All dog training is teaching tricks. Or all dog tricks are training. I am not sure which way round it is, but everything you teach your dog to do makes no difference to your dog. It could be something you find useful, or just funny, but one way or the other it is an action that causes a reaction. It is up to use whether or not we make it fun for the dog, and the more fun it is, the better the dog will learn it!
As Christmas approaches why not teach your dog a 'party piece' so that your pup can learn something new and enjoyable, that looks clever but also is useful? Here is one you can try, and I will add more in the run-up to Christmas.
Tidy your toys
Does your dog love to pick things up but might not always return them? Play 'fetch' into a corner, so your dog has to turn around and come back to you with their toy. Practice this so that your dog forms a strong habit. Each time your dog comes back, play a bit more with the toy. If your dog won't let go, swap the toy for another one, or better still, a treat. Each time the dog let's go, say 'Give' and praise well.
Next, as you are playing this game, hold a shallow box or basket so that as your dog turns towards you with the toy, the basket is in position for the toy. At first your dog will look a little bemused. Hold your hand over the basket and say 'give'. Your dog should look to let go of the toy, and gradually allow it to drop into the basket.
Practice this over a few days until your dog is happily returning to you, dropping the toy into the basket, then start to move away from the corner a little bit at a time, keeping everything else the same.
Finally, begin to place the toy out rather than throw it, and hold the basket ready. As your dog starts to fetch the toy and drop it into the basket, start to say 'Tidy your toys!'.
What could be easier than a dog helpfully clearing up before or after a family visit? As you can see, Pickles (in the photo) is happy to tidy up and even find and bring me my keys, too (see future columns). Fun for him - and useful for me!