7 Cool Tricks to Teach Your Dog
Ready to move beyond Sit, Stay, and Come? There are many cool tricks to teach your dog that are achievable and fun for both you and your furry buddy.
We know how excited dogs get for training — it’s always a fun game when there’s delicious treats on the line! Plus, finding new tricks to teach your dog is a great way to strengthen your bond, keep your pup’s mind active and impress the neighbors all at once.
If you and your best pal have already mastered the basics and are eager for more, we’ve put together a few of our favorite clever dog tricks that are sure to prove your pup is the smartest dog on the block!
1. Sit Pretty
Sit Pretty, also known as Beg or Say Please, is definitely one of the cutest tricks your pup can learn!
The classic Sit Pretty pose is when your dog sits up on their hind legs with their front paws lifted off the ground. (Bonus points when combined with heart-melting puppy dog eyes!). Be aware, however, that this position does require core strength, so we recommend consulting with your veterinarian first before teaching this trick.
To teach this trick, first ask your pup to Sit in front of you. Then, hold one of their favorite tantalizing treats directly above their head. As they reach up for the treat, they’ll probably lift their front paws off the ground. The moment those puppy paws aren’t touching the floor anymore, say, “Sit Pretty!” (or whichever command you’ll use) and give them the treat.
After a few repetitions of rewarding your pup as soon as their paws leave the carpet, do it again, except this time don’t give them the treat until your dog’s paws are several inches off the ground. Once your dog will lift their paws up a little higher, keep building up the height until your dog is fully sitting back on their hind legs with their front paws held up in front of them. And that’s a Sit Pretty!
To teach your pup to hold this pose, use your basic commands like Stay and a release word (such as “Release” or “Free”). Remember that this position does need both ab strength and balance, so some pups may need to work up to holding it for more than a couple seconds. It’s like a doggy plank!
Once your dog is the Sit Pretty king or queen, there are other fun tricks to teach your dog that add onto it, such as teaching your dog to wave their paws at you while they’re begging.
2. Speak & Quiet
Teaching your dog to Speak, Talk or Bark is not only a fun party trick, but can actually be very useful for some behavioral challenges — as long as you also teach its counterpart, Quiet or Hush. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you have a — *ahem* — talkative pup, teaching them Speak and Quiet can help your dog understand when it’s acceptable to communicate with their voice and when it isn’t.
Teaching your dog to Speak is a little different from teaching most dog tricks, as it’s not a physical position where you can guide your dog into place. You know your dog better than anyone, so you know what will encourage your dog to bark. Some chatty dogs bark with excitement as soon as you make eye contact for a few seconds, while others bark when they see you with their favorite toy or treat.
If you have a naturally quiet dog, the most effective way to coax them to bark is to gently confuse them. Show your pup that you have something they want, but don’t give it to them, even if they sit nicely or do other behaviors that you’ve rewarded in the past. When your dog is puzzled and doesn’t know what they need to do to earn the treat, they will likely bark to say, “Hey! What’s the big deal?!”
As soon as Fido barks — or even gives a little whuff, if you’re building up to a full bark — say “Speak!” and give your dog a great reward, whether that’s scratches, praise, a toy or a treat. Since barking is a natural way for dogs to communicate, most dogs make the connection quickly between your verbal command and their verbal reply.
Once you’ve taught your dog Speak, it is imperative that you teach them Quiet as well. Otherwise, you may have opened Pandora’s Box by showing your dog that barking is one way to earn treats!
To teach Quiet, first give your dog the Speak command and reward them enthusiastically. Let them have a good ‘ole bark. Then, wait for them to stop barking — even if it’s just to draw breath — and immediately say, “Quiet!” and give them a treat.
It’s important that you use this command both when you’ve told your dog to Speak and when they’re barking on their own initiative. Your dog will learn that whatever the situation, Quiet means to stop barking (and that you’ll make it worth it with a tasty reward).
The great news is that once Speak and Quiet are trained commands, you can then use Quiet to tell your dog to quit yelling at the mailman!
The Bow position is when your dog’s front legs and chest are on the ground, while their hind legs are straight and their rear is up in the air.
You’ve probably seen your dog bowing many times. This is a pose that dogs do naturally, which indicates, “C’mon, let’s play!” So, teaching your dog to Bow or Take a Bow will be fun for you both, as it’s a behavior your dog already associates with being happy and playing a game!
