take in his mouth... if your dog has issues with this part, you'll need to work on that first.  And, your dog isn't a 'guarder'... he won't tear your arm and legs off if you take something from him... again, if this is an issue, your biggest problem isn't that 'he won't retrieve'.  Priorities, please.  So, first find a toy your dog is going to like to hold or be interested enough in to pick up for this trick.

  2. Drop the toy on the floor directly in front of you and say ‘good’ as soon as your dog orients to it (looks at it) or picks it up and raises his head up again (some dogs will offer big blocks of behavior like this... if yours' does, go with it).

  3. Build this up until he is holding the toy in front of you for a second or so before you reward him.

  4. Now repeat exactly the same but before saying ‘good’, put your hand on the toy, so that he is going to drop the ball into your hand.

  5. Repeat until this 'releasing' is reliably fluid.  This action, releasing the toy, is sometimes difficult for dogs to do... this stuff is FUN, and he WANTS the fun to keep going.

  6. You can now build up how far you throw the toy. Start off with just dropping it slightly further ahead of you, so the dog just has to turn back towards you and do exactly the same.

  7. Over repetitions and several sessions, you’ll be able to throw the toy further and further away from you, and your dog return to being close to you with the toy in his mouth.  Continue to reinforce the exchange so that he'll continue to bring/release the toy.

  8. How far to toss the toy:  some dogs 'look up' to watch the toy sail as they run... others will sit there and let it hit them in the head, or don't even start to move until they hear it hit the ground.  I don't think that this part can be taught... let me know your own experiences.

 Cross Legs

Teach your dog to lie down elegantly.


  1. If you've worked with your dog on using their paw to touch your hand, you'll have an easier time of this.  If you haven't, that's a good starting point for this behavior.

  2. Cue the down, then ask for the paw touch again, and have him touch your outstretched hand so that the front legs just start to cross.... then Jackpot.  Now, toss a treat away so that your dog has to change position, and start the process again with 'down'.

  3. This will feel different for them, so practice this so that they’re reliably offering you their paw and staying in the down, slowly approximating crossing their front legs.

  4. When the behavior is fluidly confident, slowly continue to pull your outstretched hand minutely back toward you, so that his crossed foot has to stretch by tiny degrees to touch your hand, so that the legs cross a tiny bit more each time.  When you're satisfied with the level of leg-crossing, build fluidity into the behavior, and only reward the best efforts with Jackpots.

  5. To build the duration of the behavior, you can start at the beginning: ask for the down, lure the leg cross, then mark and reinforce 1:1 for each second.  Start with 1 second, then 2, etc.

  6. Reinforce this, building fluidity, as in step 4.

  7. Now add the verbal cue of ‘cross’. Say the cue and then practice in exactly the same way, then stopping the luring with your hand and just saying the cue while continuing to reinforce.  At this ime, you can start to fade the reinforcement.

 Be Shy

Teach your dog to hide his face with his paw.


  1. Take a small piece of sticky tape and roll it up so that both sides are sticky.

  2. Place it on your dog's nose while they are sitting or in a down, and say ‘good’ and reward as soon as the dog tries to remove the tape from their nose.

  3. Remove the tape after each reward.  After 7-8 repetitions where the behavior is offered consistently with the tape on his nose, touch his nose as though you're applying the tape (but don't apply the tape)... reward 1:1 if he offers any paw movement at this point – if the dog touches his nose with his paw, Jackpot.  Continue this way until the behavior is offered fluidly (7-8 out of 10 reps).

  4. Now you can add the verbal cue of ‘are you shy?’ to the behavior, but stop reinforcing those behaviors that don't quite meet the criteria.  

  5. Fade the prompt, and continue to use the cue, reinforcing only the best offerings.


  Jump Into Arms

Teach your dog to give you a cuddle. ** This behavior is intended for little cuddly dogs.  I've had Really Big Dogs for my whole life, and I can't help but think that someone, somewhere is going to teach their 180 pound Mastiff to do this... please: if you do this, get it video'd for me.


  1. The goal here is to have you dog climb into your lap no matter where your lap is, in relation to the rest of your body.  Start by sitting with legs outstretched on the floor with your dog beside of you.

  2. Lure him onto your lap so that he has four paws across your two legs.

  3. Repeat this exercise until it's fluid and he’s confident standing in your lap.

  4. You can add an ‘up up’ verbal cue when he’s reliably getting on.

  5. Start increasing the height of your lap off the floor by sitting on pillows, a stool, a stool with a pillow, and chairs of different heights, then chairs with pillows for added height.  At each level, build in fluidity so that your dog is comfortable with each behavior.  Try to stay at each new height for 2 days, working several times per day.

  6. Once he’s confident with this movement, you can now stop sitting in the chair, and start increasing the height of your lap.  The behavior will look like this: sitting in the chair with the dog beside you, stand slightly with your hips just out of the seat, pat your lap and cue 'up up'.  Reward 1:1 for feet in your lap, Jackpot for whole body in your lap.

  7. When you're mostly standing straight at the initiation of this behavior, it's time to do it without the chair, Jackpotting for each full repetition.  When complete, you'll be able to stand up straight, cue 'up up', and have the dog launch himself into your arms.


 Go to Bed

Teach your dog to roll himself up in his blanket.


  1. Your dog will need to be able to grab onto a corner of his blanket without actually eating it to start this behavior... so, practice his taking the blanket from your hand, picking the blanket up, holding the blanket in his mouth, and releasing the blanket on cue.

  2. Now practice ‘roll over’ while on the laid-out blanket, Jackpotting for each roll.

  3. Now combine the two

  4. Have your dog down on the blanket, and then bunch a bit of blanket up between his paws- enough that he can ‘hold’ it in his mouth.

  5. Once he’s ‘holding’ the blanket, ask him to roll over... if he manages to hold and roll- Jackpot him. If he drops the blanket, reward 1:1.

  6. Keep practicing until the full behavior is fluid. The you can add your verbal cue of ‘go to bed’ while reducing the rate of reinforcement to only those behaviors that most closely approximate what you want.

Go to Tricks 5

cross your legs...
be shy...
go to bed...


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