Happy New Trick!

Happy New Year!

New Year, New Dog Trick! This New Year, why not resolve to spend more time having fun with your loved ones? Why not teach your dog a new trick? The days are so short and dark, and you and your dog are just staring at one another, or worse they are staring at you while you are staring at your phone, bored, year in, year out, same old kibble. Teaching fun tricks is a great way to spend time with your best friend!

Check out Doug’s new trick! He figured out how to open the little beer fridge and fetch me a drink! He is such a good boy, and Roscoe is such a patient and handsome audience member.

Doug already knows how to tug open doors (including refrigerator doors) using a tug rope. Teaching him to adapt to a new type of fridge wasn’t too tough, this trick took a week or so to teach, practicing for less than 5 minutes a day. Doug had to learn to use his ‘touch‘ skill, rather than his ‘tug’ skill to open the little beer fridge, which doesn’t have a handle or rope to work with. I taught him to open the door by using his ‘touch‘ cue (a hand target) held right against the fridge seal so that he could figure out where to push with his muzzle. That was easy enough because he already knows how to ‘push’ open and close doors, cabinets and drawers. He also already knew how to retrieve a beer cozy so getting the drink out was easy for him too… then came learning to close the door, and that part took a couple of days. In the teaching phase, I stand up and lead him around to the other side of the door to push it closed. It is so fun watching him figure it out, he was pushing the door open even wider, or looking in the fridge totally confused like a human who can’t remember what he came into the kitchen for in the first place.

I am so impressed with how quickly my dim witted Doug catches on to high level skills. He has the building blocks; he has the basics of retrieving, tugging, and pushing, and those building blocks allow him to quickly learn new combinations of these skills and apply them in new contexts. He learned to help with laundry by placing it in the basket and machines, he puts trash in the bin, toys in a box, shoes in a bucket, and a basketball in a hoop. He is learning to use his new automatic ball launcher (Christmas present from his grandparents!) by adapting this 1 skill to a new scenario.  All of these useful assistance dog tasks and fun tricks took very little time to teach once the original ‘drop-it (into a receptacle)’ skill was taught. Tugging and retrieving take time to shape, but touching and pushing can lead to very cool tricks and skills very quickly.

Are you curious to find out what your dog might be capable of? Always wanted to try teaching your dog something different, something fun and cool… maybe even something useful like the working dogs do??? Wag The Dog’s ‘Canine Superstars‘ novice trick dog title class is for you! This could be the year your dog learns to fetch you a beer!