I have a young dog but have run out of tricks.
June 13, 2012 10:36 AM   Subscribe

I need help thinking up some new tricks to train my dog to do.

My Australian Silky Terrier Jinx is 3 years old and too smart for his own good. He loves learning tricks and has taken to clicker training like a duck to water. I have unfortunately run out of ideas of things to teach him and would love some suggestions. Tricks that build on stuff he already knows would be great, but any ideas for fun, silly or practical things he could learn to do much appreciated.

Tricks he already knows. Sit, Down, Dance, Roll over, pretending to be shot and playing dead, touch (touching his nose to my hand) touch to a ball on a stick, shake, circle (we walks in a circle around me), get your ball, get your toy, give. He is about 90% on recall depending on the location of nearby squirrels, being a terrier this one is a little tricky for him and we are working on that all the time.

He has done agility and obedience classes, and can do it but doesn't really enjoy it as he really doesn't like other dogs and treats it like work, he does because I like it and he likes me. It is a shame as our other dog loves agility. Jinx does however love doing tricks and is getting bored of the ones he already knows.

Compulsory photo of Jinx with his Rat Terrier brother Buddy and their Grandma (my MIL)
posted by wwax to Pets & Animals (42 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I was always impressed by my friend who trained his cat (!) to jump from one chair to another through a hoop.

(This friend, who enjoyed a good preactical joke, also taught a cat to come by making a revele horn noise with his mouth. The sole purpose of this was so his wife would have to stand in the front yard playing an imaginary horn whenever she wanted to call the cat home.)
posted by The Deej at 10:39 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

One that I just started working on is "bow". I'm trying to get her to pose like she does when she stretches (front paws out, body angled down, rear legs vertical). What about "speak"?
posted by kookywon at 10:43 AM on June 13, 2012

Guard - guarding x would build off circling you; can you teach him to 'guard' a toy (or anything else you ask him to)?

Teach him to shake hands and progress to a high 5.

Bow - the opposite of sit.

Wait - stay, on steroids. My dogs always loved the anticipation. I would throw a ball and tell them to wait; finding the ball was half the fun! It also is a useful command for any number of situations.
posted by faineant at 10:47 AM on June 13, 2012

Can you teach him to do something useful? I once taught my dad's lab to open the doors on the entertainment center so I could watch TV without getting up (um, because I am a huge lazy-ass). Unfortunately she was so enthusiastic about this she nearly wrecked the entertainment center.
posted by mskyle at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2012

'Speak' seems like the obvious classic that you're missing, so much that I wonder if you just forgot to mention it.

Me, though, I always wanted a dog that would get the paper.

(Your photo comes up as private for me.)
posted by box at 10:50 AM on June 13, 2012

Our dog puts her paws on her eyes when we say "hide!", she also yawns on command, but that was a total accident.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:05 AM on June 13, 2012

Whoops on the photo. Think I fixed it sorry about that.

I so haven't even thought of teaching him speak. We lived in an apartment for so long and our downstairs neighbours bitched about any noise so much I kind of crossed it off of my mental list, but now we've moved I can do it.

Loving the bow idea too, he does doggy yoga as we call it all the time so that should be an easy one. I am also off to hunt for hoops on Amazon because that would be too cute.

Great ideas guys, please keep 'em coming.
posted by wwax at 11:05 AM on June 13, 2012

I spent a very entertaining few winter months teaching my dog something I called "Mirror," wherein we would face one another and do a simple series of movements as though we were each others mirror image - raise one arm/paw, raise the other, tilt head from side to side, raise both arms/paws together, headtilt again. Pretty basic, but extremely diverting when done to the beat of terrible techno music.
posted by elizardbits at 11:06 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you're willing to buy a book, I suggest this one: 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance. She has thought up some fiendishly clever things for dogs to do. Here's a Best Of video with her dog Chalcy that gives you an idea of what's possible. Note that Ms. Sundance uses only positive methods (yay!)
posted by workerant at 11:06 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Carp! I didn't mean to hit Post yet.

So get to work on Speak (it took me 30 minutes of barking at my dog before we got anywhere with that one), then move on to Inside Voice (quiet bark.) The Speak command is super-useful because you need it to teach the No Speak (Shh!) command.

