Whether you’re a new dog owner or an old hand with the slip lead, you’ve probably already got it in your head that you ought to have some tricks to teach your dog.
After all, it’s freaking adorable! Who doesn’t love seeing a cute pup rolling around on command, or patiently sitting there while their owner piles treats on top of their snout like some kind of furry Sisyphus?
And they love every moment of it! That look of intense concentration, followed by the pure joy when they successfully complete their little mission, tells you all you need to know.
You may not have known, though, that it’s also very important for your pooch’s mental health!
Dogs have been domesticated for about 20,000 years. That’s a very, very long time
Canis lupus familiaris has evolved to be humanity’s close companion. They need to be with people in order to be the best they can be.
In a very real way, dogs have grown up with us as a species. They’ve evolved to stand by our side.
Here are some ways that knowing some tricks to teach your dog truly helps them, beyond being cute.
And no, not every reason is “Because they get lots and lots of snuggles and treats!”
Just one or two of them.
Dogs want to please their people.
I’ll come back to this point over and over, because it’s at the core of the canine soul.
By learning a task and accomplishing it successfully, a dog has fulfilled its little doggy purpose in life.
It might be something useful to you like herding sheep or fetching the paper.
Or it might be something not quite as useful, like playing dead or standing up and doing a little dance.
They don’t know the difference. They just know you asked them to do a thing, and they did it.
And that’s what they live for.
By learning tricks to teach your dog, you’re helping fulfill one of your dog’s psychological needs.
By knowing a few tricks to teach your dog, you’re being a better doggy parent.
And then they get lots and lots of snuggles and treats!
Did you know that interacting with a dog or cat releases dopamine and endorphin in YOUR brain?
Those are the ‘feel good’ hormones that make us enjoy friendship, love, and everything else that makes life worth living.
Studies have conclusively shown that our pets give us those same benefits. This means not just immediate happiness, but lower stress, better health, and longer life.
That’s right! When you’ve got a few tricks to teach your dog, you’re also performing a pretty cool trick on your own brain chemisty.
Owning a dog makes you less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s, heart disease, eczema, and a host of other ailments.
Undertaking an activity together like training your dog tricks is a perfect way to make sure those endorphin levels stay nice and high.
And by the way, did you know that your dog can tell when you’re happy?
That big smile on your face comes across loud and clear to your pet, giving them many of the same benefits.
Focus training is one of the most fundamental parts of any dog training program.
Before they can learn almost anything else, your dog needs to know how to pay attention to you.
Learning tricks is a fun, low-stress way for both you and your dog to undertake this crucial training task.
If your dog can be taught to fetch or roll over, then it will be much easier to teach them more important tasks.
Tricks are a strong foundation to learn potentially life-saving concepts like “Leave it!”, “Off!” and a calm, mellow demeanor.
Just like people, dogs get bored if they’re sitting around all day.
Especially if left alone while their owners are at school or work, dogs will go stir-crazy without something to do.
While dog activity toys like treat dispensers and frozen peanut butter Kongs can do wonders to keep your dog occupied while you’re away, they’re not the only piece of the puzzle.
The real key is exercising your dog’s mind and body while you’re at home, so that they will be tired and satisfied.
Going on walks, running and playing, and doing tricks are the best way to make sure your furry friend is getting all the stimulation they need.
Investing your time while you’re at home will pay off big with a happy, calm dog, and a distinct lack of chewed up slippers and peed-on furniture.
Especially if your dog is a powerful breed, it’s absolutely vital that they look to you for guidance in any situation.
As I’ve said, dogs want to please us. They’ve evolved to be near us and to take inspiration from us.
But if they’re left to their own devices, they will have no choice but to act based on their own instincts.
And just like with people, those snap decisions aren’t always the best ones.
Imagine standing on a busy street corner with your dog. Suddenly, a truck blares out its horn, startling you and scaring the living daylights out of your dog.
What do you want your dog to do in that situation? Bolt into the street? Or look to you?
Their instinct is to bolt, believe me.
Teaching your dog tricks and showing them the rewards (lots of snuggles and treats!) that come with following your commands makes them more likely to look to you in other situations.
And that can quite literally save their life.
Dogs need activity to stay healthy. Being a couch potato isn’t healthy for people, and it’s not healthy for our pets either.
Having a job to do, even if it’s just spinning around in a circle when you tell them to, will keep them moving.
Even after the trick is done, you’ll have gotten them off their butt and they’re likely to go wander around or play with a toy instead of laying back down for a nap.
P.S., this one works on people too!
Owning a dog is all about fun and love. It’s vitally important to train your dog to be well behaved, not get into fights with other dogs, and to be safe in public.
But who says it all has to be so serious? All work and no play makes Rover a sad boy. Don’t make Rover sad! Let him fetch the paper!