To teach this fun trick, start by holding your dog’s favorite treat in a closed fist in front of them, and then lower your fist to the floor. Your dog will follow your hand with their nose, as they’re hoping you’ll release that yummy treat. The moment your dog’s front legs start to lower, even if it’s a little half-bow, reward them with the treat and say, “Take a bow!” The key is to reward any progress towards the final goal, no matter how small.
If your dog already knows Lie Down and assumes this is what you want, they may immediately go to that position. If that happens, you may have to get a little creative to convince your dog to keep their hind legs straight. One way to do that is to gently hook one arm under their belly or hips, so that they are prevented from lying all the way down and must go into the Bow position to follow the treat to the floor.
Another way to coax your dog into position is to use the environment around you. Can you show them the treat, and then move it under a chair or another low-hanging space? Your dog may bend down to put their head under the chair in pursuit of the treat. As long as their rear is still in the air, that’s close enough to reward and praise them!
Finally, to really reinforce this trick, any time you catch your dog doing a “natural” bow — whether it’s bowing for playtime or simply doing a biiiiiiiig stretch — say “Take a Bow! Good girl!” and quickly give them a treat. The more times you do this, the more your dog will make the connection between that behavior and your words.
Once your pup has it down, this cute command makes the perfect curtain call after Fido has finished showing off all his fun dog tricks to your family and friends!
Teach your dog to Pray for an adorable party-favorite trick that’s sure to leave your friends and family awwing!
Once your dog masters this trick, they’ll be able to Pray by placing their front paws on a surface such as a stool, table or bed, and then tucking their head down between their paws. (You can also teach Pray using your arm as the surface).
When teaching Pray, break the behavior down into two parts: 1. placing both front paws on a surface and 2. lowering their head between their paws.
Start with the first part of the behavior by holding a tempting treat in front of your pup, and then drawing your dog’s attention towards a stool (or your arm). Hold the treat above the stool, and lead your dog to put their paws up on the stool in order to reach the tasty reward.
If your pup keeps circling around the stool instead of putting their paws on top of it, break the movement down even further. If Fido even lifts one paw off the ground to bat at the stool, reward them with praise and a treat. Once they’ve done that a few times, change to only giving the treat if their paw actually touches the top of the stool, even for a second. In this way you can build up to having one and then both paws securely on the stool.
Once your pup has mastered putting both paws on the stool or your arm, use a treat to lead their nose in between their paws. This is also when you start associating the action with a verbal command, such as “Pray”, “Say your prayers” or “Time to pray.”
Again, build up the movement: First reward your dog for putting their head down at all, and then change it so that you will only give them the treat if they completely bow their head, preferably tucking their nose under their paws.
With a little patience, your dog will be dutifully devout in no time!
5. Hug or Best Friends
Hugging is one way we humans naturally show affection — but this gesture can sometimes feel like a foreign or intimidating behavior to the animals we share our lives with. (Anyone who has ever tried to hug a squirming cat knows what we mean!)
But, even if a hug is not how your dog would normally say, “We’re friends”, it’s still a cute behavior that you can teach them with a little patience.
There are two variations on the Hug trick: One where your dog “hugs” you by putting one paw over each of your shoulders, and one where they “hug” another dog (also known as Best Friends or Best Buds).
To teach your dog Hug, have your dog Sit facing you while you kneel down in front of them. Use a delicious training treat to bring your dog’s head towards your shoulder. Praise and reward your pup when they follow the treat, so they know what a very good boy or girl they are!
Next, do the same thing, but encourage your dog to put their paws or even just one paw on your shoulder. Fair warning that if you have a particularly enthusiastic dog, they may take this as an invitation to jump on you and knock you over — so be prepared.
Reward your pup whenever they get closer to the behavior you want (one paw on your shoulder, both paws on one of your shoulders, etc.) until you’ve guided them into the desired position: Facing you, one paw on either of your shoulders, and probably giving you kisses as well. Then, mark that behavior with, “Hug!” or “Give me a hug!”
(Hint: If your dog already knows Sit Pretty, you can ‘cheat’ by asking them to Sit Pretty first. You can then place their paws on your shoulders yourself so that they’re in the Hug position).
