Teaching Your Dog Tricks And Stage Work

Teaching tricks is a part, not a major part, of training a dog. The performing of tricks by the dog is entertaining to spectators, and if the dog has been treated kindly, is a work of pleasure for him. The dog is a clear exception to the statement that animal acts of the stage are made possible only thur the cruelty of long training.

Tricks are not after the natural life of dogs; they do not spring from the instinct of the dog as do almost all other training acts, such as guarding, trailing, jumping and the like. But the dog is exceedingly anxious to please and out of this desire arises his willingness and aptitude for learning and performing tricks.

A certain type of dog personality is required for the successful accomplishment of tricks; almost any dog can learn the general training work which we have discussed,  for this work is a development of his natural abilities. The doing of tricks calls for a dog clever rather than intelligent, quick rather than strong, and imitative rather than initiating. In the chapter Do Dogs Reason? is found a further discussion of tricks done by dogs.

Genius, it is said, is a close cousin of madness. One can easily step into the other’s territory. So, to train the dog in unusual acts, develop idiosyncrasies of the dog. Watch intently for habits, practices and deviations. Foster them and turn them into successful acts and tricks.

The author has been criticized for his statement that a trick dog need not 6e a thinking dog. Most tricks are built upon accidental discoveries of unusual actions or traits of the dog. This is clearly exemplified in the following extract taken from The Big Cage, a book written by the noted animal trainer Clyde Beatty (published 6y the Century Company, New York City)

“Nervousness is generally characteristic of the great cats, especially the females. The most nervous animal I’ve ever handled was Nellie, a lioness. When I first started training her she developed a habit of whirling round and round excitedly before I could pedestal her. At the height of her dizzy revolutions, she looked like a new kind of whirling dervish. “When I found I couldn’t break her of this habit, I determined to capitalize it. With a band playing fast music while she swung around the arena, she become the ‘whirling lioness.’

“The stunt was extremely popular and I did not drop it until my act became so big and there were so many lions and tigers in it that there was insufficient floor space left for nervous Nellie’s performance. Thus ended the career of the ‘whirling lioness.”

After the dog has finished a trick, reward him with a morsel he likes such as a bit of meat, boiled liver, dog biscuit, or chocolate. If he does his work listlessly or fails, do not reward him. And put him into his training work when he is hungry—just before meal time.

Your dog may seem dull in catching the meaning of what you want him to do; you should not judge him until you have worked with him for at least two weeks.

Bear in mind that the smartest dog may not learn to do certain tricks tho in others he shows himself an expert performer.

SHAKING HANDS is an easy accomplishment. Bend forward, hold out your hand near one of his front legs, and with the other hand, tap it toward you but on the far side of the leg. Command “shake” as you do this. If he is slow in lifting the paw, press down on it sharply.

PLAYING DEAD or “dying for one’s country” is an amusing accomplishment. The command “down” is given as we already have set forth. Then motion with your hands in a rolling or turning movement and assist him to turn. Command “roll over-dead,” as you do this. When he is on his back, push his paws slowly inward, commanding “dead” several times. As you rush him to his feet, command “alive.”

This trick should be learned easily by the dog. Try it, as is the method with any other trick, three or four periods a day, but do not take more than ten minutes each period. This daily training for two weeks should make the dog an able “dead actor.”

To teach your dog to SPEAK UPON COMMAND–“speak,” attract his attention by the wave of a hand, utter a hissing sound as “s-s-s-s-s-s,” but do not imitate his bark, you only amuse him thereby.

Begin your speaking instruction at feeding time; hold his food before him and do not give it to him until he barks; but as he begins to bark, command “speak.” After a time, he will associate that they must happen together. At first he will whine rather than bark; then command “louder” and usually he will burst forth into a bark. Command “again”‘ and he will repeat his bark.If he is reluctant, put his food away and come back in a few minutes to repeat the routine.

Psychologically, you can work on the dog’s stomach to accomplish many things. When he is hungry, he is hungry–he wants his food and he is not slow to tell you so.

He whines and yelps and barks naturally and readily when food is presented to him. Now comes the usual pedagogical method of associating one thing with another. Tease him with the food and command constantly, “Speak( Speak! Speak!”

I taught one of my own dogs not only to speak but when he did bark, I immediately said “Louder” and he would bark again (usually louder-at least it seemed so), and I too would say “Again” and he would bark the third time. (He likely would have done so anyhow).

All smart dogs sit up with paws in the air, or stand upright on their hindlegs. To teach him to SIT UP, place him near the corner of a room with his back to the comer. Hold his head up with one hand, taking him by the collar; with the other hand, press down firmly and with a slight jerk on his rump. As he rises, remove the hand from the collar and place it under his front legs. Command “up, sit” several times during this work.

He will attempt to raise himself on his hindlegs. Take both front paws in one hand and with the other draw his hind feet into proper position, well under his haunches so that they will support him and that he will not fear a fall. Meanwhile press down with your hand on his front paws.

Next he will do what you feared–he will cave in at the stomach; just slap him slightly there to correct this tendency.

As an aid, snap your fingers above his head. Remove the hand from his paws for an instant at a time. Try the trick away from the wall after a few days.

To WALTZ is just a step further from “up-stand.” Waltz around him while he is standing upright on his hindlegs. He likely will drop on all fours. Keep him up with a slap from your hand. Waltz about him, moving a bit of food above his head. Snap your fingers above his head and command “waltz.” You can take one paw in your hand as you move around him. After a month, he should do well.

