Ever find yourself at home and bored out of your mind, staring at your phone or tv screen with your dog asleep next to you or at your feet? Well it’s time to stand up and do more with your dog! January is National Train Your Dog Month and we wanted to share a few different, fun ways to engage with your dog that allow you to practice new tricks, build stronger skills, and increase your bond with your pup.
“Between” or “middle” trick
First up is a trick called “Between” or “Middle”. This skill is an adorable trick to show off for friends and family members as well as an excellent life skill. As a finished behavior, your dog will understand to stand between your legs facing in the same direction as yourself on a verbal cue. You’ll begin with a treat in each hand that your dog can nibble on as you lure them into the right position. With your dog in front of you, use your dominant hand to guide them behind your legs, then use the treat in your opposite hand to guide them through your legs until they are standing between your feet. Feed your dog a few times while they are standing in between your legs and then say “Okay!” to release them out of position. This trick is fabulous for photos and is great for keeping your dog as close to you as possible in busy spaces or when others are passing by.
Another useful trick is one called “Bow”. This trick is a great way to promote relaxation and physical strength. The end goal of this behavior is that your dog will be able to keep their rear end in the air while their front legs rest flat on the ground. Begin with your dog in a standing position as you hold a treat that is big enough for your dog to nibble on. With the treat in front of your dog’s nose like a magnet, very slowly draw it down to the ground and between their front legs on a slight angle toward them. When their elbows begin to bend (before they lay down) praise them and give them the treat. Over time, you’ll work towards your dog achieving the full “bow” position with their elbows on the ground and rear end in the air. Maintaining this bow position for a few moments sets your dog up to stretch their spine. This type of stretching allows for greater blood circulation and relieves tension in the stress-carrying muscles along your dog’s spine.
A skill every canine actor knows is targeting, which often begins with simple hand targeting. This skill is a behavior where our dogs learn that when we say the verbal cue “touch” and extend our hand towards them, they should move towards and touch our hand with their nose. This skill is a great way to ask your dog to come to you and is a great way to move our puppies through space, such as guiding them onto or off of a surface, like your couch or the scale at the vet clinic.
This behavior takes time and patience to build. Begin by extending your hand a few inches away from your dog. When they come forward to investigate your hand, say “yes!” the moment their nose touches your hand, reinforce them with a treat. In the beginning, the hand targeting will not be deeply intentional on the part of your dog and that is expected. Once you begin to see they are targeting your hand with more intention, rather than just checking your hand for treats, you can begin to ask for multiple hand targets in a row, alternating between your two hands. To build this skill as a form of recall, you can begin to ask your dog to target your hand from further and further away. Sometimes, it can be helpful to move backward away from your dog as you extend your hand, as this may encourage them to move toward you to perform the skill.
Have fun with these easy but useful skills and learn more with your dog! To learn more about training opportunities in your community, reach out to us to hear about group classes and Enrichment Day Care, where your dog can learn and play each day!
Carla is a Behavior & Operation Advisor for Central Bark and co-owns a dog training and behavior consulting business, Good Karma Canine. Carla has three dogs Karma, a seven-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier Mix; Gypsy, a five-year-old Bull Terrier/Lab Mix; and Newt, a two-year-old Chihuahua.