Let’s test your dog’s memory by asking them to perform their tricks without cues.
How many tricks can they come up with on their own?
Your dog may surprise you, this game challenges them to invent new tricks too!
It’s a pretty easy game, on your end of the leash. Just sit back and watch your dog do backflips trying to impress you.
A) Just stand there, and ask for a ‘new trick?’
B) Say ‘yes!’ and reward any new behaviour
C) Name the behaviour
My dogs usually start by sitting, lying down, and doing the classic parlour tricks they know best like playing dead, spinning, and rolling over. Then, they’re thinking hard, trying to figure out something new to do. For each new trick, I’ll say ‘yes!’ and name the trick as I feed them; if they sit, I’ll say ‘yes!’ and feed them as I say ‘sit.’ Resist rewarding them for any tricks they’ve already done, unless they do it in a particularly amazing way.
Capture New Behaviours
This is why the ‘new trick’ game is so cool: You can capture anything new your dog comes up with! This game is particularly good for capturing because your dog is deliberately offering behaviours in order to earn your reward. If they come up with a trick you like, say ‘yes!’ and name it. Come up with a hand signal right then. Reward again if they try it again.
This game is similar to the ‘100 things to do with a box’ clicker shaping game, where you sit there with a clicker in front of a box, and click for tricks. The dog can step into the box, pick it up, go around it, anything! The dog learns to try new things to get you to click, and all you do is sit back and pick out your favourite trick!
Try this game with your dog, it might just be the easiest game you have ever played. As for your dog, this game is brilliant mental exercise, it will challenge their memory and ingenuity in a delightfully simple way.
The video shows the one time that Doug didn’t promptly get hooked on the ‘back’ trick. We wasted quite a bit of filming time with him at a 15 foot distance, completely out of the frame. We had been working on distance cues, so he was pretty sure that backing up 5, 10, 15 ft, then going through his repertoire, was the thing to do. Expect your dog to perform their most recently learned tricks with extra enthusiasm. They will be pretty sure those new tricks are the ones you want, because lately, those are the tricks that have been paying off most. If they seem stumped or stuck, you can hint by listing every trick they haven’t done yet. If they are putting in effort, but keep repeating the same trick, say “good… but I’d like a new trick.” Eventually, they will learn that ‘new trick’ means come up with a novel behaviour.
Have fun testing your dog’s memory with this game, and let me know if they come up with a cool new trick!