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The Essentials

  • Teaching tricks makes dog training fun — Learning how to perform dog tricks while obedience training is a great way to encourage mental stimulation and form a trusting bond with your furry friend.
  • Trick training is especially useful for high-energy dogs — If you have a high-energy dog breed at home, you’ll be happy to know trick training often requires both physical and mental exercise that can help tire Fido out.
  • Start small and don’t overdo it — You may want to jump straight to the tougher, cuter dog tricks, but trick training is most successful when basic obedience skills are mastered first.

Trick training has its share of benefits, chief among them being the joyous, trusting bond you’ll inevitably form with your dog. Whether you incorporate learning tricks into basic obedience training or choose to introduce dog tricks later on, trick training is both mentally and physically stimulating. This can make it especially useful for puppies, high-energy breeds, or dogs itching for some extra activity when the weather’s keeping everyone indoors. Let’s get started.

The best dog tricks to teach your pup

Now that you know trick training is beneficial for both you and your dog, where should you begin? There are many dog tricks out there, ranging in difficulty from “easy” to “expert,” and we’ve compiled a few popular ones to consider as you build your dog’s repertoire of tricks.

Tricks that make dog training fun

Easy Intermediate Expert
Sit Roll over (or play dead) Say your prayers
Stay High-five Crawl
Heel Take a bow Clean up
Shake Back up Quiet
Kiss Spin & twirl Speak
Shy Fetch Peekaboo

1. Sit

  • Level: Easy 

For this basic obedience skill, lure your dog with a high-value treat by holding it close to their nose while they’re standing, then hover the treat over their head. As their nose follows the treat, they will ease into a sitting position on their own. When your dog is seated, vocalize the “sit” command and reward your pup with the treat and praise. Repeat until all it takes is a verbal command or hand signal.

2. Stay (or place)

  • Level: Easy 

To train your dog to stay, start by getting your dog into a sitting position and reward them once their bottom is on the ground. Then, while your dog is seated, add the “stay” or “place” command. If your dog remains seated for a few seconds, use a different release word, like “OK!”, “come”, or“heel”, to relieve them of their position. Repeat with longer pauses, then add in a step where you walk away after giving them the command verbally or via hand signal.

3. Heel

  • Level: Easy 

Teaching a dog to “heel” means training them to walk beside you. This is an essential obedience skill that can help combat leash-pulling, but it’s also a fun way to show off your dog’s smarts. To train your dog to heel, lure your dog with bite-sized treats inside the house. Point to whichever side you want your dog to stand (you can teach them “left” or “right” too), and once your pooch is where you want them, mark and reward them. 

Repeat and begin to increase your pace and change course to encourage your dog to find their position again. 

4. Shake

  • Level: Easy 

Once your dog has mastered the “sit” and “stay” commands, get them into a sitting position. Keep a high-value treat in one closed hand and wait for them to sniff or paw at it. Grab ahold of their paw, then mark and reward using the verbal “shake” command once your pup has learned to keep their paw in your hand without continuous pawing. Repeat until your pooch has a winning handshake!

5. Kiss

  • Level: Easy

This sweet training trick is easy as pie but will come more naturally to dogs that are already quite affectionate or dogs that aren’t food-aggressive. Simply encourage your dog to give your cheek a smooch by holding a high-value dog treat near it. As you get a little blip, vocalize the verbal “kiss” command and reward them with the treat and lots of praise. 

Repeat until you no longer need a lure. Note: If you have a food-aggressive pup or even a highly excitable pooch, there is a chance they may break skin in all their excitement.

6. Shy

  • Level: Easy 

Here’s another cute trick for your bashful pup. Teach your dog to cover their eyes with their paws by first placing a small piece of masking tape or sticky note on your dog’s nose. Your dog will likely begin to take the sticky item off with their paw. As they lift their paw to do just that, use the “shy” command, then reward their behavior with praise and a high-value treat. Repeat until you can successfully use the command without the tape.

7. Rollover (or play dead)

  • Level: Intermediate

To train your dog to roll over or play dead, start by ensuring they can sit and lie down on command. Once they’ve perfected those obedience skills, begin the “rollover” training with your dog in a lying position. With a high-value treat in a closed fist, place your hand in front of your dog’s nose, then slowly start to move your hand above their nose and toward their shoulder. Gradually increase momentum and reward once your dog is lying on their side. 