SHUT THE DOOR is a useful trick. Get him on his hindlegs with the command “up-stand.” Tap the spot on the door where he should strike with his paws. Hold the door so that it does not close too rapidly. Then let the door close slowly with the dog holding his paws on it, following on his hindlegs. A bit of food may be put on the door knob of the open door, to tempt the dog to stand upright against the door.

PLAYING BALL is learned naturally by the dog. A soft ball should be used. Throw it slowly just about three feet above him and so that it will come down near his mouth. Do not play ball with him on rough or splintery floor. The result may be torn toe nails or bleeding paws.

Catching a ball is easily learned by the dog. A more difficult trick is for him to BALANCE A BALL on his nose and then, at snap of fingers, jerk his nose away with an upward turn and catch the ball in mouth. Place a bit of molasses or other sweet substance on the ball and at first, shove the dog’s head and ball up with your hand so that the ball is lifted three or four feet in air. Snap your fingers loudly or call “catch it.” as you shove head and ball up.

To teach the dog to FETCH HIS LEAD, shout “lead” each time just before you take him out for his run. Repeat “lead” several times, then lead him to it, fasten it to his collar and take him out. Within two weeks, at the sound of “lead,” he should run for it and bring it to you. Always keep the lead in the same place.

Your dog has been taught to “sit,” that is, on his haunches and to “sit up,” that is, to sit erect, front feet in the air.

It is not necessary to marvel how a dog is taught to WALK UPRIGHT on his hindlegs. A bit of food is the secret to the trick. Hold it just above his nose, command him “stand up” and as he reaches for the food, first let him have it but not thereafter. Then as the lessons advance, move just a bit so that he must move along on his hindlegs but he will bob up and down on all fours, if you do not catch him. Tap him quickly on the chest, or better still, use a harness with lead attached and help him up as you pull on the lead.

After a time, do not use food as a tempter but reward him with bits of food when he is down on all fours.

The advanced stage of this training is that after he has gotten up on his hindlegs and has moved a few steps, you back away and command “Walkl” Hold the food in air as a lure in front of him. This lesson should extend over a period of about fifteen days.

Tricks in which dogs imitate the peculiarities of humans strike a popular response. Dogs YAWN–and more frequently than humans. Here is a trick which requires no great work nor secret.

When the dog yawns, pat him on the head; command “Yawn,” encourage him in every way. IF necessary, tap him briskly on the side of the jaw so that he opens his mouth. Try this trick a half dozen times a day for about fifteen days. It is simple but effective.

Teach your dog to STRETCH. following the same pedagogical idea.

The dog likes to remove objects from his lips and nose and muzzle with his tongue. In fact. certatn medicines are given in this way.

Spread on the nose and upper lips some substance which the dog likes, such as gravy, molasses or meat broth. Command him, CLEAN YOUR MOUTH! Naturally he will lick his lips and enjoy the smacking.

As in the teaching of all tricks, one thing leads to another until the dog does the act without the stimulant in a short time. Even in less than a week, the dog on command should lick his lips with his tongue, without the “temptation” spread on it.

Of course, when he does this trick without any substance on his lips, you can reward him with food, but that is a reward only.

The dog CRAWLING on command presents an interesting spectacle, which combines much bodily activity and full obedience.

First, get the dog into position as, of course, is necessary in the performance of any trick. Command him to “down.” Now to get into the dog’s mind the idea of what you want him to do.

Have him on leash. Speak slowly “Easy, Crawll” His first impulse will be to get up and follow you. Quickly and briskly command “NoI down.” Press down on him with your hand, if necessary.

Each time you command him to crawl, pull on the leash strongly but steadily. He will always start to stand up. Stop him as quickly as you can. Keep him moving when he is half way up and at the same time, force him down with the band or by jerking down on the leash.

First, work close to him, then work on a longer lead, then work without the lead, increasing the distance between you and the dog gradually. Reward him, of course. with a kind word when he accomplishes his crawling act.

In about two or three weeks, he should do this work fairly well. Crawling thru tunnels and thru various round objects can be a variation.

To teach the dog to WALK ON THREE LEGS with one of the front legs held up, must be included in every list of good dog tricks, whether on the stage, in the movies, or in the home.

But it is not particularly an easy trick for teaching. The lead or rope must be tied around the dog’s front foot just above the paw. The other end of it should be attached to the collar.

Here again the dog’s constant desire to come to his master upon command is the basis of the trick. Coax him to “Come” and as you say “Come,” also say “Crippled Soldier.” Pull him towards you with the end of the lead attached to the collar. The front foot of the dog must be held up off the ground carefully as you pull on the other end of the lead.

After ten days of this work, you can try the trick without the cord. Be quick to tap his foot when he tries to place it on the ground. Keep the lead attached to the collar for some time.

Always be quick to shout “No!” when he attempts to put his foot on the ground. Here is not an easy trick but any intelligent dog is capable of it after about three weeks of training.

The interesting trick of CHASE YOUR TAIL is done almost naturally by certain dogs. Frankly I say that some dogs never can learn it.

The command should be “Chase-tail.” Speak it slowly, clearly, distinctly, firmly, as should all commands be spoken.

As the dog is turning round and round in playful mood, with yourself bolding the tip of the dog’s tail to his mouth, say “Chase-tail.” Now he must not actually catch his tail; he is simply to go round and round after his tail. If he does actually seize it, a stern “No Drop it” should be given.

Many more tricks can be devised. These are only suggestive of dozens of others which the master can devise as he observes the natural inclinations of his dog and turns them into actions on command. The only requirements are a dog that likes his master, a master who is willing to spend the long time necessary in the teaching, and who has much kindness, patience and praise.