Basketball Doug

Doug learned to dunk a basketball! This easy trick is taught using the same basic ‘drop in a bucket’ skill that makes tricks like doing the laundry and taking out the trash work, and yes, Doug can also put all his toys away! Doug’s got game! His basketball skills really thrill me. I’m sure you can tell that I’m his biggest fan and cheerleader, screaming his praises from the sidelines. I hope you like this trick too!

Teach your dog to dunk a basketball

Pre-requisite training: Retrieving

Teaching this trick is so easy! Practice having your dog retrieve a ball to your hand, then stand behind the shortest net possible and hold your hand over it. Offer him a treat at just the right moment, making the trade right above the net. If they know a ‘drop-it’ cue, use that too. With any luck, your dog will drop the ball into the net. Mark with ‘Yes!’ and you can reward them with enthusiasm, and another toss of the toy. You can teach this trick without treats if your dog is toy obsessed, because just the chance to play again will suffice.

If your dog gets rejected by the net, don’t let them feel rejected by you! You may get away with booing a bad shot at an NBA game, but your dog will notice when you sigh with frustration, and it kills them inside. Don’t sweat it! It’s just a game! Try to encourage your dog to pick up the ball again, maybe kicking it a little bit, (not the big kick you’ll save for when he makes the dunk) and try again. Ask yourself if there is some way you can make the task easier, breaking it down into smaller bits, or going back half a step in your training process.

Once your dog is dunking well, step aside and point to the net as he comes to dunk. I use the cue ‘dunk!’ Step closer if they look confused. Once that is going well, try raising the net while he runs to get the next ball. He might not even notice that it is higher. There was a stage or two when I thought Doug dunked even better after I had raised the net. In the video you can see Doug practicing with a shorter hoop, and he doesn’t need to put his paws on the rim to dunk yet. His brother ruined his actual basketball, and by the time the hoop was set high enough for him to really slam dunk, the frame wasn’t strong enough to support his hang time. So we brought in a kid’s soft soccer ball replacement, and my husband strapped the backboard to the porch. We made it work.

You’ll need to encourage your dog to stand on their back feet to reach a higher net, maybe eventually using their paws on the rim. Using your ‘up’ cue can be helpful, but be sure to reward any effort at all to raise the ball in the air. Your dog may need weeks to learn this trick, but you’ll spend just 5 minutes a day, and your dog will love this game from day 1, so enjoy the process.