To complete the roll, add another treat into a closed fist and repeat the same technique by moving it toward the other shoulder, holding your treat hand out and away from your pooch. Once your dog has completely rolled over, mark and reward it with the verbal cue of your choice. Repeat until you no longer need a treat reward.

8. High five

  • Level: Intermediate

If your dog knows how to sit and shake, you’re already well on your way to teach them to high-five. When using the “shake” trick, position your own hand into a steady, traditional high five instead of returning the handshake. Resist grabbing your dog’s paw to get them into a high-five position; this can actually deter them from mastering the trick. Instead, hold your palm up to your pup, say “high five,” reward, and repeat. If your dog has already learned to “shake,” treats may not be necessary to perfect the high five.

9. Take a bow

  • Level: Intermediate

Can we get a round of applause for your dog’s next trick? To teach your dog to take a bow, lure them in with a high-value treat in your hand, hovering it in front of their nose. Then slowly move your hand downward between their legs and toward their stomach, urging your pup to bend down to reach the prize with their rear in the air. 

Once your pup “takes a bow,” lure them back into a standing position to keep them from fully lying down. Reward and repeat, adding the verbal “take a bow” cue before you begin to slowly move your treat-laden hand again.

10. Back up

  • Level: Intermediate

Place a folded towel on the floor, lure your dog toward you in front of the towel with a high-value treat or toy, then guide them backward with the treat in hand until their back paws are on the towel. Reward each time their feet touch the towel. 

Once your pooch is consistently backing up on their own, add the verbal cue and remove the towel. You can eventually increase the distance between you and your dog as they master this skill, especially useful during games of fetch.

11. Spin & twirl

  • Level: Intermediate

It’s not that teaching your dog to spin or twirl on their own is especially challenging, but being able to differentiate between spinning clockwise versus twirling counterclockwise may take some time and patience. 

Start by holding a high-value treat near your dog’s nose, then lure them into a “spin” (clockwise). Mark and reward until you only need the verbal command and no longer need the treat. Repeat these techniques to teach your dog to “twirl” in the other direction (counterclockwise) with the new verbal command.

12. Fetch

  • Level: Intermediate

Retrieval comes naturally to many dog breeds, like Labrador and golden retrievers, but it’s also a skill that can be easily taught through a game of fetch. When teaching the fetch training trick, select an object your puppy finds both fun and interesting, whether it’s a ball, a plush toy, or something squeaky.

 In a small space, such as a fenced-in backyard or even a hallway with little to no distractions, lure your dog with the toy and get them excited about it. The next step is to incorporate the word “fetch.” 

Throw your dog’s toy a short distance while saying “fetch,” and when your dog grabs hold of it, excitedly encourage them to run back to you and take the toy from them. Reward! Repeat with a variety of toys and remember to be consistent with your cues and commands.

13. Middle

  • Level: Intermediate 

Most helpful when used in crowded areas, the “middle” command trains your dog to walk or stand close between your legs when there’s a risk of getting tangled up. With a treat in both hands, use one to lure your dog behind your leg, and the other to lure them through. Once your dog is standing between your legs, feed them with a few treats. 

To release, say “OK” or “All done” while throwing the treat in front of you to guide them out from your legs. Repeat this until your pooch is confident, then add the “middle” command when luring the treat. Eventually, your dog should be able to come to the “middle” without a lure. 

14. Say your prayers

  • Level: Expert

This trick requires your dog to be on their hind legs, so be sure your pooch isn’t suffering from an injury. Senior dogs may not be a great fit for a “say your prayers” trick. Start in a kneeling position with your dog seated in front of you. 

With a high-value treat in one hand and your other arm folded in front of you like a tree branch for your dog to hang onto, pull the hand with the treat forward to encourage your dog to come to your branched arm. You want your dog to be on their hind legs, and both front paws balancing on your non-treat, branched arm. Reward when in place, and repeat with a good number of high-value treats or even a whole kibble meal so your dog is confident when placed in this unusual position. 

