DOG HACKS CAN BE USEFUL TOO!
Have you ever taught a dog a fun trick that also turned out to be useful? Did your dog spontaneously pick up his favorite toys? You offered to “trade” a treat for a toy and your dog became an even more greedy retriever…then you taught him to take the toys and leave them where you keep them?
Think of other uses for this skill set! Your dog could pick up your kids’ toys and put them in a toy box, or maybe…how about rounding up your family’s dirty socks to take to the laundry basket?
I asked friends online if they had taught a dog or dogs a trick that turned out to be useful.
Ann McQuillen (California) I have artificial knees so I can’t kneel down to drop rolling things under a table or in an obstructed corner. I taught my cattle dog, Bishop, to crawl under things, pick up what I dropped, and bring it back to me. This is his most useful skill. I use it when something is in the back of a creep and I have to stand on my head and can barely reach it. Bishop is happy to come in, grab it, and come right back for a treat. Very useful skill, plus it keeps me upright.
Trish Ryan (South Carolina) Using her known tactile behavior, I was able to change the signal to “close”, so now Gracie will close drawers and cabinet doors if my hands are full. Fun and functional.
Alisha Ardiana (California) I taught our dog to find my keys and my cell phone. During the pandemic, I taught him how to find his toys and his food. Once we exhausted all those options, I taught him how to find my stuff. It’s basically giving him treats when you show him an object. Then you put her in the crate, and ask her to find the item we just got. You start with the object nearby, then increase the distance. I’ve already misplaced my keys and my phone. It was very helpful.
Carole Byrnes (Washington) “Take it to” – back home we call “dad” and “mom” – very convenient! Especially when you’re wrapping Christmas presents for each other and someone needs the duct tape. Also, “put your toys away.”
Photo by Carol Byrnes
Gwen Jones (California) I found all tip I taught my reactive dog to be useful!
Adrienne Critchlow (UK) Every trick I have taught my dogs is useful in some way (to help them deal with difficult environments, giving them a clear, fun and highly reinforced alternative behaviour). For practicality, closing/opening doors and gates, putting clothes in the washing machine, taking off my socks when I can’t bend down any longer, getting my credit card back without leaving a tooth trace (I was pinned on the couch by my other dog sleeping on my legs when I dropped him on the floor while shopping on the internet), but I think the MOST helpful was teaching them how to find my car keys just in case I would lose them – and I did once, in a 70-acre park!
Amy Suggestars (Ohio) The “trick” I taught my dog was to retrieve the newspaper at the end of the driveway. It is especially useful on rainy and snowy days! The only downside is when the newspaper boy forgets to deliver my newspaper. If my retriever is sent for the log and there is none, he will search until he finds something to retrieve. It’s usually my neighbor’s newspaper! Afterwards I still have to go out to return it to my neighbour!
Sarah Adams (Oregon) I taught Kiki to whisper, which is helpful because now instead of yelling at me when she wants something, she vocalizes very softly.
Ruth L. Heller DVM (Pennsylvania) Trade. Stevie picks things up off the floor and brings them to me. Once he brought me Beth’s phone that she had lost.
Stephanie Niles (Washington) Simple, but I love it… “get dressed.” I hand her her hiking backpack and tell her “get dressed”, she will put her head in the bag. I clip and go! No chasing a restless pup to try and put his head in the hole. One command, easy to use.
Erin Saywell (Indiana) Jot is my latest dog learning service dog tasks as a helpful tip. He can pick up, bring, hold all sorts of objects.
Photo by Erin Saywell
Rebecca Piedad (California) I taught my slobbery Cane Corso to bring me his slobbery rag whenever he wanted attention. Not only did that mean bringing me the towel to wipe his face, but it also meant that he had a bit of the towel under his chin when he put it on my thigh.
Sandra Sandy Machado (Florida) “Standing still” while owner bends over to pick up poop on a walk. I don’t know if it’s a trick, but from what I’ve seen over the years…it’s very useful.
Sarah Richardson (California) I taught my dog to do a long stretch bow which was a great stretch for him, especially as he got older. He was also my “neutral dog” with my training, and his ability to do a well-timed play arc helped other dogs feel more comfortable with him.
