Tricks for a treat


When we first met Mr. N, he knew how to sit, high five, dance and his name. Since then, his repertoire has increased by leaps and bounds. High five is still a crowd favorite though.

I teach with a clicker (to mark the desired behavior) and use a combination of shaping (breaking down a behavior into tiny steps and rewarding them for each step towards the desired behavior) and luring. Mr. N understands that the click means he is doing something I want him to do and he will be rewarded. Usually with food. 

His favorites are anything with meat in them. He used to eat fruits and vegetables but since he started eating raw, he turns up his little nose at them. We’re always looking for new training treats especially those that come in bite size pieces or can be divided easily.

Shaping box behaviors.

We work on a couple of things at once. Right now, we’re working on beg, figure eights around my legs and go to your bed from twenty feet away. 

Some tricks are much easier than others. I didn’t even have to teach him to walk on his hind legs. He does it occasionally out of excitement and I just put it on cue. Teaching him how to back up took forever. Forever being about two or three weeks.

Mr. N find shaping frustrating sometimes because he likes being right. Lack of direction drives him crazy. He sits there and whines and is like what do you want me to do? He’s slowly starting to offer some behaviors unsolicited during our shaping exercises.

The pre-agility class we took was small and consisted of Mr. N and a papillon. The instructor watched both of them work and commented that the papillon is a “flinger” where he offers a bunch of behaviors to figure out what his owner wants and that Mr. N is a “thinker.”

What do thinking dogs do? They try to outsmart you. One day, we were working on shaping closing a door and he was getting frustrated. So he decides to speed the process up. He walks over to me and paws the clicker in my hand. Once it clicks, he looks up at me expectantly, waiting for his treat.

This is why people say it’s easier to train a dumb dog than a smart one.

Mr. N during our first session of learning how to close a door.




6 Responses

  1. Kirby the Dorkie

    September 3, 2013 8:52 pm

    He is sooo cute! Kirby is a thinker too but I've gotten very lax about teaching him new tricks. We started the Dognition games so I'll share one you'll get a kick out of. Kirby was at one end of the room and I set two cups on the floor an arms width away. Next I showed him the treat and placed it under one cup. I pointed at the other cup and told him to get the treat. He walked halfway up, stopped, looked at me, looked at the cup I was pointing at, looked at me again, and then, with his head low, walked to the right cup and got the treat. I think he thought I was stupid!

    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      September 4, 2013 9:11 am

      I'll have to try that. He probably would think it was too easy as well. Right now, I'm trying to train him to find my keys. He can find them… as long as I put a treat next to them. We just started two days ago so we shall see.


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