I have had a few people ask me some questions about Pilot's trick dog training. Although I have answered them individually, I would like to address them publicly, as I'm sure other people have similar questions running through their minds.
What is the point of the Trick Dog Title?
There are a couple of reasons for getting Pilot his TDT:
Do you have to pay for it?
That depends on what you want. You can teach the tricks to your dog for free. You can even print out the list of tricks he needs to learn for free. If you want to attend a Sparks Team on Facebook to get tips and training advice, then that is also free.
If you want to get your dog titled, you have to pay for it. If you want to attend live classes with an instructor who will work one-on-one with you and your dog, you also have to pay for it. If you don't have the books yet, then you will have to pay to get those.
All of those things are legitimate things to pay for. The title comes on nice paper for you to frame. The instructor is spending valuable time with you and your pooch. The books by Kyra Sundance are ALL WORTH BUYING. Next to Caesar Milan, I recommend all of her stuff.
What's the ideal age for a dog to really get into trick training?
This totally depends on the dog. Some get it early, and some get it later.
As a general rule of thumb, most dogs reach full maturity at 2 years of age. This means that, mentally, they are able to understand and retain more. So, I would say that 2 years old is the golden age.
However, the younger that you start a dog to training, the better, because they get used to exercising their brain with you. The younger they are, though, the smaller steps you must take. You can't expect a young dog to learn 15 tricks in a month. Probably not even in two months.
A puppy that is 8 months old or younger doesn't have the attention span or the desire to learn a lot of things. They just want to play games. So you must work with them gradually, repeating the tricks that they have learned over and over again and treating any new tricks like games. If they aren't getting a new trick, just stop and drop it for a few weeks, then try again. Young dogs can't retain quite as much information and they need longer spans of time to memorize what they have learned.
Eventually, one day, a light bulb will turn on in their head and you'll find that training suddenly gets a lot smoother. You'll also find that you are doing more "training" with them, and less "game play". This usually happens around the age of 2 years, in my experience. However, I have seen dogs as young as 11 weeks to 5 months old earn their Novice Trick Dog Titles!
If you would like a book to help you out with training your puppy, "51 Puppy Tricks" by Kyra Sundance is a great one. It shows you how to teach tricks from the puppy's perspective, gives great tips for those having difficulty, and it sorts the tricks according to Easy, Intermediate, and Advanced. You can also find all the same tricks, and more, in "101 Dog Tricks".
Another book that I personally found helpful in starting out Pilot was the "10 Minute Dog Training Games" by Kyra Sundance.
Pilot was about a year old when he was given to me and he still just wanted to play, not learn anything, and he was rather stubborn about sticking to that mentality. Reading this book, I learned to just "play" with him, and when I started playing with him, he started having fun learning. It helped a LOT.
Amazon Affiliate Links
I'm sure you've heard that you "can't teach an old dog a new trick", right? Well, that saying is wrong. Senior dogs can earn trick titles too! Again, as with a very young dog, it is a slower process. They learn slower and are more stubborn, because they are set in their ways. Also because of their physical limitations, they can't do everything a young dog can, so you must keep this in mind. But, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks!
A can of soft dog food being spoon fed to them will probably get their attention. You will have to use a lot of patience, because, by the age of 8, most dogs are used to training humans. Not humans training them.
How much time does it take?
This is completely dependent on the dog and yourself. On average, a dog could learn 15 tricks a month, which means that you could have an expert trick dog in roughly 4 months. On the other hand, for some, like Pilot, it may take a year before he is really ready to start learning.
Some dogs will eat trick training up, because they love the mental challenge and the bonding time with you. Other dogs will enjoy it, but it will take longer for them to mentally ingrain it. Some dogs will think it is a cute past time, but will not feel that they should really devote much of their valuable time and energy to it, except to please you on occasion. Do not feel offended if your dog is like that; it is nothing personal. It is simply the way he/she feels about the activity, and probably any activity that requires the use of their brain and energy. It does not mean that they are dumb, either. It simply means they are smarter than the rest of us and are content with their life at present.
Some breeds of dogs will do better than others, but over all, it depends on your determination and the dog's willingness.
What are some good beginner-level tricks?
All of the trick books by Kyra Sundance have difficulty levels and are listed by Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced, so as to make it easy to choose the difficulty level. They also sort them according to sport and tell you which ones you can build on and which ones have prerequisites. However, I have found that the difficulty level is very little help with Pilot. So, I choose tricks according to what he would like to learn or what he already naturally does or what I am determined for him to learn. For instance, "Roll-Over" is listed as Intermediate, but it has been the easiest trick Pilot has ever learned, and he loves to do it all the time. Thankfully, the book leaves room for you to pick-and-choose.
