Buddha's favorite trick in the world is saying "Hi." He does it instantly with a happy flair and it always brings out the inevitable "Awwww" from people who see it, online and in person.
I've had a few people ask how I got him to do the special trick so here's a quick rundown of how I got him to say hello.
(I used a clicker, treats, and a scrap piece of cardboard, about 3"x3", but you can use anything as the "target." You can also use your voice and say, "Yes!" to mark the action like the clicker. The steps that are listed below were done only a couple minutes at a time, several times a day, and always ended on a positive note. Keep the training simple and set your dog up to succeed.)
- I placed the cardboard target in front of him as he was laying down so it was easier to access and see. I tapped the target with my finger and waited for him to paw at it. Once he did, I immediately clicked and gave him a treat. We practiced simple targeting for few sessions.
- I verbally gave him the signal, "Target!" only after he become perfect with the action of hitting the target. Try to say the command only once and quietly wait for your dog to perform the trick.
- I asked Buddha to sit and then paw the target. Click and treat. Remember to stop the session while your dog is still eager for more - he'll look forward to these special treat sessions.
- I raised the target higher and higher, clicking for contact and giving extra treats for maintaining contact.
- I began to lift my hand and pretend to have the target and ask him to "Target." I clicked and treated for even any attempt at this motion. I gave extra treats and praise for getting his paw up at the same level as my hand.
- I stepped farther and farther away from him, asking him to target at the level my hand was at. The hand was now at the level of his head and he had to sit on his back legs to comfortable reach that height with his paw.
- I began to wait longer and longer after he lifted his paw up to get him to hold the position before I clicked and rewarded his behavior. He became practiced at the exact stance that got him a treat.
- I stopped the hand signal altogether and just used my vocal command. I discontinued the clicks and began to reward him randomly to keep him on his toes.
We still practice each and every one of his tricks daily. They're light, easy homework that we sneak into his fetch sessions. Buddha no longer gets treats for his tricks, but he does get his favorite ball thrown.
Keeping our training sessions super short, fun, and positive has helped Buddha love learning new tricks. He perks up when he sees me pull out the clicker and is fully focused and driven. We are always looking for new things to train. What are some of your favorite dog tricks? Please share!