To teach your dog to give another dog a hug, often called Best Friends or Best Buds, you’re going to need a willing participant: a dog with a good Sit and Stay who is laid-back enough to not mind another dog being all over them (or who is willing to tolerate it in exchange for treats!).
Start with Best Friends by teaching your dog to put their paws up on a surface or stool, as you did while teaching Pray, except this time mark that behavior as “Best friends!”.
Once Fido can do that reliably, bring them over to your canine victim volunteer and tell your dog “Best friends!”. Your pup should then put their front paws on top of their buddy (hopefully not smacking the other dog in the face in the process).
Once your dog has gotten the hang of that behavior, you may have to use your treat to guide your pup into position so that they have one paw on either side of the volunteer dog’s head. It can be tricky for your dog to realize what position you exactly want them to be in, so be patient. Don’t be afraid to take a break and come back to it the next day if you’re both getting frustrated (or if the dog being “hugged” has had enough!).
Once your dog learns Hug or Best Friends, these way-too-cute dog tricks make for amazing photo ops!
Teach your dog Crawl, also known as Army Crawl or Army Dog, and soon they’ll be ready to cross enemy lines! Well, okay, this trick may not actually have a practical application, but it’s a real crowd-pleaser.
To teach your dog to Crawl, first instruct them to Lie Down. Then, hold a delicious treat in front of your dog’s nose, just outside of their reach. Your dog will naturally try to reach the treat by stretching out their neck, and when that doesn’t work, they’ll start to inch forward.
When you’re just starting out teaching this fun trick, reward any forward progress your pup makes with their front paws, even if their body stays mostly still. Give them the treat and say, “Crawl!” or “Army Dog!”.
Next, up the ante by not rewarding your dog until they actually scoot their body forward a little bit. Once they’ve learned to scoot forward a few inches, keep that progress going by dragging the treat along the ground in front of Fido’s nose as they crawl like a bootcamp-ready pup!
The trickiest part when teaching Crawl is to ensure your dog’s rear end stays on the ground, as most dogs will naturally want to stand up when moving forward. One way to keep your dog in the position you want is to gently hold their butt down with one hand while you’re moving the treat with your other hand. Remember to be consistent about the behavior you reward, and only give your pup the treat if they crawled while keeping their rear end on the ground.
Since this isn’t a behavior dogs often do naturally, some dogs are puzzled by it, and it may take many repetitions for them to understand what you want. Be aware as well that your pup may have a preference for certain surfaces; for example, some dogs dislike crawling on tile floor but will happily do it on a carpet!
Once your dog is crawling like a champ, add in other dog tricks like Roll Over for a fun combo!
7. Play Dead
Last but not least, the biggest showstopper and most classic of all dog tricks: Play Dead. With this trick, your dog will flop onto their side and lay still when you mimic firing a gun at them and yell “Bang!” (or when you mime scaring them and yell “Boo!” if you’d rather not imitate a gun).
This Shakespearean performance may seem complicated at first, but if you break it down step by step, it’s not as difficult to master as it seems — and it’ll all be worth it when your dog is ready for the big stage!
To teach Play Dead, start by asking your dog to Lie Down. Then, use an irresistible treat to guide your dog to roll onto their side. The easiest way to do this is to move the treat behind the back of your dog’s head, and then down to the floor just to the front and to the side of your pup.
As soon as your dog even tips their hip to one side, so that their back legs are on one side of their body instead of directly under them, praise them and reward them with a treat.
Once your pup’s back half is to one side, use a treat to lead their nose (and therefore their head and entire front half) all the way down to the floor. This will result in your dog lying completely on one side. (Hint: If you train this trick just before your pup’s usual naptime, they’ll naturally be more willing to flop over!)
As soon as your dog is in the “dead” position, give them several yummy treats and lots of praise, so they know this is exactly what you want. You can then start tagging that position with the word “Bang!” and the hand gesture of “shooting” your dog.
Once your dog will Play Dead starting from Lie Down, you can then work backwards. Have your pup start the trick from a Sit, and then from a standing position. Remember that if your dog seems to get confused, slow down and go back a step. This is an advanced trick!
If you want to add some drama to the performance, you could also teach your dog to Limp on command, and then string Limp, Crawl, and Play Dead together for an Oscar-worthy death scene!
There’s always more cool tricks to teach your dog, but these are some of our pal Sparky’s favorites!