Aside from teaching your dog basic manners - sit, down, wait, stay, lay down, leave it - some easy tricks to learn are "Take A Bow", "Spin In Circles", "Peek-A-Boo", and "Hoop Jump". (Video Links)
This second week of tricks has been fun! The only one that I had previously taught Pilot was "Paws-Up". I'd also done a little bit of work on "Peek-A-Boo" with him. Otherwise, the other tricks were completely new, and he has really enjoyed learning them, especially the "Leg Weave". I think it is going to be one of his new favorites. It's a workout for me! My short little legs have to really stretch to accommodate him (and he's not even a big dog). Two of my favorite dog breeds are German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds.... hahahahaha! Wow. I'm kinda glad he's not either of those sizes.
"Take a Bow" has been incredibly easy to teach. What you see in the video is how you teach it: just lure them down to their elbows and click/reward them as soon as their elbows touch the ground. He still hasn't started doing it on queue alone yet, but he is almost there. It is going to be so stinking cute once he gets it! (Yes, I geek out about my dog...)
By the way, if you have ANY questions regarding the trick dog stuff, feel free to ask! I am putting together a Q&A blog post about it and I would love to see your questions in it!
Anyway, without further ado, here is this week's tricks! Enjoy the video:
As I mentioned in my blog post last week, Pilot is working toward his Novice Trick Dog Title. Through DoMoreWithYourDog.com, I found a helpful group on Facebook who had a great plan to follow to teach my dog 15 tricks in a month (15 tricks are required to earn the title). Pilot already knew all of last weeks tricks, except one, which was the muffin tin game. In that game, I place bits of kibble and treats in the muffin slots and place balls on top of them, so that Pilot has to find the treats. In the video, I could only find 5 balls to place on the muffin tin, so that is all he had to search through. For the actual trick, I am supposed to put balls in all the slots, and have treats hidden under about half of them. So, we are working on acquiring more balls.
I was curious how Pilot would do with the game. He likes tricks, but he’s not exactly motivated when it comes to games, and I wasn’t sure if he would get this game. Lucky for him, he’s a chow-hound and he’s competitive. I showed him the trick with Lady and Hugo, the other two rescue mutts, present. Hugo’s little spaniel nose went right to work and he started finding the treats. Lady caught on and started following along. Pilot, of course, could not be outdone, so he started racing them. He quickly figured out that it was quite rewarding.
I can’t wait for my sister, Kristyn, to try the trick with her Golden Retrievers. They are all tennis ball nuts AND chow-hounds! I think it is going to be hilarious to watch them do it for the first time. The two items combined will surely fill their happy Golden minds with extreme conflict.
Here is a video of Pilot doing his first week tricks. He is already working on his second week tricks, so hopefully we'll have another video for you to watch next week.
Wow, first of the month already? And on a Monday. Ouch.
Well, it is a perfect day to scream, and allow me to be among the first to scream... WHITE RABBIT!
I must be the first person, you know. And, undoubtedly, I am the first person to White Rabbit you. Even if you are reading this late, even if somebody else screamed "White Rabbit!" at you today, I can promise you that I AM the first. Consider the time stamp on this post. What time did it post and/or deliver to your email? 1AM... Yeah. I AM the first person to White Rabbit you this fine 1st day of June.
I rule this game.
Okay, I'll shut up now.
Trick dog? Is that a thing?
Yes it is! And it's gradually becoming a very popular thing among dog owners.
Do you remember Lassie? Benji? Rin-Tin-Tin? They were all "trick dogs". Their owners and trainers taught them a bunch of tricks, which they would preform anywhere, even on camera. Not only did their tricks make them look heroic on screen (and make them rich & popular), but it made them great companions and useful working dogs, and their skills have made millions of people happy for many years.
Now days, it has become really easy to find content that teaches you to train your dog the exact same tricks - all by yourself!
This is what I am doing with Pilot. It's my hope to turn him into a titled trick dog. He's already well on his way!
Teaching dogs to do tricks is fun and rewarding, thus why it's become quite a popular thing for dog owners to do. It turns a dog from "a pet" into "a stinking awesome person I love more than my in-laws".
