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Old Dogs and New Tricks


We've all heard the phrase, "Old dogs can't learn new tricks," but I've got to disagree! Not only can old dogs learn new tricks, but they should learn new tricks.


Maybe you're in a rut with your regular training schedule; maybe you and your SideKick already have the basics down and you don't really feel like there's a "next step" in your training; or maybe you and your SideKick don't look forward to training because the things you need or should work on are difficult behavior issues, which can be frustrating, slow to progress, and emotionally exhausting.

Like sneaking vegetables into dessert, trick training is a fun way to get the benefits of training without the "work" of training! Regardless of your SideKick's age, here are just a few of the reasons to introduce tricks into your training:

  1. Teaching tricks improves your skills as a trainer! You're able to become a better teacher as you learn how to communicate better with your SideKick.

  2. Tricks help to build a solid relationship with your SideKick; particularly when using positive reinforcement, your SideKick learns that working with you, interacting with you, and learning with you is rewarding and fun. You become, to your SideKick, a symbol of all the good things, which only serves to build your relationship.

  3. Learning more tricks, more behaviors helps to build your SideKick's confidence; this is especially noticeable in our shy, fearful, or anxious Fidos and Fifis, but confidence benefits all dogs! (Not to mention that teaching tricks is also a confidence boost for us - the trainer! The more behaviors we find out we can teach, the more confidence we have as trainers and handlers, as well!)

  4. Tricks are a great break from the norm and the daily routine. Also, if you're working on a difficult behavior or behavior issue, tricks help to lighten things up and give both you and your SideKick a breather.

  5. Tricks keep things FUN! And who doesn't want to have fun?

If this has you fired up and ready to start teaching your SideKick some new tricks, great! There are resources like crazy on the internet, in books, on social media that provide all kinds of ideas for your first new trick. If you're not feeling up to a deep dive into the rabbit hole you might find yourself in with that route, below is a list of some simple tricks you can start with to ease into trick training with your SideKick:

  • Paw or Shake

  • High five

  • Target

  • Spin (one or both directions)

  • Rollover

  • Back up

  • Crawl

  • Take a bow

  • Kisses

  • Speak

  • Hold an object

  • Jump through a hoop (or onto a platform)

Happy trick training, folks!

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