We all wish our dogs were a little more obedient and could do a few more entertaining tricks. With Crufts just a few days away, Dr Emma Scales-Theobald, PhD (dog behaviourist) has shared her top tips for training your pooch some new Crufts-worthy agility tricks from the comfort of your own garden.
Whilst your dog might not be quite Crufts ready, agility tricks are not only great for their health, but they are a great mental stimulant and will keep your pup both happy and healthy.
Things to know before your training
Dr Emma says “Before jumping straight into training, there are a few things you, as the owner, need to check and make sure you have in order for your training to run smoothly and for both you and your dog to get the most out of it.”
Training isn’t always easy, and more often than not, it is very repetitive, so patience is crucial. As much as we wish we could, we can’t communicate with our dogs, so they aren’t going to understand or pick things up straight away, which of course, can be frustrating, but like you, they are doing their best. Maintaining a level of patience throughout training will make it a more positive experience for both you and your dog.
Unfortunately, most dogs won’t perform without some kind of incentive, so you’re going to need some tasty high value treats to give them something to work for. Choose something you know they love but don’t have every day – cooked chicken or cheese are often good options!
A safe space
Safety is always key when training your dog, as there is always potential for accidents or falls. So, make sure you have plenty of space, and you move any objects that could cause injuries if your dog was to run or fall into them.
Consistency is key. Nailing down your commands and hand gestures before you get started will save your dog from getting confused and help them learn the tricks much quicker.
Now you’re prepped, you’re ready to begin, here are Dr Emma’s easy and fun training tricks.
Jumping over a hurdle
This is a trick that requires patience as you will have to go about it in stages.
- Firstly, you want to start with a hurdle low enough for your dog to step over and your dog on a lead.
- Begin simply walking your dog over the bar, marking it with a ‘yes’ and rewarding them with a treat every time they step over it. This will help them gain confidence around the hurdle, as well as getting over it.
- Once your dog has this nailed, you can slightly raise the bar and have your dog sit on one side whilst you are on the other. Try calling your dog over the hurdle, making sure they have a good view of their treat. Use the lead to guide them over if they are struggling.
- Once the dog reaches the other side, mark and reward.
- Again, once your dog is confident with this, you can start introducing the name of the command. This should be something such as ‘jump’ or ‘over’. Call your dog over the hurdle, and once their feet are off the ground, say your command and then mark and reward again once they get to you.
- You can then start increasing the height of the hurdle as your dog’s confidence grows.