So why train tricks anyway?


Experienced Member
Assuming that most people here, come here to learn new tricks to teach their dog, the question begs: why teach dogs tricks in the first place? I mean, tricks are over and above training a dog just to be obedient around your house, and protecting your furniture from claws. So why?

I guess, for me, there are several reasons:

You could never convince me that a dog and handler will not naturally become closer through learning new tricks each and every day. In fact, as I write this on my keyboard, my dog has just curled up on my desk, and is watching me type. That's bonding!

I believe that mental stimulation tires and satisfies a dog more than physical stimulation does. I have no hard evidence of this of course, but I just go by what I see with my own dog. She can walk and walk and walk, but give her ten minutes of real mental stimulation and she'll sleep for ages afterwards.

Showing Off
Come on, we all like to show off with our dogs don't we? I know I do. It appeals to my sense of smugness in the park.

If I wire a doorbell to the bottom of my patio door, can I get my dog to push it each time she wants to go out? I don't know, but you can bet your life I'm going to find out. I love the challenge of seeing what is possible.

So what's your reason(s)?

Jean Cote

Staff member
Nice post CollieMan!

There are many reasons to train your dog to do tricks, and we all have our own individual reasons. I personally live in the city and since winter is coming at an exceptionally fast pace, training dog tricks in my basement is an excellent way to spend that extra energy that my dogs have. I also love that by simply training dog tricks, I get to form a better relationship with my dog, and they are much happier after every training session.

And there is also the benefit of showing off your dog, you’d be amazed at how people are impressed when they see a dog do tricks. Most of my friend’s favorite trick is “Shy”, which consists of my dog putting her paw above her nose. It really entertains my friends, and I usually allow them to give them treats, which they enjoy, it kind of makes them feel like they are a trainer too. :dogsmile:


New Member
I'm using tricks as a way of calming down my highly reactive, fear-aggressive Joey. The idea is to get him so focused on me (and the treats he's about to get, of course) that he'll learn to ignore things that would usually set him off. Think of it more as a distraction. My goal is to get him so involved in doing tricks for me that he won't bark and lunge at that other dog walker or jogger who just came into view. It is tough, and we're progressing in tiny baby steps, but already I do see a change for the better. His reactive radius has shrunk a bit, from "as soon as I see something" to "when it gets a little closer and is heading my way".

Obviously, I am not just waiting around for an approaching bicycle to set off Little Joe. As soon as I spot something coming, then I ask for a few simple tricks like "look at me" and "touch my hand", and then I start walking diagonally away if possible to gain more distance between us and the object. The idea being to never be so close as to set off Little Joe, because each time he does go into a barking, lunging fit then the behaviour is being reinforced when that jogger goes by and away. Joey needs to learn that his barking and lunging doesn't make the bad things go away, and that the behaviour is not necessary because there is no threat. But that'll take a few years more of training and counter conditioning....and lots of rock solid tricks.


New Member
I have a reactive and fear-aggressive dog too so I totally understand what you are talking about Bipa. My dog is also physically large and has a very loud booming bark so it really scares people if he goes over his comfort threshold and erupts into frenzied barking (plus that makes the reactivity more ingrained too so it's not good for him either even if people don't get scared). We also do counterconditioning, but as you know it is a long slow tedious road and sometimes you have counterconditioning alone is not enough because in the real world you can't always control all variables so the dog can handle a situation on his own. Therefore, we train eye-contact and leave-it a LOT, these help me to control his emotional levels and avert potentially disastrous situations!!

I do consider eye-contact and leave-it as 'trick training" even though they are utterly serious required behaviors with a lot riding on them (such as preventing me from possibly getting sued!) :)


Well-Known Member
I find that tricks bridge the barrier, at times, between your dog and strangers. Specifically, I started training my dog tricks for pet therapy work. Many people are afraid of big dogs initially. But when presented with a silly dog twirling around or taking a bow, many people will stretch out their hand to pet him.

I also agree with CollieMan that the benefits of bonding and stimulation are huge benefits. With a very young puppy, training is all about play and tricks can fit into that category. In fact, if done right, almost anything you teach can be taught like a trick in short, playful sessions.

Personally, I love tricks. I can quickly find out how intelligent my dog is by how fast he picks up the skills. To me, there's no better way to bond and have fun with your dog than teaching him a few tricks.

Jean Cote

Staff member
I had a friend who had a HUGE dog and she would tell him to flop on his back anytime a guest would come over to her house to make them feel at ease. :)


Experienced Member
I teach her tricks to do canine freestyle, but I teach tricks for just more fun.
When I started to teach her, and saw how she enjoys doing tricks, I thought we could spend most time with learning, and start a sport. And I chose canine freestyle, becouse I think that is the most fun of all dog sports (no offence to anyone).:doglaugh:


Honored Member
Staff member
I train for many of the same reasons you do, CollieMan. Plus I think that dogs who are trained see their owners as leaders, where as many(not all) untrained dogs see their owners as "that guy that feeds me and plays with me sometimes and lets me get away with virtually everything." Also, some obedience commands can keep your dog out of trouble. Let's say your escape artist gets out and scampers toward a busy highway. An untrained dog might keep running, ignoring the owner calling his/her name in the background. However, a trained dog can be stopped with a simple, "Come," or "(Name)" or "Stop" or "Back Up" or "Sit" or....the list goes on. Trained dogs tend to respect their owners more than untrained dogs---not all, but a large majority.
And for me, I just like it. I'm kind of like a border collie--I have to have a job. Lol. :doglaugh: I lead an insanely busy life, but I love it. I hate just sitting around, doing nothing all doesn't suit me. With 15 animals, school, and just life in general, I'm a bit of a workoholic. And I love it. And just like my dogs, I love to learning new things to train them is fun for me. :doghappy: