When you hear the term “dog tricks”, what comes into your mind? Do you think about circus-like moves such as Foot Stall and Flip Flop or adorable tricks such as Sit Pretty and Hand Shake?
How about Sit and Down? Are they examples of those boring obedience behaviours?
What are the difference between obedience behaviours and tricks? They are both behaviours that your dog learn to perform on commands/cues or in response to particular situations. After all, it’s us humans who label and distinguish those two categories, isn’t it?
Well, when you teach your dog obedience behaviours, what is your mindset like? Do you feel like you are learning in a classroom? What about when you teach your dog tricks? Don’t you feel like you are playing with your dog in a playground?
If it is the same thing from your dog’s point of view, why don’t you take them both as tricks?
“Bruto, Sit! Wow, you are a good boy! That was a cool trick!!”
Let me introduce my first training partner and great teacher, Cinnamon.
The above photo was taken on the day she joined our family in September 2007. At that time we had an older Beagle called Cookie. But, I had never thought about teaching him anything other than domestic obedience commands, such as Sit, Down, and Come. In addition I didn’t expect much from Cookie because I was frequently told “Beagles are untrainable”.
However, things changed when I noticed Cinnamon’s mental and physical agility. Within a few days after her arrival, she started showing her exceptional physical ability by escaping from her puppy pen a few times. We never saw the scene of crime, but we found her in the hallway in the middle of night. When we went to check her puppy pen, it hadn’t moved or broken. So, the only way she could have got out was climbing over the pen or crate to get out.
When Cinnamon was 14 months old, we joined an Agility class. However, until the last a couple of sessions, I was unable to run her off leash, because I didn’t trust her recall.
A few months before Cinnamon made a debut in an Agility competition, I got my first clicker along with a target stick and a clicker training guidebook. Once we started clicker training, I was hooked instantly! Cinnamon enjoyed it from the beginning too. She was amazing, learning new behaviours quickly and proving that “Beagles are untrainable” was a false myth.
The first thing I tried using a clicker was teach my dogs to touch my hand or a target stick with their noses. Once they learned it, we practised foundation behaviours such as Sit, Down, and Stand, and Cinnamon quickly learned to do them only with verbal commands.
Well, we had a great start to clicker training but not everything went so well in terms of our training. I am going to tell you about countless challenges we have gone through in the subsequent posts.