Teach your dog the names of her toys and ask her to bring them to you by name. Make a toy box and teach your dog to police up her toys and put them away.

Right now we're working on getting a Therapy Dog certification, so we're practicing heeling using this guy's technique. It turns out that getting my dog to pivot in place is the most challenging thing I've ever tried to teach her.
posted by workerant at 11:14 AM on June 13, 2012

Here are a few ideas:
- searching for hidden objects
- wave (building on shake, hold up a paw and wave hello/goodbye)
- retrieve more objects by name ("go get your big red ball")
- bring you a beer from the fridge (tie a cloth around the fridge handle that the dog can pull, have beer can/bottle in a holder that the dog can pick up)
- score (push a ball with his nose to move it through the goal posts)
- catch a ball or frisbee in the air
- going to specific people by name ("go to grandma")
- go to bed
- stand (stand on hind legs)
- sit up (sit on two back legs, holding up front paws)
- loose leash walking
- say hi (approach new person/dog for greeting)
- leave it (ignore tempting object on the ground, can also be generalized to ignoring squirrels in the park)
posted by medusa at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

My friend taught her dog to cook a waffle. They were on the Late Show!

A classic clicker training trick is to blow bubbles in the water dish.
posted by anaelith at 11:25 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

One fun thing to do with a smart dog is to start chaining his behaviors into a whole 'routine'. It's so impressive to show to friends. As you build a routine you'll think of fun behaviors.

Can he circle in both directions?
What about walking between your legs?
What about circling some other point?
What about retrieving toys by name?
posted by muddgirl at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2012

My dog is like yours. We are still working through this book. He gets excited when I pull it out.

Take a look at the You Tube videos on clicker training, too -- you can get lots of ideas about chaining learned behaviors. Positive training and taking it one link/step in the chain at a time can get you incredible results.
posted by bearwife at 11:33 AM on June 13, 2012

I knew a minister who taught her black Lab to pray. Doggie would sit on floor, in front of a chair and when the owner said," Let us pray", would put her front paws on the chair and bow her head between the paws.
IMHO, best dog trick EVER!
Ignore this if you are an atheist.
posted by pentagoet at 11:38 AM on June 13, 2012

Check out all the tricks Nana the border collie can do--all with positive reinforcement and clicker training.
posted by Carol Anne at 11:40 AM on June 13, 2012

In addition to tricks, perhaps Jinx might enjoy being a therapy dog. You don't normally think of terriers for therapy dog work, but their intelligence and self-possession actually make them quite good at it. Since Jinx has been through obedience classes, he should have no problem passing the certification test (warning: pdf), then he can start making visits and figure out how to be a good therapy dog.
posted by DrGail at 11:46 AM on June 13, 2012

Oh my god, I love your terriers!

These people have used clickers to teach their dogs to skateboard and one of them rides a scooter.
posted by BibiRose at 11:59 AM on June 13, 2012

For a dog who knows "shake," teaching them to wave is super easy. Also, if you add in things like spinning right and left, taking a bow, going between your legs, dancing, backing up--you are well on your way to being able to put together a whole "doggie dancing" routine.
posted by drlith at 12:05 PM on June 13, 2012

My friend has taught her inexhaustible Labrador "you play!"- when the dog wants a stick thrown for the 5,000th time and friend is done with the, she gives that command and the dog trots off happily mauling the stick in its mouth.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:30 PM on June 13, 2012

Aw, I had a super-smart terrier when I was a kid! Our favorite trick was jumping through my arms made into a hoop. (that's not us, just some random folks on youtube to give you the idea). Always requested at parties.
posted by Erasmouse at 12:48 PM on June 13, 2012

Smart dogs are a lot of work! I understand all to well.

The show-stoppers we have taught our dog: to balance things on his nose like this or 1, 2, 3, 4.

He also does this with greenies and pig ears. Added level of difficulty with those: he has to toss it up in the air and catch it in his mouth before he can eat it. If he misses, it's a do-over.

Have you taught your dog "leave it"? That is a useful command generally, but if he knows that then you can put a treat in front of him and have him wait until you give the ok to take it. Our version of the trick is, you put the treat down and say "Army chow" which is the command to wait. The dog sits there, drooling, until you say "Navy grub" and the dog can go get it and eat it. (You'd have to ask my husband's grandfather why army chow sucks and only navy grub is edible, but there you go.)

