In Training: Teach New Tricks

Inspired by famous canine thespians like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, many dog owners try to teach their dogs impressive tricks. Here are some simple, step-by-step dog training instructions for three common moves: play dead, roll over and flip a treat.

Play Dead

This is an age-old move your friends will marvel at over and over again.

  • Use a food lure to teach your dog to lie down. As he sits, hold the snack in front of his nose and quickly move it down to his paws, saying "Down!" as you do so. Repeat until he lies down on command.
  • Next, teach your pooch to roll on to his back. While he's lying down, hold a snack in front of his nose with your right hand and move it in an 8-inch clockwise rotation. This will cause the dog's head and upper body to twist around. At the same time, gently push on his upper belly with your left hand. "Most of the time, the dog will immediately roll over and throw his legs up so you can scratch his belly," notes Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, the owner of Animal Behavior Consultations in Westwood, Kansas. As the dog rolls over, say "Roll over!" Repeat until he has it down, then start using only the snack and circular motion.
  • The last stage is a slow transition from the circular motion to pointing at your pet and saying, "Play dead." Gradually go from making a circular movement to pointing as you stand farther and farther away, repeating the cue word every time. Eventually, your pet will roll over dead every time you point at him and say "Play dead."
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Roll Over

Dog Roll

It's a dog training fact that once you've taught your pet to play dead, you can easily get him to roll over because it's essentially the same trick. Just use "Roll over" as your cue word instead of "Play dead," and roll your hand instead of pointing.

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Flip a Treat

This trick is fun for both your dog and his audience. And it's easy, too.

  • Hold your left hand under your dog's muzzle and place a treat on the end of his nose with your right hand. Slowly move your hands away as you give the command "Take it!"
  • During the first few attempts, the treat will probably go flying over your dog's head. Grab it before he does and repeat. Eventually he'll figure out how to snatch the treat in midair.
  • Teaching your dog to wait for your verbal cue before grabbing the treat requires a hold command and a release command. Place your left hand under the animal's muzzle and the treat on his nose with your right, then look into his eyes and say, "Hold it" in a low, assertive tone.
  • Slowly remove your hand from his muzzle and say, "Take it!" If he begins to go for the treat before your command, repeat the hold cue.

( Click here for more stories on training your dog.)

Read more about Dog Obedience.

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