Tricks as Distraction

Cotons Tyler and Tucker here have perfected "The Nose" trick balancing a piece of broccoli on their noses until told: "Take it!".

I used to think that tricks were cute things people could teach their dogs. Fun but not very important.

But I recently have had a dog named Rowdy. And Rowdy is, well, rowdy. Likes to get into other dogs’ business and loves to bark and chase anything that moves.

I was tearing my hair out on the subject to my kennel partner Karen the other day.

“Listen,” she said, “haven’t you taught him any tricks yet?”


“Well it’s simple. Some dog behavior is basic nature. Terriers, for example, will chase small quick moving creatures and can be extremely protective. They are hard-wired to be independent thinkers, so they don’t ask your permission before chasing down the small child that is screeching down your hallway. You can’t “teach” them to not do this. Yes, basic obedience really helps and plenty of exercise is a must. But what Rowdy really needs to learn is a trick.”

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s simple really. If you can distract Rowdy’s attention with something ELSE that he really likes to do at the moment when he is about to do something inappropriate, you can break the cycle of must-chase-small-child or whatever the situation is. In other words, you teach him a trick.”

“Wow – what a cool idea.”

It worked well with our mini Rambo, and it will work well with your dog too.

Teaching tricks as distraction is easy. You watch your dog in action. Dogs naturally do cute behavior all day long. When you see your dog do something, name it. Every time he naturally does the trick name it. Sooner or later he will connect the action to the name. Then when you need him to do his trick, name it and he will do it.

Rowdy has two tricks. He loves to "give paw" and, because he is always nudging the back of my leg with his nose, the other one is high five – he jumps up and touches my hand with his nose. Slowly I’m putting my hand higher and higher so he really has to jump for it. He loves it! Much more fun than chasing small children!

Check out more data about training with tricks at Useful Dog Tricks

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Here's Rowdy winning at his first big show, behaving just long enough to get his picture taken!
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