We have also taught our dog to find things we have hidden around the house. We show him the item, tell him to "stay", disappear, come back and say "Go find it" and he runs around the house sniffing madly for it.
posted by ambrosia at 1:11 PM on June 13, 2012

Thirding the therapy dog certification!

How about *specific item* fetches? Fetch your phone, fetch a beer (tie a towel to the fridge door handle to make it easier), fetch the bottle opener for your beer....
posted by easily confused at 1:21 PM on June 13, 2012

We taught our dogs to wait at their dishes to eat until they hear: "In the words of my uncle, 'Allez cuisine!'" That is a good trick.

Hide-and-seek is a game, but there is a trick to it. Sounds like he might love that. My dogs do!
posted by FergieBelle at 1:24 PM on June 13, 2012

OOH ALSO. I honestly have no idea how you would even go about doing so, but it would be the most fantastic thing in the entire world if you could train your dog to find lost keys in the house.
posted by elizardbits at 1:25 PM on June 13, 2012

We considered teaching our dog to go fetch a beer, but then we realized that would involve the dog learning how to open the fridge. We decided against it. Unless you have a second fridge you can just keep drinks in. I know our cheese drawer would not survive such training.
posted by ambrosia at 1:27 PM on June 13, 2012

Jumping through a hula hoop can be learned in a day and always impresses guests. Since terriers are known for their jumping height anyway, this would be particularly impressive.
posted by Gilbert at 2:03 PM on June 13, 2012

There's always the option of teaching your dog how to do a barrel roll.
posted by TaconibsPHD at 2:17 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have a go at some of Ashley and Pudsey's moves - winners of this year's Britain's Got Talent.
posted by penguin pie at 2:19 PM on June 13, 2012

"Crawl" is always a crowd pleaser...... start with "down" and then have them come, but have a hand on their back.
posted by starman at 3:54 PM on June 13, 2012

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Like, mind bogglingly impressive. Like, dogs can smell lung cancer on your breath.

You have to train your dog to do something that takes advantage of that.


Find your wallet. Give your dog a sniff of your wallet and then say "find my wallet" or make some distinctive sound. Then follow standard "find this" smell training techniques--you may want to make sure the dog can distinguish between finding contents of the wallet (e.g. credit cards, receipts) from the actual wallet. Then one day when you're not sure where you've placed your wallet, just ask your dog. If it's in the house, the dog will know where. Once this is mastered, try to repeat it with keys, phone, etc.

Find money. I'm guessing that money has a strong and unique smell to your dog. Train your dog to bark a special bark, or point when it smells cash. Then go for a walk! (Point to consider: can your dog smell the difference between 14k gold jewelry and gold plated?)

Food spoilage detector. Is that milk still good? Ask your dog. Which leftover was from last night and which was from last week? Ask the dog.

Long shots:

Girlfriend/Boyfriend detector. Can your dog smell pheromones that indicate that a person is looking for someone? Did you know that people tend to connect with people who have compatible pheromones (scientists think this indicates a good genetic match)? Do you have at least one item from each ex? Can your dog find the common smell from them all? Given a bunch of items from various exes, and a group of new items, one of which is from an ex, can your dog pick out the correct one? Now go for a walk in the park, and wait for your dog to point someone out. It may mean you've got a better-than-usual chance with 'em.

Depression Averter. Can your dog tell the difference in how you smell when you are depressed and when you are happy? (Perhaps find objects that you were around during a low time in your life, vs. items from when you were happy?) Train your dog that when it smells the "depression" objects, it's time to play. Then when you're having a low week, you'll be distracted from it by your very playful dog and benefit from the endorphins and pet-therapeutic effects.
posted by brenton at 4:15 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Like, mind bogglingly impressive. Like, dogs can smell lung cancer on your breath.

Yes, my dog can smell pregnancy. Even before a missed period. Awkward.
posted by ambrosia at 4:46 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, my dog can smell pregnancy. Even before a missed period. Awkward.

