Battersea Q&A: How can I teach my dog tricks?

Teaching a dog tricks

(Q) I've seen many fun clips on YouTube of dogs doing all sorts of clever tricks. How can I teach my dog to shut a door and other useful things around the house?

(A) Battersea canine welfare trainer Nathalie Ingham says: There are lots of different ways you can train dogs to do tricks. If you work on a couple of basics you'll be able to apply these techniques to different situations so your dog can learn lots of fun and useful tricks. Teaching a dog to shut a door is easy once he's learned to touch a target. A target is anything that you'd like your dog to touch - it could be the end of a stick, or a disc such as a coaster that you can move around and stick to things when you progress the training.

To get your dog to show some interest in the target rub some food on it. This will encourage him to sniff it. As your dog's nose touches the target reward him with a treat. Repeat this so that your dog learns that touching the target is a great thing to do. At this stage start to add a cue such as ‘Touch it' as your dog moves towards the target with his nose.

The next stage is to start moving the target around, but remember not to make it too difficult for your dog. You might just move it around on the floor to begin with, then hold it up a little, and then place it on something at your dog's nose level.

If you'd like to teach your dog to shut a door, put the target on a door and open it slightly. To start with ask your dog to touch the target and reward whenever his nose touches the target. If he's comfortable with this, focus on only rewarding him when he touches the target strongly enough to make the door move slightly.

Gradually increase the amount that you want him to move the door until you're rewarding him as the door shuts.

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