Having Fun with Unique Dog Skills


Can dogs be taught unique and useful skills, too?


I get this question a lot from my clients who are often inspired by Hollywood-trained dogs that they see on television and in the movies. Can ordinary pets be trained to do amazing stuff? The answer is yes, if you’re willing to train your pet at home.


The dogs that people see on television are often taught by very dedicated trainers who have plenty of experiences and techniques.


Experienced trainers are not only adept in using different techniques; they are also natural canine leaders who can easily elicit respect and compliance from different breeds of dogs.


Can a regular dog owner teach his dogs unique skills?


Any dog owner who is willing to give his pet enough training time can become an adequate dog trainer.


Of course, you could always bring your dog to an obedience school and have it trained by someone with more experience. But the fact of the matter is that there are thousands of regular pet owners out there who are actually enjoying the dog training process.


How can you become a more productive dog trainer?


Now, if you do decide to teach your dog yourself, remember these key training guidelines:


  1. Always be the pack leader.


  1. Don’t harm or punish a dog when it doesn’t comply with a command immediately.


  1. Be consistent with your hand signals and verbal commands.


  1. Reward frequently but don’t spoil your pet.


  1. Redirect bad behavior quickly to impress upon your pet that it should avoid the behavior in the future.


  1. Use a leash and collar when walking outside. Use the leash to communicate “yes” or “no” to your dog. A slight tug on the leash should be sufficient to get your dog’s attention. Mark undesirable behaviors with “no” so they can easily be remembered.


What unique skills can you teach your dog today?


There are literally hundreds of different actions that can be taught to a trainable dog. Dogs can be quite versatile in training once they figure out that complying with commands is an easy way to get treats and other kinds of rewards. Here are some skills that you can start teaching your pet today:


Turning the Light On/Off


To train your dog to paw a switch on the wall, you have to mark the object (the light switch) and provide a reward after your dog has completed the task. To get your dog’s interest in the first attempt, get a small treat and place it a few inches away from the light switch.


If your dog paws the light switch successfully, give your dog the treat and mark the action with a verbal command like “lights!” In your second attempt, put a treat on your hand and close it into a fist.


Put your “treat hand” a few inches away from the light switch. Use your other hand to lightly tap the light switch. Repeat until your dog responds to the tapping sound.


When your dog succeeds once again in manipulating the switch, offer the reward and praise your pet.


You can use the very same technique to train a dog to open a door with a long handle for you. You can encourage a dog to manipulate a door handle or lever by tapping on the handle and placing a treat just outside the door.


Your dog has to find the treat when the door opens. Again, make sure that you mark the action with a verbal command such as “open.”


Picking Up Toys and Objects


Can you teach a dog to clean up its own toys?


You can definitely teach a dog to pick up its scattered toys. To train your dog to pick up stuff off the floor, prepare a room with a box in the middle and a few toys or objects scattered on the floor.
Tap on a toy that you would like your dog to pick up. When your dog succeeds in grabbing a toy with its mouth, say, “Pick up!” Now move across the room and kneel behind the box. Wait for your dog to approach and when it is near enough, say, “Drop” and give it at treat.


A dog would have to drop whatever it is holding to get the treat, so you will be able to capture the second phase of the skill. When the object drops into the box, praise the dog and command it to pick up more toys.

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