Cool. What does your dog do? Does it start behaving differently around you?
posted by brenton at 4:53 PM on June 13, 2012

Teach him to read!
posted by moira at 5:22 PM on June 13, 2012

I found a great website with advanced dog tricks, and while my dog at the time wasn't up to most of them, I did teach him vacuum: the dog noses over the floor on command, and is allowed to snarfle what he finds. Excellent if you have children (or are messy eaters yourself).
posted by grueandbleen at 5:29 PM on June 13, 2012

These are great! How about the shell game? There's a parrot on Youtube who can do it quite well (which of course I can't find right now), and my cat is (slowly) learning it. It builds on "low five" (or tagging an item).
posted by bluesky78987 at 9:57 PM on June 13, 2012

Canine Good Citizen!
Canine freestyle!

The dog tricks that have personally most impressed me to witness:
- A friend's dog would sit/stay perfectly still balancing a donut hole on her nose
- Police and military dogs are trained to poop/pee on command, because working dogs can't pause for a potty break in the middle of chasing a suspect. I can't believe this isn't a fundamental command for every trained dog, like "sit" and "stay." It would completely eliminate having to get up at 3AM to let your dog go outside in the rain!
- It wasn't quite peeing on command, but an old roommate's dog was trained to walk herself every morning: every morning she'd be let out onto the apartment porch, from where she'd trot down the fire escape, go straight across the alley to the grassy "doggie business" area, pee and nose about for about five minutes, and then trot straight back across the alley, up the fire escape, and into the kitchen for breakfast. She was the PERFECT DOG.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:47 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Didn't finish the first one:
- A friend's dog would sit/stay perfectly still balancing a donut hole on her nose for twenty minutes, then on "Okay!" toss it into the air and gulp it on the way down.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:50 PM on June 13, 2012

I hear you. I've got one myself who lives for tricks. From your description you've got all the components for successful balancing acts. I scored a fab. winter coat for her with this one. (now we're working on taking a dirty martini from kitchen to living-room without spilling- ya for coasters!)
posted by whowearsthepants at 8:57 AM on June 14, 2012

In addition to many of the above:
- "go to your crate" -- runs to crate, lays down
- "go to your mat" -- runs to a special mat/rug in the house
- "open the door" -- pulls on a towel threaded through a cupboard door handle
- "shut the door" -- uses his nose to slam shut the cupboard door
- "through" -- runs between my legs, and around one leg, back to the front. Depending on which arm I use to signal this, he'll circle around that leg. So he can do figure 8s too.
- "dance" -- basically the mirror command as suggested above. He can raise his paws to mirror your feet, we're working on waving them in the air, tilting head, etc.
- "around" -- runs in a circle around me
- "under" -- crawls under a chair or bench or stool
- "wait" -- long stay. Even with food present beside him. Has to maintain eye contact with me before being released.
- "soccer" - we have a special ball that looks like a mini-soccer ball. He noses it around and steps on it with one paw, and we kind of fight for the ball with our feet. Hilarious.
- "talk" - kind of makes an "arrr rah rah" talking noise - not barking. And not loud.
- "spin" - he spins in a circle super fast
- "yoga" -- downward dog in yoga. Hilarious with his butt in the air. Has to put his head down too.
- "leave it" - ignore something on the floor
- "drop it" - drop something in his mouth
- specific toys have names -- he can pick them out by command

Probably forgetting a bunch too. People sometimes think we're cruel for not feeding him out of a bowl each morning, but then they see how STOKED he is to earn food through training, and they're convinced. He'd way rather have interaction than a bunch of food plopped in front of him, or at least, he gets more excited!

Working on:
- more nosework. Dogs LOVE finding stuff with their nose. Lots of YouTube videos explaining how to do this. Super great in the winter as it requires a great deal of mental energy, and tires them out a bit without running all over the house.
- balance - up on hind legs
- waving
- wipe his nose with a paw
- yawn on command
- help with the laundry - we have a front loader and I'm sure he can put the laundry in there for us

Thanks for asking this question - I've been meaning to get more suggestions myself!
posted by barnone at 12:48 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Teach your dog to run to the closest door when the fire alarm goes off.
posted by anaelith at 4:23 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for all your great answers. I now have a nice pile of ideas to work my way through and have already started on hoop jumping and speak though it seems he can't see the point of that one when he can walk around it, so I am going to have to work on that one. Strangely my other dog that usually hates doing tricks thinks jumping through a hoop is the best thing ever. I swear terriers do stuff like that on purpose to drive you crazy.
posted by wwax at 7:16 AM on June 18, 2012

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