Toni Vignogna (California) In preparation for his old age, I taught Rusty to “step up” on a stool to get on the couch. Then I taught him to pull back so he wouldn’t hit his knuckles. Another trick I taught was “go around” and “reverse”. If he’s stuck, I can guide him to his exit.
Denise Nuttal (UK) Yes. Many years ago in classes we used to teach a trick. We decided to “bang” = down. A client wasn’t enthusiastic about “shooting” her dog, but she couldn’t think of another trick. So she did. Fast forward six months and she called me. She thought I’d be interested to hear how ‘bang down’ helped. After his dog was neutered, the vet wanted to examine the stitches. The owner said “bang!” The dog rolled over and played dead. I stayed there while all the stitches were removed. Smart owner and puppy!
Beth Fabel (Washington) I teach all my dogs a formal retrieve. They like getting paid to help me with things like getting the paper or dropping the keys. My little dog is such a help when I drop something small that rolls under the furniture. He picked up a spool of thread that fell and rolled under a table against the wall for me the other day!
Jessica StinsonHudson (Alabama) [I’ve taught many such tricks] because I’m lazy. I teach “speak” on the hand signal. which allows me to hang up on the phone with my mother-in-law. “Oh, I have to go, someone’s at the door!” » Allows me to take crazy photos. Finn picks up the laundry I drop so I don’t have to bend over. Hold him – (stay still) while you take blood, while I inspect his paws or ears, etc. agree with “holding” an odd upside down position. Get dressed = put your head in your harness. Paws up = front feet up on bed, table, car, etc., so I can lift. Go around = disentangles from a tree or object when on a long line. Flop = lay on your side (this puts him in a perfect position for me to put his nails in). The trick training we did has made my dog much more comfortable with many situations that can be very stressful or unusual. And the notion of learning allows him to generalize more easily.
Photo by Jessica Stinson Hudson
Stacy Braslau Schneck (California) I taught my dogs to lock my office door; I use it in the winter when I have a heater in my office and the dog opens the door to come join me. “Close the door,” I say and he closes it, keeping all my beautiful warmth with me!
Kimberley Room (Massachusetts) Sit remotely. I had a dog who got hit by a car and if I had had this trick he would have had a lot less arthritis in his hip. Watching my dog come towards me and a car at the same time was something I will never forget. He had perfect recall, but I learned that sometimes you need a “stay where you are” command.
Sarah Richardson One of my dogs, a beautiful GSP, came to see me later in life. She was very withdrawn. She had been mostly ignored, living the life of a barnyard dog. And it was clear that her “training” had involved a lot of punishment, as she was afraid to try new behaviors. With me, she began to discover that doing things could be joyful! One day, Brandy, who had never dared to bark, did! And once she found her bark, she barked and barked with joy! Such a party girl! She barked especially when someone entered the house. I didn’t want to cancel the cheer, but I didn’t appreciate barking – and neither did visitors – so I kept a basket of stuffed animals by the door and taught Brandy to put a cheer toy in his mouth instead of barking. It satisfied her need to do something with her mouth, stopped the barking, and it was so cute to watch her prance her toy for joy!
jessa lewis (Washington) My daughter had nightmares or had trouble falling asleep when she was little and I would tell my dog to “go see” my child and the dog would stay in her room while she fell asleep and came join me later. I also taught her how to “find” my daughter and it helped me when in the woods or in a park and I couldn’t see my child (instead of screaming for her).
Barbara Carlson (Pennsylvania) I taught my dog to pick up ferret toys in exchange for tasty treats. She generalized this by bringing me anything she could find. It was cute until she brought me the kitchen towels and some newspaper the ferrets had put the potty on! I asked him to pick up everything I dropped and everything I pointed out (“take that”). She could pick up a penny! The funny thing is that one day during a meeting of the ferret club, the lady dropped the winning ticket for a coveted object. My dog rushed over, picked it up (the woman thought the ticket was ruined) and carefully dropped it into the woman’s hand who was still reaching out to pick it up. The dog was very pleased with herself and everyone burst out laughing.
What tricks does your dog know?
What tips might come in handy?
How would you train to add skills?