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.
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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.)
It has almost been a year since Pilot was given to me, September 10th, 2013. He and I have been through quite a bit since then. He loved going to work with me while I worked at a local greenhouse, but when the greenhouse quit for the winter, he quickly learned to cope with staying at home all the time. However, he takes any chance available to jump in the vehicle with me and go for a road trip. He loves sticking his head out the window or the back of the pickup while we are driving to let the wind blow in his face.
Pilot is a firecracker full of energy! If I were a jogging/running person, or an agility guru, we would be a match made in heaven! Unfortunately for him, I only walk and hike. He loves to explore, so the time we spend hiking is well spent.
When I stopped working at the greenhouse in October, I had to find another energy and mental outlet for Pilot. So we got into trick training and obedience. This proved to be a real challenge for the both of us. Pilot is whip smart, but he has the greatest of difficulty focusing on any one thing for too long. So, I started using meal time as a time to teach him to calm down, wait, and focus. He quickly picked up on the "all good things come to those who wait" proverb.
He likes playing Frisbee (for about 15 minutes, then his attention span goes *bye-bye*), so I also started using that, along with tasty treats, to reinforce his manners. I would refuse to throw the Frisbee until he sat, laid down or, later, rolled over. Then I would treat him and/or throw the Frisbee. Now he's a pro at "Stay", "Sit", "Down", "Roll Over", and we are currently working on nailing down "Spin".
I did have a teeny-tiny agility course set up for him to run during spring. He LOVED that course until we took it down when the weeds started getting bigger than me. He likes jumping up on things, climbing things, running through things, and learning how to navigate stuff. Honestly, I think he would be a great agility dog star. I posted a short video on YouTube of him doing some of his agility, if you would like to see it.
As far as personality, Pilot gets along with everybody. He has been very well behaved and gentle around the elderly and disabled, and he just adores children. He also gets along well with other dogs, even those that are known to be a bit mean and grumpy. The first thing he wants to do with another dog is play, but he has learned to sit down, wait, and smile at the other dog until it warms up to him.
On the other hand, rabbits and small fuzzy animals are his to chase, bite, and kill. He will tolerate the pet rabbits being outside of their cages, as long as I have my eye on him, but I dare not turn my back to him or the pet bunny will be NO MORE!
Birds tend to be an interesting subject with Pilot. He ignores the chickens, and he watches the adult peacocks from a distance, but littler birds are just a ball with wings for him. He has killed more sparrows than I care to count, and he killed one of our baby peacocks when it was trying to fly. He just snatched it right out of the air (yeah, that was not one of our better days). He also wants to chase cattle and horses. Thankfully, I have been able to drill a very strong recall into him, which has saved us both from a few accidents more than once, but I still keep him on a strong lead whenever I know we are going to be around cattle or horses. Goats and sheep don't seem to bug him too much, but this could be because our little lamb and our goat have whipped his rear and taught him some manners.
So, aside from digging holes in the yard for his bones, and tearing up whatever toys get accidentally left outside, he's a pretty good boy. And he is super cute when he howls with the coyotes at night. He does! He sits in the middle of the yard, raises his head, and howls with the best of them!
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.
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