I always recommend tricks... and I mean ALWAYS! Bringing home a baby puppy - start teaching them tricks. Got a dog with focus issues? Work hard on your tricks. Is your dog lacking in his recall? Work those tricks!
Now, I know what you're thinking: why teach tricks when your dog's recall is lacking? I used to wonder the same thing, until I saw the power of trick training with my own dogs. Training your dog to shake-a-paw or rollover is not going to magically train them to come when they are called. What it will do is the following:
There's that word again... relationship. Think of relationship as the bond you have with your dog. Having that bond is important in all aspects of training. Some dogs are easy to build a bond with while others, who are more independent, may take a bit more work to build that relationship. Whatever type of dog you have, tricks will help you build a good working relationship. It will help you establish the idea that you bring good things. Dogs love to think and learn and once they've had a chance to build skills, they'll want more! Teaching them to high 5 and spin will help them learn to look to you for a little bit of 'brain-flexing'. If the next skill on your list is teaching a great recall, you'll have a more willing partner after some trick training.
Teach them How to Learn
Imagine if someone came into your house and started nattering at you in a strange language. It would get frustrating in a hurry to try to understand what this person wanted from you. That's a dog's life in a nut shell. Tricks are fantastic for establishing learning skills and habits. Through positive repetition, dogs learn to interpret our communication. Tricks should always be fun and no-stress. The more tricks you teach your dog, the more they learn how to read you and learn what you want from them. Now that they understand how to process your communication, get out there and work on your recall.
Add Joy to Learning
Because tricks are always fun, they will inevitably teach your dog to love learning. What's not to love? Once your dog loves learning, you can work towards teaching them any skill - including the crucial ones like coming when called. You'll have a much better student in the dog who's enjoys learning from you.
Tricks are a great tool to use when you're in a new or potentially overwhelming situation. If you can refocus your dog by calling on their tricks, that will take their mind off the situation. The positive associations that you've created with your tricks will help to make the environment and the situation less stessful for your dog. For example, if you are at the Veterinarian's, work on tricks in the lobby and the exam room to help alleviate or prevent stress!
Don't Know Where to Start with Dog Tricks?
If you need some ideas for tricks, check out YouTube. Our own YouTube channel, McCann Dogs, has over 300 videos and a giant chunk of them are trick tutorials.
As always, Happy Training!