July 2020 Training Challenge: Teach a Trick

Wow! I can’t believe the Pet Harmony blog is 1 year old this month. Our business has continued to grow and evolve and I must say I couldn’t have predicted that we’d be where we are today a year ago (even without a pandemic!)

This month’s training challenge is dedicated to the mental exercise portion of enrichment:

Teach a trick of your choosing

I love trick training for a few different reasons:

  • Low stakes often means more fun. I find that people tend to give their pets more room for error when training just for fun instead of to teach a behavior that they’d like to use in real life. That usually means it’s more fun for both parties involved!
  • Cute behaviors can build relationships. Sure, Oso can do things that are actually useful– sit, leave it, come– but that stuff is far less endearing than his tricks– spin, play dead, head down, sit pretty. Having fun together while training can be a great relationship builder and trick training is usually more fun than basic manners training.
  • Trick training can be great mental exercise! This is the reason that we chose this challenge, after all. Certain forms of training in and of themselves can be great mental exercise (i.e.: shaping and shaping variations; more info on that in our book) and there’s no limit to what we can teach when we branch into the tricks realm. 
  • You can teach useful behaviors. There are a number of useful behaviors that we usually categorize as “specialty behaviors” or “tricks” instead of “basic manners”: closing doors, retrieving items for us, moving out of the way. That categorization is pretty arbitrary; there are plenty of behaviors that fall into the “basic manners” category that I don’t find super useful and there are plenty that fall into the “tricks” category that I find quite useful. That all goes back to our discussion or what our pets “should” do from an earlier blog post.

What can I teach?

Truly, the sky’s the limit. If your pet can physically do it then you can technically teach it (though I’d argue there are some things that we still probably shouldn’t teach). Here are some options:

  • Play dead (lying down, settle on side with head against ground)
  • Twist & shout (spin clockwise & counterclockwise)
  • Sit pretty (sit back on haunches, body perpendicular to ground, front legs in air)
  • Put your toys away (pick up toys in the room and put them in a basket)
  • Figure 8s (weave a figure 8 between someone’s legs)
  • Close a door (push a door closed)
  • Learn names of toys (touch or grab a specific toy when prompted by its name)
  • Army crawl (lie on belly and crawl on ground)
  • Head down (while lying down, put head between paws)
  • Bow (forearms on the ground, rump in the air)

Now what?

  • Pick a trick that you think your pet is naturally inclined to perform. Have you seen them do any behavior that you could put on a cue to use as a trick?
  • Start training! Remember that this is just for fun; choose a different trick if you’re struggling.
  • Ask your trainer for help if you’re stuck!
  • Post your results on Facebook or Instagram and tag us @petharmonytraining

Happy training,