How to Teach Some Basic Puppy Tricks

Puppy tricks are a real delight and can be fun for your puppy to learn if you have the right approach: Training your puppy doesn’t have to be all work and structure. After your puppy knows the basic directions and shows that he enjoys the process of learning, teaching a trick or two spices up the normal routine.

You don’t have to teach all the tricks described here — just use the ones your puppy picks up easily. If your puppy is paw expressive, he’ll definitely get into the “Paw” or “Wave” tricks.

Never practice tricks during lesson time. Otherwise, you turn serious work into a game.

Bow

Does your puppy love a good stretch? Betcha didn’t know you could turn this one into a trick. Just follow these steps:

  1. As your puppy’s stretching, bow toward him and say “Bow!”

  2. Praise your puppy like he just invented the puppy biscuit.

Repeat these steps each time he stretches. Soon you’ll have him bowing on cue.

Paw

Teaching your puppy “Paw” is easy and fun. Have your puppy start from a sitting position and follow these steps:

  1. Say “Paw” or “Shake” as you extend a treat in front of his nose with one hand and extend the other hand in front of your puppy’s leg.

  2. If he looks puzzled, press his shoulder muscle with your empty hand.

  3. Take his paw the instant he lifts it off the ground, reward him immediately, and praise him (see the following figure).

    Soon he’ll be reaching out for you.

    “Paw” (or
    Credit: Illustration by Barbara Frake
    “Paw” (or "Shake") is always a crowd-pleaser.

A puppy can learn many tricks from one action. With pawing, for example, you can teach your puppy to shake your hand, wave a big hello, or give you a high-five.

Wave

The “Wave” trick is a real charmer, especially for kids. Follow these steps:

  1. Have your puppy sit. Extend your hand as though you were asking for paw, say “Wave paw” and hold a treat inches from his nose with your other hand.

  2. As your puppy lifts his paw, flip your signal hand up and pull it back to wave, and reward your puppy before he’s made contact with your signaling hand.

  3. Praise and treat him for more enthusiastic waving as he catches on.

If your puppy is conditioned to cooperate when given a treat, phase out the treats gradually. However, always praise enthusiastically!

High-five

Now your puppy’s going to learn to “High-five.” Follow these steps:

  1. Do two “Paw” exercises. Be enthusiastic.

  2. Hold your hand out as though you were prompting a paw, but the moment your puppy lifts his paw, shift your hand so your fingers point up. Say “High-five paw!”

  3. Lower your hand if your puppy makes an attempt.

    Soon, he’ll be bringing that paw up with gusto.

Roll over

Everybody loves the “Roll over” routine. Some puppies are into it, but others would rather hibernate in Alaska than roll over. Does your puppy roll over on his own? Does he shift from side to side with ease? If you answered yes to either of these questions, your puppy will likely be excited about this trick. Follow these steps:

  1. Get a handful of treats and encourage your puppy into a “Down” position.

  2. Scratch him until he rolls onto his hip.

  3. Take the treat and circle it from your puppy’s nose, under his chin, and around behind his ear over the back of his neck (see illustration a in the following figure).

  4. Say “Roll over” as you circle the treat around his nose toward the opposite side of the floor (see illustration b in the following figure).

    Imagine a string tied from the treat to your puppy’s nose. Basically, you’re trying to pull his body over.

  5. If he seems to lean into it, praise him and flip his paws over.

    When he’s rolled over, treat and praise him (see illustration c in the following figure) and encourage him to jump up.

    [Credit: Illustration by Barbara Frake]
    Credit: Illustration by Barbara Frake
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