Use your release word (“all done” or “OK) to relieve them from the stance. Repeat until your dog can hang onto your arm until released without problems. Now it’s time to add the first cue, “paws on,” beginning from a standing position. Repeat until your pup is confident in the verbal command. The final step of this is to add the “say your prayers” cue. 

Remember, you want your dog’s head to go underneath your arm so it looks like they’re, well, praying. Grab those high-value treats, get your pup to “paws up” to your branched arm, and feed your dog from under your arm. Repeat, eventually adding the “say your prayer” cue before feeding.  

15. Clean up

  • Level: Expert

Teaching your dog to clean up their toys is not only useful for you, but it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. To start, practice the skill of retrieving items with your dog, something you can easily train through games like fetch. Once your dog can retrieve toys, you’re ready to start training them to clean up. 

With a handful of high-value dog training treats with you, position your dog’s preferred lidless toy bin under their face, or lure them to hover over the bin. Hand a toy to your dog, then ask them to “drop” or “leave” it, depending on which verbal command you’ve previously used to train retrieval. 

When your dog retrieves the toy from your hand and it falls into the toy bin beneath them, mark and reward with lots of praise. Repeat, adding distance from the toy bin each time, then use the “clean up” before each retrieval and drop.

16. Crawl (or scoot)

  • Level: Expert

Get your pooch into a “down” position by bringing a treat-laden hand down and toward the floor, then toward your dog’s feet. Once your dog is lying down, command them to “stay.” Reward and praise. The next step is to add a short distance between you and the treat, slowly asking your dog to move with you. 

Once your dog can do this — and not every dog has enough core strength to comply — you can start adding the verbal cue “crawl” or “scoot” and remove the lure. This is a tough trick, and will take lots of time and patience!

17. Quiet

  • Level: Expert

Whether you have a big barker or not, teaching a dog to “speak” or “quiet” on command is no easy feat, but it’s a popular training tool among behaviorists that will wow your family and friends. 

To start, make sure you have some high-value treats in hand, as well as some kind of barking stimulus (a doorbell, a knock on the door, etc.) You might find it easier, especially if you have a barker, to teach the “quiet” command first. Spark the stimulus, and just as your dog begins to get excited by the sound of a doorbell or what-have-you, acknowledge the sound, then get your dog’s attention by holding up the high-value treat. 

Once your dog’s attention is captured and they stop barking, reward and praise. Repeat with longer periods of silence before the treat.

18. Speak

  • Level: Expert

Once your pooch has learned the “quiet” cue, a fun next step is to teach them to do the complete opposite. Using a stimulator (doorbell ring, knock on the door, etc.) get your dog to naturally begin barking, then use your verbal “speak” cue in an excited tone. Add praise and reward your dog with a treat or favorite toy. Repeat this until your dog gets the hang of it. The next step is to combine the “speak” and “quiet” commands. 

19. Peekaboo

  • Level: Expert

Take cute to a new level by teaching your dog to play peekaboo. With a high-value treat in hand, start by standing with your dog behind you, then bend at the waist so that the treat is between your knees. As you call your dog and show them the treat, excitedly use the “peekaboo” cue and reward them once the pooch is not just between your legs, but is in a seated position. 

Repeat until your dog can come between your legs, sit, and look up at you with the verbal cue. As with any training trick, always end a session with a release word, such as “all done.”

Teaching a dog new tricks is a great way to introduce some mental and physical stimulation to basic obedience training, not to mention a fun way to wow your family and friends. With lots of time and patience, your trick training will make an expert trainer out of you in no time.

Frequently asked questions

What tricks can I do with my dog?

You can teach your dog a number of tricks, from easy to expert difficulty. Start with obedience training skills and level up to a peekaboo.

What is the hardest trick to teach your dog?

One of the hardest but most essential tricks you can teach your dog is to focus.

How do I teach my dog tricks?

Teaching a dog tricks requires foundational obedience skills. Once your dog has mastered the basics, you should feel confident that you can challenge them with more fun, creative tricks.

What is the middle command for dogs?

When you teach a dog the “middle” command you’re training them to walk or stand between your legs, a great skill to have in crowded spaces to avoid getting tangled in other people or animals.