Canine Behaviour: Christmas magic with your dog

Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001
Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001

Involve your dogs in the Christmas spirit by teaching an exciting trick this year.

Firstly, a good magician never reveals their secrets. Read the following aloud; ‘I declare I will keep the Magic Paw Circle trick secret!’. Now you are ready to begin.

My dog can read!

You will ask a volunteer to pick a word from a choice of three. You show it to your dog. Cleverly, he ‘reads’ the word, and then when you ask him, he goes to find the matching picture. Amazing!

You will need: 6 sticky notes (or 4cm x 4cm pieces of paper)

Some food: sausage, ham, cheese or chicken (anything smelly and tasty that your dog can eat safely). A pen. A volunteer. An audience and your magic dog!

Prepare for the trick

1) Draw a Cat, a Bone, and a Fish on separate sticky notes.

Write the word ‘Cat’, ‘Bone’ and ‘Fish’ on three more sticky notes.

2) Take a piece of the food and choose just one of the pictures.

3) Secretly, without leaving a mark, wipe the food onto the chosen picture. This will make it smell interesting but no human will be able to tell you have done this.

4) In advance, ask your ‘volunteer’ (someone you already know and trust to keep the trick secret) to only choose the matching word to the ‘scented’ picture. Your volunteer needs to pretend you have not asked them to do it.

The trick itself

1) Choose a ‘volunteer’ from the audience (the one you have already decided) to pick one of the words. (Remember, they pick the word you have already asked them to do).

2) Next, ask your dog to sit calmly and wait whilst you lay out the three pictures in any order you like.

3) ‘Show’ your dog the chosen word, and ask him to read the word (don’t read it aloud to him!) Just hold it so that he can see it. Say something like “Now, Magician Dog, here is the word I want you to read. Have you read it? Ok? Now show me you know what you read!” Build it up so that it sounds very clever and exciting.

4) Send your dog to the pictures, saying ‘Show us you can read!’. He may sniff around a little but then should immediately go to the one that has the invisible food scent on it. Good Dog! And that’s magic (and clever training too)!

Karen Wild is an APBC registered behaviourist and qualified dog trainer with 20 years experience. She is also an ABTC clinical animal behaviourist.
Her practice ‘Pawprint’ offers behaviour referrals for vet practices and puppy classes in the local area. Karen is a training and behaviour contributor for Dogs Today magazine and author of ‘What your Dog Wants’. To find out more visit www.karenwild.co.uk or call 01778 560465.