Okay, not really, but you get the point. Trick training makes your dog a valuable companion, and not just an annoying back yard door bell. Your dog becomes a joy for everyone - friends, family, and strangers - to be around.
Despite what you might think, it's not that hard to train a dog to do tricks, especially if he is willing to learn and you're willing to spend some time with him. It's actually a breeze, what with all the great content available on the internet to help you along.
There are some great books available that teach you how to train your dog. My favorites are by Kyra Sundance from Do More With Your Dog.com. Her books have detailed, bright, colorful pictures. They explain how to do all of the tricks so well, that even the children understand how to do it.
She has a few DVD's now that go along with the books, so you can sit and watch how to do it!
These three books by Kyra are the best, and they are my favorites. They've helped me a lot in my training of Pilot and other dogs (Amazon affiliate Links - read my disclosure policy):
Which dog is a Trick Dog?
Any dog can learn tricks. Rin-Tin-Tin was a German Shepherd. Lassie was a Collie. Benji was a mutt from the pound. So was Old Yeller. Pongo and Purdy were cartoons....
The trick for you is to choose a dog that has a willingness to learn and an eagerness to please.
Most herding breeds, like German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds, crave the mental exercise that trick training provides. Some terrier breeds, like the Rat Terrier and the Parson "Jack" Russell Terrier, thrive on trick training. As far as hunting breeds, I've never met a Labrador or a Golden Retriever who were not eager to please and willing to learn.
Bully breeds, guardian breeds, and little companion dogs are typically more stubborn and it takes a lot more work to convince them to do a trick, but they will do it if you have patience and persistence.
DON'T tell me that you have no patience. Nobody HAS patience. You learn patience.
If you aren't a patient person, get over it and start learning how to be.
Trick training isn't just for the dogs, you know...
The AKC website has great information about all the different groups and breeds of dogs. If you have a favorite breed, you can look it up on the AKC website and learn more, or you can get on YouTube and see if you can find a Dogs 101 video about it. Both give you a great idea of what it takes to properly care for that specific breed, and how easy they are to train.
If you aren't sure what breed of dog might best suite you, AKC has a quiz that you can take which will suggest a few dog breeds that would best fit your home, family, and lifestyle.
If you have a mutt dog and can guess what breeds it has in it, you can try out the AKC breed comparison tool and make a guess as to what independence level your dog will be/is. It's fun to play around with, if nothing else...
Otherwise, if you have a dog that loves to hang out with you, is playful, and wants to please you, then you have the makings of a trick dog. No matter how dumb or smart you might think your dog is, it all depends on how much time and effort YOU are willing to put into it, and how willing your dog is to do it with you.
Pilot as a Trick Dog
Pilot is a little more independent than what is ideal for a trick dog. He has his own ideas about how things should go. But, he is creative and energetic, and he really, really needs the mental exercise. So, before I started teaching him any tricks, I had to spend a lot of time convincing him that he wanted to learn.
Learning manners was the first stepping stone I took to teaching Pilot tricks. Before getting his breakfast or supper, he had to sit politely. Before he could go outside, he had to sit and wait for me to open the door. Before I would open the gate to go for a run, he had to sit. Once he had "sit" mastered, I moved it to "lay down".
Good manners got positive results and made him happy. If he forgot his manners, then nothing would happen and he wouldn't get what he wanted. He started paying attention and listening for queues, because he knew that good things would happen when he did the right thing.
I figured out pretty quickly that I had to give Pilot more exercise, especially before training sessions. I cannot begin to explain how much that helped him to focus. His energy level is set at FORCE-OF-NATURE, and if he doesn't get it out of system, then he won't focus on learning new things. He just becomes this really irritating ball of energy with sharp toe nails.
Seriously, if you have a dog that is out of control, he/she probably just needs more exercise.
The last few months, Pilot has come to the point where he loves to do tricks, anytime, anywhere. This makes me really happy. He is learning new tricks faster, and he enjoys doing his old tricks over and over again.
His favorite trick is "Roll Over". He does it all the time, whether I ask him to or not.
Some days are better than others, and some days are just horrible, but that's why it's called LIFE.
Here is a video I recently made of Pilot getting some exercise, playing with his little sheep friend, and finally doing some tricks with me.
White Rabbit Link Up
Don't forget to link up your newest, most recent blog post below! I love to read them!
(I do read all of them, so keep in mind that it should stay family friendly and it must be new. No more than 72 hours old.)
Author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion,she returns to this world just to play with her dog and blog about her fun.
Grab a Button!