"TRICKS" ARE ALL THOSE BEHAVIORS THAT WE CAN TEACH OUR DOGS AND THAT ON THE SURFACE APPEAR TO BE USELESS, APART FROM THE FACT THAT YOU CAN HAVE FUN TOGETHER.
Tricks are more or less complex behaviors that we can teach our dogs during learning sessions using positive reinforcement and based on the dog's ability to recognize a certain behavior and repeat it in order to get something it likes.
- high five
- play dead (the dog is lying on its side and remains motionless)
- play “bear” (while sitting, the dog raises the forelegs off the ground)
- slalom between legs
- turn around an object
- open a door by pulling on a rope
- bring an object in a basket
- spin around in circles counterclockwise or clockwise
- walking with a raised paw ("limp")
- pushing an object with its muzzle
And many others, including chains of behaviors and complex sequences.
THE DOG-OWNER LEARNS HOW TO TEACH, AND THE DOG LEARNS HOW TO LEARN – ALL WHILE HAVING FUN TOGETHER.
Many people consider these ‘tricks’ something that is only good for the circus, useless and even something that undervalues the dog, perhaps because these behaviors are playful, and we do not use them to control and dominate our dogs. However, the real problem is usually that people who judge these tricks have never tried to teach them, and they do not even know where they should start. Because tricks must be taught with fun, with a motivating element, technical capacity, a real knowledge of learning principles and with the perception and motor skills of the dog in mind.
Tricks in general improve dogs’ ability to learn, to do new movements, to interact with objects, and to use the space around – also social spaces. Tricks require imagination, attention to detail, and commitment. You cannot teach dogs tricks if you do not have a solid foundation in technique, relationship or the ability of reading dogs’ behavior.
Those who consider dog learning in terms of control of already taught behaviors can hardly understand that learning can be useful to the dog. Not useful to us, but to the dog. People who use coercive methods can hardly understand that a dog, while learning, can have fun. It is not a job, it is a game. It should not be useful to us, but it can still produce positive results for our dog and for our relationship with our dog.
LEARNING FUN BEHAVIORS CAN BE AN EXTRAORDINARY DOOR TO ENTER THE WORLD OF A DOG THAT HAS DIFFICULTIES IN RELATING TO PEOPLE.
Through tricks, dogs learn that they can change their environment through their own behavior; they can get something they like in an active way. They can control some events by offering successful behavior. Learning develops self-esteem. Learning is based on communication: I have something that you want, and I will give it to you if you listen to me, if you listen to the information I will give you in order to succeed. Learning develops listening skills, makes the dog more observant, and develops trust in the received information. Communication is not mechanics; learning is a context in which an animal expresses its emotions, its own personality.
During a learning session, a dog expresses the whole range of its emotions including stress, frustration, anger, withdrawal, as well as surprise, joy and excitement. Those who work with dogs have to listen. Reinforcing the behavior is not enough. Without harmony, without the ability to listen and feel the dog, there is a risk of losing one of the most important elements of this experience.
LEARNING TRICKS IS ALSO USED IN THE PREPARATION OF ASSISTANCE DOGS.
Picking up an object, opening the door, pushing an object with the muzzle, high fiving: all these behaviors are tricks, but they are also behaviors taught to assistance dogs. Knowing how to teach your dog tricks means that you have the skills to teach your dog behaviors that can turn from playful to useful behaviors for humans. Playful or useful: Skills are the same, and behaviors are the same. Although, in our perception, when the purpose is assistance to a disabled person then that justifies learned behaviors. In the dog’s perception, nothing changes.
The dog learns how to open a door by pulling on a rope, whether he is doing tricks or learning required skills for a later use as an assistance dog. This dog has no idea what it is learning and why. The difference is how the dog is learning. If the dog has fun, the dog is successful and protected, then its experience will always be positive.
Text and video Alexa Capra
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