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)
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!