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Trick or Behavior?

Author: Nicole Stewart | Date: April 25, 2012

When I teach a basic behaviors class, whether it’s Middle Management, Puppy Pre-School or Fido Foundations, I usually refer to Sit, Down, Stay, Come, etc. as “behaviors”.  They are things that we want our dogs to know because we are told that all dogs should learn them.  This can create a stress around training in the human that can show up in the dog.

When training is stressful, it’s less fun and therefore, dogs and humans both are less likely to enjoy doing it.

It becomes an added “have-to” in life.

I also, at some point during class, teach a “trick” such as Shake, High-Five, Roll-Over, etc.  We put less pressure on the dog to know these because some dogs do them and some don’t. Because Roll Over doesn’t seem important to household manners, we are lighter when teaching it.  When they learn it, they learn it, but man, when they do, we are so over the moon.  We then practice it by showing it to everyone we know, and if they don’t do it right away, we don’t freak out, we just teach it again.  Then they get it, and we are over the moon again.  The training has nothing to do with expectation; it’s just bonus fun.

The funny thing is that dogs who do learn tricks tend to offer them all the time, because they almost always equal good times with their humans.

They usually end up being the most reliable things our dogs do in all kinds of situations and environments because there was no baggage added on when training them.

After teaching so many tricks over so many years, I often think I should refer to everything we teach our dogs as tricks rather than behaviors.  What if we taught Stay with the same ease and excitement?  Wouldn’t it be cool if Rover would be just as excited to do Stay as offer Shake?  Wouldn’t it make it more fun for both of us?


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